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High school senior need advice on engineering or pre-med.

  1. Sep 13, 2011 #1
    Hi all. First off, don't bother wasting your time reading this if you have never in your life considered medicine as a career choice. In this case, please read and answer my questions that are bolded at the bottom.

    I am currently a high school senior and am currently in the process of applying to colleges. However, I have had, and currently am having, problems deciding between engineering and pre-med.

    I have always had a life long dream of becoming a doctor, whatever specialty it may be, and so I went to a High school that specifically focuses on health careers (Michael E. DeBakey for Health Professions) where I am today. But as I progressed through my high school career, taking health science classes along with math and science, I seemed to grow penchant towards the latter two subjects. The reason for my dislike of health science is mostly due to the repetitive act of blindly memorizing facts about the body.

    The reason for my fondness of math and science (especially physics), however, remains oblivious to me. It could be that I like the logical and problem solving aspects of it instead of blatantly memorizing facts. But honestly, it is most likely due to the fact that my aptitude for these two subjects allowed me to breeze through the AP courses with little to no work. Now I am definitely not a lazy person, but the mere choice between problem solving and memorization seems very one-sided to me -of course the former being my choice.

    This leads me to the quandary of picking engineering or pre-med as an undergraduate career path. With pre-med, I will have to suffer through 8 years of undergrad + med school with the prospect of emerging as a doctor whose salary will have nowhere to go but up from there. With engineering, I will likely enjoy my classes but emerge from graduate school with a hefty salary which will only decrease as I hit a certain age. And thus, I am stuck between two paths.

    Right now, I am pursuing colleges that have 3/2 programs (a program where you go to a liberal arts college for 3 years and receive a BA in any major and then transfer to an engineering school- Caltech, Columbia, Dartmouth, Wash U St.L and receive a BA in engineering) and haven't looked at the pre-med programs for any of them.

    Therefore, I need to decide between pre-med and engineering before I apply to these colleges. I am afraid I will be stuck at a liberal arts college (if I cancel the 3/2 program) if I decide to do pre-med which will. What I am afraid of if I commit to the engineering pathway is my job opportunities when I emerge from grad school. I have heard from family that the job security for any type of engineer is pretty bad (they might be wrong, which is why I came here). Also, my calculus teacher was a former chemical engineer and he has informed me that the salary of most engineers always goes down because companies want to hire new and young engineers due to physical reasons.

    My question: So my question(s) to you all is/are:
    How is the job security and outlook for an aging engineer? I know its hard to be specific without a specific engineering field.
    How does the salary compare at an older age than to a younger one?
    And specifically to those of you that have considered pre-med before physics/engineering: Are you thankful or regretful at your choice of being an engineer (or doctor, though I doubt they read these boards) and what advice do you have for me?

    I would really appreciate input from one or more of you guys, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2011 #2


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    Why don't you look up some statistics on salaries? They're pretty easy to find, and then you have hard data, rather than subjective experiences. It's very rare for salaries to go down as people gain more experience in a particular industry.

    I would also advise that it's best to assume that you won't have the same kind of job security as your parents or grandparents had - regardless of the field you chose to go into. Even medicine is not necessarily a meal ticket anymore. That being said, one of the main keys to job security is developing and maintaining a relevant skill set. In engineering, as in most fields, things change. If you don't do anything to update your skills you'll wake up one morning obsolete.

    As to pre-med, this course has always seemed like a big, unnecessary gamble to me. If you for whatever reason don't get into medicine or if you decide that's not what you want to do, what will you be leaving your undergraduate studies with? To get into medicine you need a specific set of course requirements which are generally equivalent to the first year of any degree in science. You can take engineering, pick up first year biology and organic chemistry courses as electives and you meet the minimum academic requirements to get in to most medical schools.

    There are other options you could look at as well. Have you thought of, for example, biomedical engineering, biophysics, or medical physics?
  4. Sep 13, 2011 #3
    Well from what I've researched, engineers with a MS generally have a mean salary of ~100k. Doctors that come out with MDs with 2-3 more years of study, which is just residency and internships, usually have a mean salary of ~200k. I do realize they work almost 80 hours a week but that doesn't shy me away from it.
    And its almost impossible to know what happens to salaries as one progresses in a field just based off of statistics, so you really just have to gain experience for yourself somehow or ask around.

    You can major in anything as long as you have the per-requisits for medical school as you have said. So even if I were to decide not to do med school, I would have a science/math BS to go to grad school with.

    Yes, I actually have considered biomedical engineering but the salary is at best ~95k with about 10 years of education. Now I'm not picking a career just for the salary but I have to be realistic.
    I'm not sure as to what biophysicists or medical physicists do. I heard they do research that involves the effect of radiation but not really sure. Can you enlighten me, because of your 1st hand experience?
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