In part one of “Researching your career”, a story was shared in which a professor strongly encouraged her students to read about what it would take to go to medical school. One of the students followed that advice and investigated what it would take to become a medical doctor.
Some of what he discovered in his research, he had heard before; applicants need a competitive score on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), a competitive grade point average (GPA)-particularly in the sciences, impeccable letters of recommendation, and research experience or volunteer work in a clinic or hospital.
What he read next though were the real eye openers. Financially, many medical students offset their tuition with loans and graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Medical school graduates are required to complete something called a residency which usually involves them getting little sleep over long periods of time, depending on their specialization. They had to be willing to move to often remote and undesirable locations. Finally, most don’t start making significant money until long after they’ve graduated or completed their training.
After doing the research, the student decided that he didn’t want to go to medical school to be a physician. He stayed in science, but decided to go into research which itself had notable challenges and struggles, though ultimately quite a few rewards.
The point of this story is not to discourage anyone from going to medical school, especially if treating and caring for patients is a student’s underlying motivation, dream and passion. A career is a personal choice and must be decided by the individual. That being said, it’s important to do the research, study the process and figure out all that will be involved when pursuing a particular career path.
At one point, being a medical doctor may have been a very lucrative profession to pursue, but as with most areas of life, things seldom stay the same. Significant factors that medical doctors have to contend with today that they didn’t worry about as much in years past, is the impact of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) on the degree of care patients can receive, and the threat of malpractice lawsuits.
“You want to do something that you’re going to enjoy doing every day. If you’re doing something just for the money, it’s not a good thing,” a well accomplished hepatic physiologist at that time advised. In general, careers should be pursued not simply for the money, but based upon what a student is passionate about and has a natural talent for.
Furthermore, the cost of seeking a professional education such as attending medical, dental or law school, for example, should be strongly considered before pursuing a given career. Specifically, the amount of debt that will have to be repaid should be one of the major considerations as it will impact an individual’s lifestyle for a potentially significant amount of time.