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How to start with career ideas?

ellie1151ellie1151 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
edited December 2013 in Careers in Medicine
Hello! I'm still in high school but I'd like to begin to think about what I want to do in my future, so I know where to aim my goals and plans. My favorite classes tend to be math and science classes. My favorite science class so far has been chemistry. I find research really interesting, especially on nutrition, and really enjoy reading studies. I'm very hard working and generally make good grades and score well on tests. (34 ACT, National Merit Finalist)

I love kids, and for many years I wanted to become a pediatrician. However I'm not entirely sure now. I would think that I would probably like that job once I was in it, but I don't know if the cost and time commitment of med-school is worth it, especially if I was wanting to have a family of my own. I know that being a doctor is not the most flexible job out there, which is pretty important to me. Money isn't too important but I'd definitely like to make enough to support myself, pay off my educational debt, and live comfortably.

I'm not entirely sure where to start, but I was wondering if any of you guys had ideas of possible careers. I think I'd probably like to work in a career in the science field. Math would also be an option but I'm not really interested in engineering type jobs. I'm a very social person, so any job involving contact with people would be a good option probably.

I've been researching a little bit more, and being a nurse practitioner sounds like a possible option. I'm not sure if that would actually be less schooling than becoming a doctor, or more flexible so any input on that or on other ideas would be appreciated! I think this is in the right section.. sorry if it's not! Thanks!
Post edited by ellie1151 on

Replies to: How to start with career ideas?

  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 10,118 Senior Member
    A nurse practitioner requires fewer years of training than a physician. You will need a BSRN degree (4 years) followed by a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). A DNP takes about 5 semesters to complete. Some DNP programs require that you have a minimum number of years working as a nurse before you can be considered for admission.

    Physicians need a BS or BA degree (4 years), followed by 4 years of medical school, followed by 3-6 years of residency.

    If you're interested in nurse practitioner, also look at physician assistant programs. NPs and PAs have similar jobs responsibilities and autonomy. PA requires an undergrad degree (4 years) plus 2-2.5 years for a master's degree.

    There are a number of allied healthcare jobs which require less formal training than a physician, have more flexible work hours and decent salaries.

    Take a look at this list:

    Allied health professions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Princess'DadPrincess'Dad Registered User Posts: 1,123 Senior Member
    Don't know what sex you are but:

    By the time you get out, almost all doctors will work in a large practice (and if the trend continues, you will be the employee of a hospital). What this means is that your hours will be much more flexible. I know several women surgeons who split a full time position.

    As per a nurse practitioner, they will continue to have more responsibility as the years go on and more primary care practitioners are needed - they they will always have to answer to a doctor in some way or another.

    Do not worry about the time it takes. The most important part is if you enjoy it. No matter what field you go into if you don't enjoy what you do, you will be miserable.

    Good luck. See if there is a (BSA) medical explorer post in your area. It is a great way for a high school student to explore medicine
  • KKmamaKKmama Registered User Posts: 3,063 Senior Member
    A few corrections:

    NP's can and do operate independently of a doctor. There is a growing trend of having NP's serve in clinics at drug stores, for example, treating simple things like ear aches and strep, offering physicals, etc.

    The best way to become a PA is through a 5 year program that provided guaranteed entry into the masters' program at the end of the third year of undergrad. It is VERY difficult to get direct admit into a grad program.

    The advantage of being a PA is that if you want to switch specialties after a few years of working in one field, you can apply for other jobs - PA's licensing allows them to serve in any capacity, rather than board certification for specific fields for doctors.

    My daughter wanted to be a doctor but the only way she could have afforded it was to go through the military. She did not want to raise children during a residency or deployment, so she chose the PA route.

    She loves her job. Since her doc is part of a group PA's are not expected to be on call. He takes frequent days off (small town, low patient load) and lets her be in charge of the practice for a day or two a week. She's autonomous for as much as the law allows - the doc signs off on her charts, but she makes all of her own diagnoses and test orders/treatments, etc, so she does not feel inferior to the doc in any way.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 10,118 Senior Member
    NP's can and do operate independently of a doctor.

    This is state-dependent as licensing requirements vary. In my state, NPs are required to be under the supervision of a physician and cannot run an independent practice. Neither can PAs.
    My daughter wanted to be a doctor but the only way she could have afforded it was to go through the military.

    Your daughter was poorly advised. There are many possible ways to pay for med school beside joining the military-- federal student loans, Grad Plus loans, HSPS, state and federal loan forgiveness programs for physicians, enlisting in the USPHS (US Public Health Service Corp), and there are a variety of income-based loan repayment options for medical residents and for physicians working in public healthcare clinics or hospitals. Additionally private medical schools offer their own need-based grants and special loan programs (some with low or no interest while the student is in med school).

    I have 2 daughters attending medical school. They are from a single-parent family. (And there's no NCP to help pay their bills.) They are both financing their own medical educations using the options listed above.
  • KKmamaKKmama Registered User Posts: 3,063 Senior Member
    WayOut.... this is off topic but my daughter was not ill-advised. All of the options you suggest, and are acceptable to your daughters, involve loans.

    She chose to begin her career years earlier than taking the medschool route, and paying off only about 20K in loans (which may be forgiven because she is in the pool for loan forgiveness for those serving in underserved areas). She does the same work as the doctor she works with and does not have the stress of being solely responsible.

    She will earn less in her lifetime, and not have the title of Dr. But for her it was the correct choice. She does not mind being under the supervision of a doctor because she was careful to select a doc that treats her entirely as an equal (outside of the obvious necessity of signing off on her charts).
  • ellie1151ellie1151 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Thank you all for your replies, they were very informative.

    One remaining question.. what exactly are the differences between Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant? Do they do a similar job, or have similar levels of flexibility? And how do they compare education-wise in how many years it would take to begin? Thanks again,
  • KKmamaKKmama Registered User Posts: 3,063 Senior Member
    They are very similar in jobs. In most states the NP can work more independently. New requirements are kicking in soon that will mean NP's will have to get doctorates, which will mean a longer education than PA's need - makes sense, as they may not be working under the supervision of a doctor.

    PA's can start working 5 1/2 years after high school graduation if they go through the 3 + 2 programs. They must pass a national exam which covers every medical specialty, which means they can apply for anything from pediatrics to oncology. How much autonomy they have depends on the specialty and the doctor they work with. A surgical PA would be doing intakes and follow-ups, and maybe some minimal surgical assistance.
    My daughter is in family practice, and after 2 months on the job she has done just about everything, from routine exams to removing and biopsying moles to stitching up cuts to dealing with someone in the midst of an asthamatic crisis. Her "supervising" doctor took this week off and she is running the clinic; he did leave a contact number if she comes up against something she cannot handle and I'm sure the nurses have her back.

    If you do decide to go the PA route, you should get started now by following a PA or two to see what they do in specific fields of specialty, and start doing some volunteer work that has some connection to medical care/patients - even just visiting nursing home patients or helping out in an ER waiting room. Before you can enter the 4th year of the 5 year program you will need to have completed a specific number of patient contact hours, and that is easier to accomplish if you start early (for Marywood University it was 500 hours).
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 10,118 Senior Member
    Although PAs can be trained through a 3+2 program, most PAs graduate from a traditional grad program after completing their undergrad. The traditional grad programs last about 2-2.5 years. Some PA programs require a significant number clinical patient contact hours as a condition of admission. (For example, Red Rocks CC program [Denver] requires 2000 hours; others require as few as 250 hours.)

    At many programs, PAs and first year medical students take all the same core classes together and are graded together. (They do at our in-state flagship U program.)

    Some teaching hospitals are now offering 1 year specialty fellowships for PAs who have a strong interest in pursuing work in certain areas (like oncology or neurosurgery).


    Nurse Practioners will require a DNP, Doctorate of Nursing Practice, (which takes about 2-2.5 years to complete) to be eligible for national licensure starting in 2015. DNP candidates must first have completed a BSRN.

    If finances are concern, you can start working as a ASN or LPN--which is a 2 year degree program offered at many community colleges. Additional clinical training and passing the NUCLEX (national nursing licensing exam) will get you to a RN. RN to BSRN takes another 1 year full time or 2 years part-time ---and most nursing programs offer special RN to BSRN programs designed for working nurses.


    I know 1 NPs and 2 PAs well. The NP has worked at the State U's student health clinic for more than decade and treats all sort of minor illnesses. She also supervises other NPs and does other administrative work at the clinic. She works M-F, 8-4.

    One PA is a surgical asst for an organ transplant surgeon. He works full time and occasionally will have some weekend and night duty. (This is due to the irregular demands of working in this particular surgical field. You can't predict when an donor organ will become available.) The other works at a GYN-only clinic. She does well women checks, prescribes birth control and does minor gynecological procedures. She works full time, but regular hours. M-F, 8-5.


    The flexibility of hours for both PAs and NPs really depends on the type of job or medical practice that the individual works at.

    NPs have more autonomy in their jobs and more practice options than do PAs. In 14 states NPs can have their own independent medical practice and serve as PCPs; PAs are required to work under the supervision of a physician in all states.
  • Princess'DadPrincess'Dad Registered User Posts: 1,123 Senior Member
    A NP or PA is a great life. Most operations are preformed with a NP giving "the gas". Many PCPs are NPs or PAs. BUT in all states, they are under the supervision of an MD. That can range from having their charts reviewed or being physically supervised.

    I don't know why "the loan" scares everybody. Even with it, most docs live very comfortably (until their second or third divorce)

    As to lifestyle, I believe that by the time your kids graduate, almost all docs will work by a time clock
  • KKmamaKKmama Registered User Posts: 3,063 Senior Member
    To compare 3+2 programs and attending the graduate program after receiving a BA/BS in another field:

    My daughter was guaranteed a place in the grad program as long as she maintained her GPA and had her patient contact hours (500 for her program). The year that she started the grad program her college doubled the size of the program, which opened 24 slots. There were well over 800 applicants for those slots. Other years there have been only 2 or 3 openings that result from drop outs or failures to proceed. Most new admits were people who had spent years in the healthcare field as techs or aides. The only student admitted straight from college had worked all through college as an EMT.

    If you think that PA would be right for you, it would be highly advised to to the 5 year program.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 10,118 Senior Member
    Math would also be an option but I'm not really interested in engineering type jobs.

    Both of my Ds were math majors in undergrad. There are TONS of non-engineering jobs for math majors. Biostatistics is a hot and growing field right now. BA/BS math majors are hired by the banking & financial industries, by government agencies (often to manage science programs, but also to do things like review clinical medical trial data), telecommunications industries, airlines, advertising & marketing firms, insurance companies, risk under-writing companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, bio-medical research companies.

    Math is a great basis for MPH programs (really!) with an emphasis on population studies, epidemiology, and community health service planning.

    D2 is planning on getting her MPH in biostatistics/epidemiology along with her MD because she'd like to get into shaping healthcare policy at the state or national level.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 10,118 Senior Member
    RE: post 10

    "giving the gas" refers to nurse anesthetist (CRNA). A nurse anesthetist is an advanced practice nurse (APN) that is a BSRN with 2-3 years of additional specialized training (varies by program) to receive both a masters [or DNP] degree and national certification. Nurse anesthetists work flexible hours and work both in stand alone surgical centers and in hospitals.

    Another APN option is nurse widwife (CNM). (One of D2's friends has recently decided to pursue this option.) This requires as BSRN plus either a master of nursing degree or 1-2 years of additional training (varies by state/program) for national certification. Nurse widwives often serves as primary care providers for not just for pregnant & post-partum women, but also for the gynecological needs of all women. Nurse midwives can work flexible hours, can practice independently, can work at hospitals, stand alone clinics/birthing centers or attend home births.
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