Journal of Experimental and Clinical Anatomy

: 2019  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 49--54

Perception of anatomy as a career choice among students of human anatomy in Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria

Oladunni Abimbola Ebeye, Emmanuel Enatewe Akpoyibo, Jonathan Ekiegini Okoh-Uku 
 Department of Human Anatomy, College of Health Sciences, Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Emmanuel Enatewe Akpoyibo
Department of Human Anatomy, College of Health Sciences, Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State


BACKGROUND: Anatomy is the branch of medical science that deals with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts. It has encroached into so many disciplines and thus its relevance to career choice. This research work is aimed at assessing the perceptions of anatomy as a career choice among students studying human anatomy in Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Simple random sampling technique was used to select 384 participants (168 males and 216 females) from the 2nd to the 4th year studying human anatomy and cell biology in Delta State University, Abraka, aged 16–32 years. A self-administered questionnaire was used to obtain data for the study, and the data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (version 23). RESULTS: This study revealed that students with the perception of choosing anatomy as a career after graduation are significantly low compared to those who have no interest in anatomy as a career choice with the percentages of 39% and 61%, respectively. CONCLUSION: From the study conducted, human anatomy as a career choice has relatively low perception among students because anatomy was not their preferred course of study; rather, the course was offered to them on demerit on their first preferred course of study.

How to cite this article:
Ebeye OA, Akpoyibo EE, Okoh-Uku JE. Perception of anatomy as a career choice among students of human anatomy in Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria.J Exp Clin Anat 2019;18:49-54

How to cite this URL:
Ebeye OA, Akpoyibo EE, Okoh-Uku JE. Perception of anatomy as a career choice among students of human anatomy in Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria. J Exp Clin Anat [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Oct 22 ];18:49-54
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The study of anatomy started with gross anatomy which is seen as a part of modern anatomy. According to Anand et al., the importance of anatomy as a medical science cannot be overemphasized. It is the backbone of medicine. The study of gross anatomy has a bearing on our lives and has a reflection on how future patients are attended to. It also enlightens us to value human life (Cahill and Dalley, 1990, and Weeks et al., 1995).

The current attitude of graduates to the study of anatomy in Nigeria is becoming worrisome, and graduates often pick anatomy for postgraduate studies when they have a grade during their first degree in the discipline; however, pursuing postgraduate studies in anatomy will be their last resort (Anand et al., 2004).

According to Schockley, statistics have shown that there is a shortfall of anatomy lecturers globally in medical colleges and in lecturing preclinical students. It, therefore, becomes imperative to make students who are in the field of anatomy to be aware of the job opportunities available and research possibilities after school.

It has been deduced that a number of factors which include love for anatomy, interest in the subject, on-call commitment, career progression, personal interest, lifestyle, income, and a teacher as a role model lead to choice of career part (Ranta et al., 2002, and Newton et al., 2005).

The present research has been designed to evaluate the perceptions of undergraduate anatomy in Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria, regarding prospects of anatomy as a future career choice.

 Materials and Methods

Three hundred and eighty-four volunteered students were involved in the study comprising 168 males and 216 females who are 200–400 level students of the Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria, aged between 16 and 32 years. They were selected for the study using the simple random sampling technique. Ethical approval was sort from the Ethical Committee, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Delta State University, Abraka, with Ref no: DELSU/CHS/ANA/68/95.

Method of data collection

A well-structured self-administered questionnaire which consisted of items regarding the students' age, gender, level of study, and questions assessing the subject's knowledge on the prospect of anatomy as a career was administered and retrieved from 384 students irrespective of their ethnicity.

Statistical analysis

Data obtained from the study were analyzed using the International Business Machine, Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (version 23), Armonk, New York. Percentage frequency distribution and Chi-square test were used to show result. Tables and bar charts were used to explain the results from the study.


Results deduced from this present study showed that of the 384 (168 males and 216 females) students involved in the study, 129 (34%), 139 (36%), and 116 (30%) are in 200 level, 300 level, and 400 level, respectively.

[Table 1] showed that only 45% of the students made anatomy their original course of study in the university, whereas 48% disagree with the statement. The remaining 7% were indifferent.{Table 1}

In connection with perceptions of students about anatomy as a career choice, it was observed from [Table 2] that only 41% of the students are conversant with up to three established places of work for an anatomist with almost equal percentage (40%), stating that they do not know up to three established places of work. Seventy-seven percent agreed that they would like to take up anatomy as a career if job opportunities are provided and if modified integrated curriculum with other clinical specialties is introduced. Students' level of job prospect is generally low, but their interest to remain in the career is high.{Table 2}

As regards questions on students' attitude toward human anatomy as a course, [Table 3] showed that 69% of the students study anatomy texts to prepare well for their desired course as a career choice, with 59% aspiring to become a great anatomist, who are not embarrassed to be identified as an anatomy student. Fifty-nine percent disagreed with the fact that studying anatomy is boring and frustrating with almost equivalent percentage (66%), stating that anatomy is interesting and exciting. However, 48% disagreed on choosing anatomy as their course of study if they are given another chance.{Table 3}

It was observed that 92% of the students agreed that anatomy should be restructured into a professional program. Eighty percent agreed that lecturing recruitment should be for only lecturers who are core anatomists. However, as regards scraping anatomy as a course of study in Nigeria universities, 53% disagreed to that [Table 4].{Table 4}

The study shows that there is a significant difference between those who refused to take up anatomy as career (61%) from those who accepted anatomy as a career choice (P < 0.001). Female human anatomy students were more likely to choose anatomy as a career than male human anatomy students (P < 0.001). Comparison of students' perception of anatomy in relation to gender shows more females agreeing that anatomy was a difficult subject to understand and retain (P < 0.001). Only few of the human anatomy students (39%) were ready to pursue it as a career.


Sequel to the use of 2nd-year to final-year students by Oluwatoyin et al., this present study also made the use of the same levels of students since they have had adequate anatomical experience and exposure to make rational choices and have a clear picture of career options (Oluwatoyin et al., 2009).

It was deduced from the present study that the original choice of studying anatomy as a course at Delta State University, Abraka, was made by only 45% of students, as depicted in [Table 1]. This implies that more than half (60%) of the students currently studying anatomy picked it as an alternate course. This is contradictory to the findings of Faseeh et al. involving 200 medical students of which a higher percentage agreed that they have chosen anatomy as part of their medical profession out of free volition. Revealed also from this study is that a higher percentage of the students used for the study were aware of what anatomy is all about before studying it. This concurred with the statement of Ohaeri et al. that the arousal of interest in a particular field is affected by the choice of career. Furthermore, about half of the students indicated that their original choice as regards course of study was medicine, whereas a relatively small number (5%) chose neither anatomy nor medicine. This finding has a bearing with the work of where they concluded that even though the initial interest to study the course was low, there is high background knowledge of anatomy.

Owolabi et al. observed that the most imperative factors influencing students as their first-degree course of study were job prospects and career. [Table 2] shows that this observation by Owolabi et al. is similar to that deduced from this study which showed that only about half (41%) of students indicated that they knew up to three established places of work for an anatomist as against one-third (40%) who said they did not and one-fifth (17%) who were indifferent.

Only a few of the respondents knew that there are other job opportunities for anatomy graduates other than lecturing. More than half opine that it is worth studying anatomy in the Nigerian University. However, two-third would desire to work with their skills and would want to obtain higher degrees. It is important to note that only half of the students agreed that they have acquired professional skills that can serve entrepreneurial purposes, whereas one-third disagree. The report agreed with the findings of Owolabi et al., where they questioned the motive of Nigerian institutions as to the product of what they hope to make out of anatomy as a course.

From this present study, it was revealed that up to three-quarters of the respondents showed a high level of positive attitude and they were proud to be anatomy student, aspiring to be great anatomists in the future. They also found the study of anatomy interesting and would encourage interested students to study the course. This is similar to the findings of Owolabi et al., in relation to the high percentage of respondents who responded positively to the attitude testing questions in their study. About half (48%) responded that they would not read anatomy again if they had a second chance, whereas approximately one-third agreed to choose anatomy again if they were asked to do so. In addition, a little above two-third (26%) indicated that their study of anatomy was for them to be prepared for future desired course or career, whereas about half (48%) of the students disagreed to the question with the intention of purposefully studying anatomy. From the foregoing, it is clear that most of the students will not agree to study anatomy if given a second chance. However, they seem happy and proud of doing so in as much as they are currently undertaking the course. This is in contradiction with work of Oyebola and Adewoye. These responses showed that a large percentage of the students indicated that they had originally chosen to study other courses other than anatomy, indicating that they currently study anatomy simply because universities offered them anatomy. However, it is also note worthy that though only 45% of the students indicated that they originally applied and desired to study Anatomy in the universities, the percentage of those who would rechoose anatomy if given a second chance increased to 48%, an increase of 3%. This indicates that the interest and desire of students to study anatomy did increase after admission into the university, and consequently, there is an upward increase in the level of their positive attitude toward having it as a career choice. This is similar to the reviewed literature, as over the years, there have been increased in the number of students, as to having anatomy as a career choice. Schumacher (1964) stated that only 2% considered anatomy as a possible career choice. Ranta et al., Anand et al., and Ali et al. reported that approximately 30% indicated interest in anatomy as a career.

From [Table 5], of the seven problem factors that were respectively tested, lack of professional recognition and poor job prospects were of the highest percentages. Surprisingly, expensive textbooks and lack of fund (59%), and dislike for cadaver (43%) are some of the reasons why students might not be motivated to study anatomy. Other limiting factors were lack of fund and financial status accorded to the study of anatomy. This is similar to Anantraman and Kanya, who reported that financial status accorded to a particular course is one of the major criteria in selection of a subject. Inadequate financial returns are associated with professions involving pre- and paraclinical students. This has also been reported from other countries, for example, America (Abramson, 1991). Learning environment that is not conducive was also seen to be some of the factors that militate against students' motivation. Seventy-two percent agreed to that. Interestingly, these were seen as the basic problems militating against students' motivation in developing and underdeveloped countries of the world, Owolabi et al. From the current study, it appears that these problems were considered to be of less impact and consequence than the first due to lack of professional recognition and poor job prospects. The initial lack of interest in studying anatomy seems to add to the antimotivation problems of the students in having it as a career choice because the prospect is highly low, as 75% of the students affirm that graduates of anatomy do not have defined place of work in the health centers. These made anatomy to appear inferior to other health science courses of which 60% of the respondents attested to. This calls for anatomy to be made and recognized as a medical specialty as recommended by Satyapal and Henneberg.{Table 5}

More than half (53%) of the students still desire to have anatomy sustained as an undergraduate course of study [Table 4]. This suggests that the students still have the motivation to study anatomy. However, a very high percentage (92%) of the students would want the course restructured into an ideal professional program. A very high percentage of the students (92%) indicated that they wish for their study anatomy to be equipped with specialized skills to work in various existing health and industrial sectors. This is in accordance with the report from Peter et al., stating that the students should spend enough time on practical work and schools should send out their students on clinical experience. Furthermore, 77% of the students indicated that specific job opportunities should be created for them after graduation or as obtainable in other countries, where anatomists are trained to work in the health and industrial sectors as specialized and highly skilled professionals (Didiaand Olotu, 2014). Eighty percent opine that core anatomists should be lecturers that are recruited to lecture the course.

[Table 6] showed a comparison of students' perception of anatomy in relation to gender. A significant difference existed in the study, with more females (30%) finding anatomy difficult to understand and retain than their male counterparts (27%). The reason for this difference is not immediately clear, considering that female anatomy students were more likely to choose anatomy as a career, and the issue is worthy of further investigation. There is, however, a contradiction of this present study with the study conducted by Oluwatoyin et al., where it was stated that females were less likely to take anatomy as a career, although they were medical students. Human anatomy students are not afraid of anatomy, and up to 71% of students felt that it is not a difficult subject as against 60% of medical students who felt it is a difficult subject from the report of Oluwatoyin et al. A previous experience of resit or repeat examination in anatomy course did not significantly affect the choice of anatomy as a career option. The male is more likely (26%) to have had a resit or repeat examination in anatomy when compared to their female counterparts (23%).{Table 6}

Only 151 (39%) would choose anatomy as a career in postgraduation as opposed to 61% who did not like to choose anatomy as a career. This predicts a further decline in trained anatomist. A teacher of anatomy cannot be replaced by modern teaching techniques, Chevrel et al. Therefore, our study indicates an urgent need for immediate measures to improve the situation as a career choice.

Three major opinions on how to bring about career improvement in anatomy were deduced from the students. The suggestions include postgraduate centers for professional trainings and honors be established to train anatomists, making the study of anatomy a 5-year professional program with the 5th year as the year of specialization, and finally, that professional honors such as fellowships be given after obtaining certain postgraduate honors such as masters or doctorate or after passing certain professional postgraduate examinations. This is in line with the study findings of Owolabi et al. and Peter et al. as 77% agreed to study anatomy if a modified integrated curriculum with other clinical specialties is introduced into the curriculum.


The result of the study showed that students' perception toward anatomy as a subject was fairly positive, but choice as a career is low. It was also revealed that there exists a gender difference toward anatomy as a career choice, with females more likely to choose anatomy than males as a career choice. The hallmark of this study is that the findings will be useful in making anatomy a professional course by restructuring the anatomy curriculum.[19]


There is a need for the professionalism of anatomy since it has many facets by making it a 5-year program with the 5th year being totally devoted to clinical orientation and practice of the various facets. Anatomy should also be provided with a better research facilities and job opportunities aside mortuary attendance and lecturing since it will elevate the prospect of anatomy as a career choice, especially in the health sectors. Also important for consideration is the review of the anatomy act to the best global practice.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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