BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Postgraduate education after medical school plays an important role in the career development of young doctors. This study investigated what supporting and obstructing factors help or hinder the of young doctors during their specialty training. METHODS: As part of a broader prospective study on determinants of career development of young doctors which had started in 2001, 529 participants were investigated in 2009 regarding the most important career-relevant factors experienced during their specialty training. Content analysis was used to assign the answers given to open questions to inductively defined categories RESULTS: The 1301 answers given about career-supporting factors and the 1047 answers given about career-hindering factors were assigned to 9 and 12 categories respectively. These categories were divided into internal and external career-relevant factors. Important factors relative to career enhancement were career support by superiors and high achievement motivation, followed by good professional qualifications and beneficial working conditions. The answers given in these four categories accounted for two thirds of all mentioned career supporting factors. Regarding career barriers, the four categories with the highest number of answers were lack of career support, unfavourable work-place conditions, extraprofessional concerns and labour market conditions. Significant gender differences were only be found regarding career-hindering factors: Female doctors mentioned more often mentioned concerns and gender-related barriers, while male doctors more often reported labour market conditions and unfavourable personality traits for influencing career advancement. CONCLUSIONS: Career promotion should be provided in a continuous, structured and institutionalized way to make better use of the potential of well trained doctors. The new generation of doctors should not only advocate better professional conditions but also be aware of barriers within themselves that have an impact on their career development.