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Is Med School worth it if your dreams lie elsewhere?

  1. Jul 15, 2012 #1
    Hey guys,

    I'm a math major. I plan to go to graduate school (hopefully PhD) in nuclear engineering and I have ~3.8 GPA. However, my parents have been pushing me to go to med school, and I'm not completely opposed to it, but I am truly interested in nuclear science and its applications to power generation and propulsion systems. It seems that nuclear engineers max out at about $150,000; but If i were to become, say, an anesthesiologist or a neurosurgeon It's reasonable to believe I could pull 400k-500k per year. However, anesthesiology requires 4 years of med school and 4 years of residency, and neurosurgery requires about 4 years of med school and 7 years of residency.

    I suppose a present value analysis is in order, but really I would not be very interested or intrigued by a career in medicine. If I did it, it would only be for the money. My question is, is it worth sacrificing 11 years of my life and roughly 20k-50k of potential salary per year to pursue medicine? I would probably be 40 years old (20 now) before I even broke even on the engineer salary vs salary lost by going to med school.

    Would I be a "loser" if I didn't go all the way?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 16, 2012 #2


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    Hey Hercuflea.

    First of all you are not a loser if you don't do something that other people think is prestigious including your parents. You should be proud of yourself if you get a PhD in Nuclear Engineering, and don't let your parents or anyone tell you otherwise.

    If you are successful and make a genuine contribution to others, then you have no reason to feel bad.

    Your parents sound like they want to live their narcissistic ideas through your success. Are your parents doctors? Are they brain surgeons or cosmetic surgeons? If not tell them to shove it and if they care so much about doctors, tell them to go to university and get into medical school.

    Ask them how much do they earn? Ask them what makes them so damn special to tell you how to live your life? Ask them those questions and I'll bet you don't get one single word that's of good use.

    You have a 3.8 GPA. What do they have?

    In my mind you are not the loser (far from it), they are.
  4. Jul 16, 2012 #3
    The short answer to your question is no, it's not worth it if your heart's not in it. But you knew that when you asked the question. There's a huge difference between making 10k and 100k but virtually no difference between 100k and 500k. Enjoy getting up in the morning.
  5. Jul 16, 2012 #4
    Thanks guys, I think I'll continue on my path then. I guess I just needed some confirmation
  6. Jul 16, 2012 #5
    There's no difference between 100k and 500k, as they said.

    Don't worry about your parents. Even if they are right, so what? Its your life, your mistake to make, and you'll be better because of it.
  7. Jul 17, 2012 #6
    Do *not* underestimate Med School. If your heart isn't in it, Med School will chew you up and spit you out.

    I saw an interesting article in the New York Times a while ago. A study claims that more money makes you happier until you get to about $75K per year. After that, it really makes no difference.
  8. Jul 17, 2012 #7
    Should this not be a clear 'no' to anyone but the most superficial?

    PS: Replace Med School with whatever is forced upon you.
  9. Jul 18, 2012 #8
    This. I know a lot of people who went to Med School with various results. I second the suggestion of not underestimating it. Don't think that just because there won't be any proofs or difficult exercises to solve it's going to be a cakewalk. Expect to have to learn LOADS of stuff by heart. Long story short, my girlfriend went to med school, and she did brilliantly. However everytime I helped her study (asking her questions ecc.) I realized she didn't really understand the reasons of most of the things she knew. As a mathematician you are certainly used to have a deep knowledge of the math you studied as the subject forces you to question the what ifs and whys of every sentence you read almost compulsively. Med School isn't like that. You'll have to put in a garbageload of hours of raw memorizing, which will be extremely boring if you are not highly motivated.
  10. Jul 19, 2012 #9
    It took me a long time to realize that medical doctors are *not* scientists and do not think like scientists. They are not interested in reasons at all unless knowing a reason can help them treat a patient. It's a completely different mindset.
  11. Jul 19, 2012 #10
    hi Hercuflea,

    I feel like I need to comment.

    Here is my take based on experience.

    1. You may grow to really enjoy certain aspects of medical school/being a doctor. I would interview, shadow, read as much as you can about the profession before making any decision.

    2.If you are doing something just for money you will burn out. I much rather doing something I'm interested in then making money doing something you dislike. Doctors also have a high burnout rate - the long hours, the stress, etc etc.

    3. Its ok to change your mind after making a decision, even in 3rd year medical school.

    Just a few points off... good luck
  12. Jul 26, 2012 #11

    I registered to this forum after reading your topic.

    I had the exact same problem with my own parents. They wanted me to enter Medical School while I wanted to become an Engineer.

    My advice: Never give up your dreams. You're the one who'll be undertaking these studies, not your parents. Medical studies have a "mindset" that is quite different from engineering. It's all about learning a LOT of stuff by heart.

    It is true that doctors do make a lot of money but know that you will go nowhere if you don't like your studies, and, in the future, your job. If you hate what you're doing, you'll probably end up to be a very, very bad doc (If you ever go through the long medical studies despite the fact that you hate them)

    I went into engineering and I do not regret it, not even for a second. I have friends who went to med. school and everyone's happy with what he has. My parents's dream is their own, I have my very own dreams.

    Psychologically, there often is an explanation to parents pushing their children to something they might not like. My mother failed at becoming a doctor, instead, she became an air traffic controller (a very honorable job, she's now high-ranked and has a very good salary). But I have the feeling that when she wanted me to become a doctor, it was like if she was projecting her own failure on me, and wanted like, to take a revenge on her own destiny.

    When you open a physics book, you feel something - something that makes you happy to learn and read.

    If, when you open a medical encyclopedia, you feel nothing, then know that this is not your path. Follow your heart.
  13. Sep 2, 2012 #12


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    My parents are doctors and they're trying to discourage my little brother from going into medicine, except maybe in something in a related field, but not an MD. They say it's too much work and stress, and they're not really sure what will happen with the new health law. I think my dad is going to retire early, actually.
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