Last Updated: 03/17/15
Thinking About Medical School?
Thinking about going to medical school and becoming a doctor but not sure if it’s for you? Here we’ll explore what it takes to become a doctor and how you can make the decision to pursue a career in medicine.
Medicine can be an extremely rewarding career choice, but just what does it take? It’s a long path, that’s for sure. You’ll need to spend 4 years in college to earn a bachelor’s degree. Then you’ll be in medical school for 4 more years. After, you’ll spend 3-7 years in residency depending on which specialty you choose. Many students choose to further specialize by spending 1-3 more years in a fellowship. Overall, you’ll spend at least 11 years in training between college, medical school, and residency training. And some specialties can require as many as 14 years.
Medical school is notoriously expensive – many medical students graduate with over $100,000 in debt. Many students also report that medical school was the most academically challenging 4 years of their life. Once you reach residency you will start to receive a salary, but it will be very modest compared to the average pay of physicians in your field. You can also expect to work extremely hard during these years. Many residents work 80 hour weeks and spend countless nights and weekends in the hospital.
How to Decide
As you can see, it is a long and hard path to become a doctor. None of the above was meant to scare you away from medicine, but it is important to know what you’re getting into.
Most people who go into medicine like helping people. It’s cliché, but true. If you think about it though, there are tons of ways to help people: You can become a teacher, lawyer, or customer service representative just to name a few. So why do people choose medicine in particular? The biggest reason is the special relationship between a doctor and their patient. The patients trust their doctor with their most precious possession: their health. Patients often come with personal or private problems that they share with their doctor and trust her to fix. Many doctors also enjoy learning the science and applying it to help others. These are just a few of the ways medicine is different from many other professions.
Some people love doing this kind of work and others don’t. So how do you know if it’s right for you? Get experience in the field! Many doctors are willing to let pre med students shadow them, all you have to do is ask. Find a doctor in a field you’re interested in and ask if they would let you follow them around for a few days. When you’re with the doctor, ask plenty of questions. Ask what their typical day is like, why they went into medicine, if they have any regrets, etc. Notice the doctor’s interactions with patients and ask if you could see yourself doing the same thing. If you didn’t like the experience, reflect on whether it was something about that particular field you didn’t like or if it’s medicine as a whole. At the end of the day, you should ask yourself the following: Is there anything else besides medicine I would be happy doing? If the answer is yes, take some time to explore that field before you commit to medicine 100%