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CS or Medicine

  1. Sep 7, 2009 #1
    currently can't decide between CS and medicine -_-

    I have a feeling that if I enter one of them, I might regret not choosing the other.
    You see, I'll be applying to both UT and MIT/Caltech this fall (early).

    UT is automatic acceptance (top 10%) while MIT... I might have a shot at
    But if I do get into MIT I really would like to go there. However, I would NOT go there just to get premed requirements; it would be kind of a waste.

    This is what makes if difficult for me to decide... the school I go to will depend on the future I choose.. assuming that you can't compare the fulfillingness of either career (because they're apples and oranges), which one is holistically the better choice?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2009 #2
    Well, which one do you LIKE better?
  4. Sep 7, 2009 #3
    ^ lol. if I could answer that question then I wouldn't have started this thread....
  5. Sep 7, 2009 #4
    Go watch "House" and "Numb3rs" and see which one you like better. Then choose the other one since in reality it will not be like that.
  6. Sep 7, 2009 #5
    I don't know anything about either school, and I'm not a doctor. However, I am currently planning to go to med school after I finish my physics PhD (long story), so I've done some research into the application process. Most schools specifically state that no specific undergraduate major is preferred. All you need to do is complete the prerequisites, and this can be done with almost any major. So you could go to whichever school would give you a better CS education, and just take your biology, chemistry, etc., along the way. Based on the research I've done, med schools don't prefer degrees from any particular major, so the only thing that matters is having a high overall GPA, and a high science GPA (this includes all biology, chemistry, physics, and math).

    The important thing is to take the premed prereqs one class at a time, make sure you get A's, and do well in whatever major you choose. At the end of four years if you decide that medicine isn't for you, then you've still got a CS degree, and you can do whatever you wish with it. Prereqs are slightly different at different medical schools, but if you take two semesters each of biology, inorganic chem, organic chem, and physics, you should be good. I also recommend that you go to the AMCAS website (that's the common application service for US med schools) if you need any more info on how med schools count your coursework. Most importantly, start doing the research NOW, and figure out the whole application process. You can always decide later that you're not interested in medicine, because grad schools and jobs are way easier to apply for. But if you don't prepare while you're still in undergrad, you'll end up like me and be playing catchup.

    Anyway, that's what I gather based on my own premed research. Good luck with whatever you do.
  7. Sep 8, 2009 #6
    Fine. How about, which leads to the better lifestyle?
    What are the most common complaints of software engineers and doctors?
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  8. Sep 8, 2009 #7
    Depends on what you mean by better lifestyle. If you really like programming computers and/or hate blood 'n guts, then CS would probably give you a better lifestyle. If you have no preference, then definitely medicine. You get paid better (though they say you shouldn't go into medicine just for the money), you get infinitely better job security, and many find it personally rewarding because you get to go to work every day and cure people of illnesses.

    I can't provide any advice from personal experience. But my dad used to be a software engineer before switching to nursing, and his complaint would be that engineers get laid off every time a capricious boss decides to make a quick buck by laying off the department. In tough economic times, it would seem that engineers are expendible. It would also appear that doctors are immune to the recession. I could be wrong, but from what I know it seems that the best reason to go into medicine is so that you'll have a stable career.
  9. Sep 8, 2009 #8
    Well, if I do CS, I would hope I'm at the cutting edge... I don't want to be some programmer in a big business. Does going to a school like MIT, Stanford, etc guarantee ANY kind of job stability or status out in the work force, even if your IQ is similar to a CS grad from, say, U Mich or UCLA??

    My IQ is not very high, I would say 120 max. Around 115-120... but I worked really really hard in high school and did many things outside of school that make my app look vivid.. so that's why I'm hoping to get into the top schools. But I wouldn't say I'm any more intelligent than the techie-guys that didn't try very hard in high school and are going to lesser-known public schools and state flagships. They are highly motivated in programming/math (but no other school subjects) and are also very intelligent. I'm more well-rounded but less IQ..

    I consider myself a little geeky, but not anything of the magnitude of the dudes I've mentioned in this post. Some of them might even qualify for Aspergers or Autism. I don't know if this indicates anything. lol

    So I guess my question is, will I get any sort of guarantee from going to an expensive college like MIT or Stanford, if people just as smart or smarter go to lesser-known schools? I'm just curious about the nature of the software/engineering industry...

    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  10. Sep 8, 2009 #9
    Does going to a big-name school guarantee any kind of job stability? Here's a link I posted in GD the other week:

    http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_418626.html [Broken]

    Apparently, even someone with a PhD from Stanford can lose his job. Yes, stories like this are pretty rare. But I've yet to hear of an unemployed medical doctor. And to answer your question about expensive schools, my guess is that a big name university will get your foot in the door with potential employers. But once you're in, people don't care what school you went to. They care about the results that you can produce.

    As for IQ, I don't think that has any bearing on your job stability. Employers don't care about IQ; agian, they care about the results you produce. This is a function not just of your IQ, but also of your work ethic, your social shrewdness, the field you're working in, the economy, and also dumb luck. But the fact of the matter is that some fields are more stable than others. Right now the high tech industry isn't that great. The IBM plant in my hometown, for example, is doing quarterly layoffs at the moment. Healthcare, on the other hand, seems to be doing a lot better (recessions only increase the number of sick people).

    I think Dragonfall's question is worth another look: what do you like? There's no sense doing something you absolutely hate, because you'll probably just fail at it. On the other hand, "do what you love" isn't such a great philosophy when you happen to love, say, art history. Fortunately your academic interests are fairly employable. What you need to do is balance your love of CS against the currently poor state of that industry. But don't just take my word for it, I'm some random guy on the Internet. You've got four years of undergrad. Get to know people in both the medical and computer industries, and ask them what the climate is like.

    And again: if you decide to go for medicine, make sure you start planning right now.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Sep 8, 2009 #10


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    Don't expect a degree to do any work for you.

    There are some cases where a name can help, but if anything it will get you in the door. Job security is about having a skill set that's in demand. Technology changes faster than medicine, so unless you keep up your skill set, it becomes a lot easier to suddenly find yourself obsolete.

    Also, there's not much point on getting hung up on IQ. It's a poor predictor of success.

    Finally getting to work on cutting edge stuff, isn't about a university name. It has a lot more to do with seeking out those opportunities and making sacrifices for them.
  12. Sep 9, 2009 #11
    I would assume that for a field like CS/engineering/physics it is? Assuming that most people who choose to continue with CS are to a good degree passionate about what they are doing, then I would think IQ plays a bigger role in CS/engineering/physics than other fields?
  13. Sep 9, 2009 #12
    There are two types of job security. If you are looking to find a job that you will eventually retire from... well, I don't really believe that that exists any more. Not even for medical doctors.

    There is also the job security that comes from knowing if you lose one job, you can probably find another one quickly enough. That's been the situation in CS for most of my career.
  14. Sep 9, 2009 #13


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    According to everything I've read on the subject, which admittedly isn't exhaustive, there is a correlation between IQ and success in physics up to a point. However, once you reach that point (which if I recall is about average for a person entering graduate school) the curve hits a plateau. Success in these fields then becomes a function of many other factors including creativity, communication skills, and available opportunities one is exposed to.
  15. Sep 9, 2009 #14
    IQ isn't much of a predictor of anything. Sure, a person with an IQ of 50 probably shouldn't plan on postgraduate studies at MIT, but beyond that, it's useless.
  16. Sep 9, 2009 #15
    I've been in software development for around 40 years. In all of the interviews I've conducted, the source of the degree is not important. I have seen people with an impressive set of credentials who made absolutely horrible programmers, and some with next to no formal training who do an excellent job.

    As was stated earlier, a degree from a prestigious university might help get your foot in the door, but what will get you hired is presenting yourself well during the interview process.

    Once you have a few years experience under your belt, whether or not you have a degree doesn't matter. Prospective employers are much more interested in your experience than in what you learned in academia.
  17. Sep 10, 2009 #16
    Then at least would you say that CS is considered a "stable" career?
    I like learning concepts related to CS, but if it means living a highly irregular life, then I'm not so sure. But then again, what jobs out there are really that stable any more?

    What kinds of freedoms do programmers/engineers have that doctors don't have?
  18. Sep 10, 2009 #17
    For the majority of programmers, no one dies if you screw up.

    That, and medical school/residency is its own special circle of hell.
  19. Sep 11, 2009 #18
    ^ I'm not sure if doctors would necessarily be extremely stressed out about "screwing up." I hope a doctor would care a lot, but he knows that he does his best and there are certain factors that are beyond his control. So I'm guessing that even the most caring, devoted doctors know how to deal with certain failures that come their way...

    But then again, I'm just speculating. lol
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2009
  20. Sep 11, 2009 #19
    Again, I'm not a programmer. But from everything I've observed, the answer to this question is a function of time. My dad, for example, had a stable career in the computer industry for around 20 years. Then he got the ax along with many of his colleagues at work. And then the same thing happened in three other computer-related jobs (he ended up becoming a nurse to avoid permanent umemployment, and this is way more stable). At around the same time, I had other friends who got laid off. So it seems that a few years ago was a pretty bad time for the IT industry. Different industries go through ups and downs at different times. And then there's medicine. I hope other posters will provide a counterexample if I'm wrong, but I don't know of a single medical doctor in America who's been laid off. There could be other industries with similar job security, but I've not heard of them.

    All the doctors and other health-care workers I've talked to explain it like this. If you go into some highly specialized area like neurology or cardiology, then yes, it's possible to kill people with your mistakes. But if you're just a primary care physician, it's not quite so easy make stupid mistakes that result in deaths. When a person starts describing symptoms, there's a very standardized way to come up with a quick diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment. Your average patient isn't going to be dealing with neurological demylenation or anything weird like that. Sure you don't get paid as much. But you're impervious to layoffs, so who cares?

    Again, take all of this with the disclaimer that it's based solely on my personal experiences and investigations. I've asked a lot of the same job security questions you're asking, and these are the answers I've found. I could very well be a bit off-base, but medicine is the only career I've found that has layoff-immunity.
  21. Sep 12, 2009 #20
    ^ I guess so, but what about important doctors from other countries, for cheap labor? Do you think this has a significant impact?
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