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Physicists vs Medical doctors

  1. Jan 21, 2017 #1
    What are the differences and the similarities in your opinion? Pros and cons .. go go goo
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2017 #2


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    You go first. :oldwink: What do you think?

    Also, some aspects of the answers may vary between different countries. For example, in the US, medical schools are expensive, so people studying to become medical doctors usually have to fund it by taking out large amounts of loans. They then spend the first part of their working career paying off $100,000 to $200,000 (or even more) debt. I suspect this is not true in some other countries.

    On the other hand, again in the US, physics PhD students normally receive enough financial support from their universities to cover tuition and basic living expenses. They usually do have to pay for the bachelor's degree which comes before this, but so do the medical students.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2017
  4. Jan 21, 2017 #3
    You can study medicine for free in a lot of different countries, like France and Germany. So let's forget about debt.
    But PhD students still get paid, I don't think this is the same case for medical students. On average it usually take 3 years to get a Bachelor degree and 2 years to get a masters, and maybe 5 years to get a PhD, those 5 years, the university will usually pay you a nice amount of money ( enough to cover living costs at least ). whereas medical students usually study 6-7 years to become to get an MD, the last years include a lot of training, usually not paid, after that some people may choose to specialize, or to get a PhD, and they might get paid a little more than physicists. But by the start of their careers they obviously earn way more than physicists (usually) and are needed a lot more in society, and very well respected. Few people actually know what physicists do, though it is impressive to say, "I have a PhD in cosmology", and when it comes to awesome facts, physicists win by a long shot. But doctors on the other hand can save lives, so there's that.
    It is easy (in some places almost guaranteed) to get a job with an MD, but I hear it's not easy to find a job with a physics PhD (especially in academia)
  5. Jan 21, 2017 #4
    Well, speaking from a Brazilian point o view. Here the best universities are public universities (usually federal, though some are property of a specific state). Also, medicine here is a BSc degree, so you don't have to do a BSc in biology, say, you just do a BSc in medicine, which is 6 years long, and once you graduate you can start right away to work as a "doctor" (it is really painful here that most medicine students want to be called doctors, when they actually don't even have a MSc :( ). That said, you can actually get a degree in medicine from a top school without having to pay a single cent. Free of debt, they start their lives receiving more money than most people will ever receive.

    Okay, this happens here, of course - pretty weird system in my opinion.

    I think that it is not only when compared to physicists, but when compared to all the other fields (biology, chemistry, math, CS, even engineering) a doctor in medicine will always be more respected than those. I think that is because of the "I save lives" motto.

    As to the job factor. Well, you will always need a medic sooner or later, but will you need a physicist that much? I'm not saying physicists are useless, please, don't get me wrong, but it is a fact that from the great NYC, to the small peaceful village in countryside China, a medic is needed. Hell, New Zealand was paying a horrendous amount of money for any medic that wanted to work in its countryside area (very far from society and limited communication). It is how the world is.

    Though, I'll always prefer to work on the less paying jobs than as a medic. I find it too boring and stressful.
  6. Jan 21, 2017 #5


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    The standard answer to what's the difference between a PhD and an MD: about two hundred thousand dollars and a beard! /sarcasm

    Anyway I think you have the basic ideas. My experience is with the Canadian system. For the MD route the major bottleneck is medical school admission. To compete for that you do a four year undergraduate degree, write your MCAT, stir in some volunteer experience and hope that you come out near the top. Then, if accepted, you do a four year medical degree, which tends to be more expensive than other undergraduate degrees. After that you get to specialize through a residency. Medical residents are not usually paid the big bucks, but they are paid. The length of the residency depends on the specialty. Family medicine is two years. Radiation oncology is five years. Sometimes there's a fellowship in there too. Eventually though, it pays out big. The vast majority of MD graduates end up working as physicians or surgeons.

    The PhD route has multiple bottlenecks. You start with a four year undergraduate degree in physics, then go through a bottleneck to get into graduate school. In the Canadian system, this starts with an MSc. In the US you tend to go straight into a PhD. Timeline to completion of the PhD is about the same (2+4 years in Canada, 6 in the US, but these are subject to some variability - some PhDs can stretch out to 10 years). You generally get some financial support as a graduate student, but this is not a lot of money. When you graduate, the next bottleneck is for post-doctoral positions which are basically contract research positions lasting a couple of years. After one or two of these you can compete for tenure-track positions. If you're lucky enough to land one of these, then you have about 6 years or so to earn tenure. The majority of people who earn PhDs end up leaving academia at some point.
  7. Feb 11, 2017 #6


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    It depends on what one values. People who hold intellectual achievement in high regard may have more respect for a doctorate in a scientific field than for a medical degree.
  8. Feb 11, 2017 #7
    Medical doctors =$ ...

    in all seriousness with a MBBS degree one is considered to never need to have to worry about being unemployed ever. Both degrees are tough. Dont be a doctor for the money and go for it if you want to really do it and help people. I think doctors would feel they make a difference everyday. (Not to say physicists dont) but if you are confused between medicine and physics then I would go for medicine imho. Whatever you choose, stick with it and focus on it, neither fields are easy and require utmost determination.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2017
  9. Mar 2, 2017 #8


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    There is a huge gap in the social dimension between the two disciplines.
    Doctors get paid for being the caretaker of peoples troubles, without having the tools to really fix things. They can set bones or stitch a cut, but mostly they can
    only give palliative help. It is soul wearing work mostly, whereas physicists may be underpaid and frustrated, but they don't have those burdens.
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