This is a study of the timing and process of choosing psychiatry as a career. All the psychiatric residents in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto in the academic year 1981-1982 were surveyed. Seventy-eight percent (93 residents) responded. We found that 58.1% had decided to enter psychiatry after graduation from medical school. Of the total group 27% came from family practice programs; 14% of our sample had decided on a career in psychiatry before entering medical school. In our study, 27.9% of the sample decided to choose psychiatry during medical school. The factors which appear influential in determining the choice of psychiatry as a career were interest in psychosocial problems, rejection of other specialties, discovery of prevalence of psychosocial problems in family medicine and other specialties, discovery of effectiveness of psychiatric therapies and the experience of personal psychiatric therapy (23.6%). There is a suggestion that the previous decline in recruitment has been checked and that recruitment is now increasing. The authors discuss recruitment strategies that may increase the selection of the most desirable candidates into psychiatry. If undergraduate teaching emphasized the effectiveness of therapeutic intervention, it is probable that more interested candidates would choose psychiatry earlier.