Being a doctor is a lifelong dream for many. You earn the opportunity to save lives and make good money while knowing that you are truly helping people. However, like most dreams, there are pros and cons to examine.
Becoming a doctor requires a lot of sacrifices, both financial and personal. Some people believe it is worth it while others do not — ultimately you’ll have to decide for yourself. Whichever route you take, you should at least know the stakes.
The information below is meant to provide individuals who are on the fence about becoming a doctor with helpful considerations.
Table of Contents
- 1 Pros of Becoming a Doctor
- 2 Cons of Becoming a Doctor
Pros of Becoming a Doctor
When people think of doctors, they automatically associate the career with monetary wealth. It should be noted that there are myriad pros to becoming a doctor — from job satisfaction to career flexibility.
Job satisfaction is a key piece of the career puzzle. Studies show that more than 75% of doctors are satisfied with their job and over half of all physicians would choose the same career path if they were able to get a mulligan.
Doctors are lifelong learners and each day is different from the last. As you practice medicine, the techniques, technology, and needs change over time. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach toward medicine and that appeals to many.
Since every day is different, becoming a doctor is mentally challenging and stimulating. Mental stimulation is important for all, and your day-to-day as a doctor provides this.
When people go into a career, they want job security. Even though some are concerned about how artificial intelligence will replace doctors, this is not the case. There is a physician shortage in the United States and it continues to grow as time goes on.
When there is a physician shortage, there is no shortage of jobs available. Doctors are among the few that do not need to worry about their role becoming obsolete.
As mentioned above, the need for doctors is nearly constant, and that remains true no matter where you are located. You could move across the globe and likely still find work. As long as you are performing your job properly, you won’t ever have to worry about being out of a job for very long.
Furthermore, if you ever tire of patient care, you possess versatile skills that translate well into other healthcare-related roles. You can move into healthcare administration, perform research work, and even teach future doctors.
You can also change your specialty with a bit of time and effort. This career doesn’t have to lock you in one spot forever.
One of the large benefits of becoming a doctor is the money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 report on physicians, the median pay comes out to $208,000 annually or $100 hourly — making it one of the highest-paying occupations.
It should be noted that the amount of money you can make may fluctuate depending on a number of factors:
- Geographical location;
- Type of specialty;
- Where you work (private practice vs. public hospital, clinical vs. non-clinical settings).
Prestige and Societal Influence
Doctors may enjoy a certain level of prestige among their family and friends. Becoming a physician is a great accomplishment, and most everyone respects the work that you do. If you are eager to gain the respect of your community, becoming a doctor is one way to do it.
Likewise, people see you as a source of guidance. Patients come to you with some of their deepest problems, and the issues are not always physical. With your expertise, you can help guide your patients towards making better choices.
Your word is also respected in various fields — from politics to science. People regard you as a knowledgeable individual with insights worth listening to. You have a real chance to create lasting change.
Cons of Becoming a Doctor
Similar to the pros above, many assume that the only con of becoming a doctor surrounds schooling requirements and costs, but this is not always the case. The information below is meant to offer additional considerations against becoming a doctor.
Becoming a doctor means you’ll spend a large amount of time in school. Many people debate whether a master’s degree is worth it, but as a doctor, you may spend upwards of 15 years in an academic setting before ever practicing medicine.
To become a doctor, you will need to complete an undergraduate program, perform well on your Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), complete four years of medical school, and complete a three-year residency program.
It is not uncommon for future doctors to participate in year-long fellowships after their residency as well to help them stand out on paper. If you choose to specialize, your schooling timeline can look even longer.
The Cost of Schooling
Many prospective doctors struggle with deciding if the cost of medical school is worth it. College is expensive and paying off student loans — especially medical student loans — may take a while. These fears can be heightened with the current student loan crisis.
The exact cost of attending schooling varies depending on your location, the academic establishment you attend, and the amount of schooling required, but reports show that the average medical school debt comes out to $215,900 when it’s all said and done.
Malpractice Costs and Lawsuits
Medical malpractice can be painful for the plaintiff, but it is oftentimes a constant migraine for doctors as well. Regardless of whether a doctor has made a mistake, there is always the possibility that a patient or a patient’s loved one will attempt to sue at some point in your career.
Although malpractice insurance is not required, without it, doctors would be responsible upfront for lawyer fees, court fees, arbitration costs, settlement costs, punitive/compensatory damages, and any medical damages in the case that they are sued.
The cost of the required insurance can fluctuate depending on your specialty, performance record, and location, but the average cost of medical malpractice insurance comes out to around $7,500 annually.
Aside from the cost of malpractice insurance and lawsuits, you should also consider how these lawsuits take away from practicing medicine. When you go to medical school, the last thing you imagine is spending time in the courtroom defending your work.
Being a doctor requires long shifts, multitasking, and dealing with the weight of your patient’s lives on your shoulders. While you do get the opportunity to save lives, there is a lot on the line within this role and it can chip away at you.
Oftentimes it can be difficult to disconnect once you are off the clock, and this can add unnecessary or additional stress to your home life as well.
Achieving work-life balance as a doctor may prove difficult. Although the standard working week is 40 hours for most individuals, doctors do not always work traditional hours.
Studies show that doctors’ hours are changing and most physicians work more than 40 hours — 25% working more than 60 hours, and 5% working 80-plus hours per week. If you are on call, the hours you work could fluctuate even more.
Some specialties such as emergency medicine require around-the-clock availability. This leaves little room for time for friends, family, or personal pursuits.
Paperwork, Bureaucracy, and Government Regulation
When people think of becoming a doctor, they focus on the patient-facing aspect of the job, not the requirements behind the scenes. You’ll need to get used to documenting everything, cooperating with insurance companies, and constantly adjust your normalcy according to government requirements.
While you struggle to see all your patients in a day, you’ll be spending two-thirds of your time on paperwork. This isn’t exactly the vision most medical school students have.
Risk of Burnout and Suicide
One of the biggest risks of becoming a physician is burnout — the risk is 10% higher than any other profession. Furthermore, 400 physicians die at their own hands every year, with doctors being twice as likely to commit suicide as anyone else. The stress and responsibility of being a good doctor can chip away at your mental health.
Some, though, are convinced that becoming a doctor is not only the best career for them, but it’s their calling. They are willing to take the risks in order to achieve their dream. If this describes you, you should still move forward carefully.
Carefully consider the pros and the cons, and decide which side weighs more for you personally. There is no right or wrong answer for everyone, but there may be one that will better suit you.
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