Aims There is a critical shortage of Orthopedic Surgeons in Malawi as well as all countries in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, there is no published literature that has investigated surgical or Orthopedic career selection amongst African medical trainees. With the goal of facilitating recruitment into Surgery and Orthopedics in Malawi, we explored the key aspects of Malawian Medical Students' choice of careers in surgical disciplines. Methods An on-line survey of all students in clinical years at the College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi was performed. The survey was anonymous and constructed de novo by a stringent process including Item Generation, Item reduction, Survey composition, Pre-testing, Assessment of Validity by a recognized survey expert, Pilot testing in on-line format by several Malawian Medical Students, and then formal survey testing. Results Surgery was the most popular specialty choice among the medical trainees (46%). General Surgery was the popular surgical specialty (27%), followed by Neurosurgery (22%) and Orthopedics (19%). The majority of students (67%) feared occupational exposure to HIV but this did not appear to be a factor in specialty choice (p=0.9). Students with Orthopedic mentors were significantly more likely to choose Orthopedics as their first choice surgical specialty (p = 0.01). Despite limited resources and surgeons in sub-Saharan Africa, surgical specialties are desirable career choices. Conclusions This is the first evaluation of factors involved in surgical or Orthopedic career selection in any African context. Future initiatives to improve exposure and mentorship in Orthopedics are fundamental to recruitment into the specialty.