Written by Joanna Hughes

There are many good reasons to go to medical school and join this noble profession. However, not all reasons are so good. Read on for a roundup of five things that should not be on your list of reasons to be a doctor.

1. You want to make a lot of money.

While being a doctor can promise financial stability in many parts of the world, it is not always a guarantee. Factor in the high cost of med school, and doctors can end up feeling more poor than prosperous.

And then there’s the rigor of the work itself. If you don’t have a passion for medicine and helping others, or if you do have an aversion to blood, vomit and other realities of the human condition, is any amount of money really enough to justify you spending the next 40 odd years of your life doing it?

2. You are drawn to the prestige.

Sure, doctors are often among the most prestigious professionals, but they are also far from the only people who are held up by their peers. In fact, according to data from Statista, while 90 percent of people say that they consider doctors to be prestigious, 83 percent, 80 percent, and 78 percent of people say the same of scientists, firefighters, and military officers, respectively. Also making the list of most prestigious occupations are engineers, nurses, architects, emergency medical technicians, veterinarians, and police officers.

The takeaway? If prestige is important to you, there are other ways to get it if medicine isn’t a good fit.  

3. Your family wants you to do it.

Many parents fantasize about their kids growing up and becoming doctors. Unfortunately, these dreams are often misguided -- and dangerous -- given the pressures associated with the career.

Australian oncologist and Fulbright scholar Ranjana Srivastava argues in The Guardian, “Students pondering a career in medicine, I have always welcomed. Parents who do it on behalf of their child, I am increasingly wary of. The students are largely altruistic; the parents aspire to status, money and job security. I don’t blame them but what they don’t realize is that in the hyper-competitive world of medicine, even those with the marks and motivation battle to get in, so there is even less room for those with the marks but scant motivation.”

Srivastava adds, “A career in medicine has vast and varied promise but the happiest doctors I know have narrowed it down to one thing: medicine not merely as work but a calling.”

4. You get top marks in school.

You may be known for getting good grades throughout high school and college, but this doesn’t mean medical school is automatically the way to go. Unfortunately, many good students default to medical school (and law school) for no other reason than thinking they should go because they are among the few with a shot at getting in, and they are afraid of not delivering on their potential.

But this is a short-sighted perspective, writes MSc. student Katherine Sinclair for The Globe and Mail, “Medical school is the easy answer. Once you are in, you are in, you can no longer fail. You can pack your stethoscope and check your baggage on a one-way trip to the upper-middle classes. [...] But medical school is only a deferral. Eventually, the real world catches up,” insists Sinclair.

5. You are looking for flexibility.

It’s true that some medical specialties are more conducive to having a flexible schedule than others. For example, physical medicine and rehabilitation, dermatology, radiation oncology, orthopedic surgery, and emergency medicine are better known for supporting work-life balance than those at the lower end of the spectrum, such as anesthesiology, neurology, and obstetrics and gynecology, according to AMA rankings. But cashing in on this flexibility is a long time coming, pre-dated by many years of long, hard work.  

Brian Secemsky, MD, argues for Huffington Post, “If you can't wrap your mind around putting most of your waking hours into your training for the first years of your professional life, then this field will likely break you down before you have the freedom to personalize a medical career that best fits your needs.”

There’s no denying that many doctors find their careers uniquely fulfilling. However, others face difficulties in the career -- and unnecessarily so. Understanding which of your reasons are valid and which may be less-so can help you make the most informed decision when

If you've ruled out working as a doctor but still want to work in the red-hot field of healthcare, check out our article, Four Reasons to Study Nursing

ArticleEducationStudent Tips
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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