Should I continue premed track?

Hi, I am a freshman student majoring in Biology. I am thinking about going to med school, but I’m not sure if I should do it. I know that you have to be a highly competitive applicant with a 4.0 GPA, high percentile MCAT score, good letters of rec, and great extracurriculars/volunteering. I will already have a B in my Chem lab and an A- in my first year seminar by the end of the semester. I know this might not affect my GPA significantly, but I know that if you have less than a 4.0 GPA, you’ll have to compensate really well in another area to stand out.

I have also been thinking about my motivations for a medical career. They have mostly been centered around good job security, pay, and financial independence. I was wondering if there are other jobs/careers out there that can provide similar benefits. I know money isn’t everything, but with all the uncertainty in the economy and outsourcing/automation, I’d like to go into a career that’ll at least last a while or not be outsourced to another country anytime soon.

I don’t expect my future job to be “fun” and am fine with the daily grind. I just don’t want to graduate with a boatload of student debt with no skills/opportunities to show for it. I know that in the past it took people some exploration and time to figure out what job best fit their personality/skills, but I feel that now there are fewer opportunities to make mistakes and figure out what you want to do with your life. What if the job you trained for suddenly disappears? Should I just adapt and retrain? I would be fine with doing that, but I’m in college and with the debt I’ll have accrued, I don’t know if that’s a safe option for me.


Although admission to med school is competitive, you don’t need a perfect 4.0 GPA. The average admitted allopathic med student had a GPA/sGPA around 3.7/3.6. For osteopathic medical school the average admitted student had a GPA/sGPA around 3.6/3.4.

There are a number of medicine-related careers that are are secure, well paying and require a much shorter training period than becoming a physician requires.

Here’s a website that will help you research other healthcare careers
[Explore Health Careers](

Some ideas–

Physician Assistant
Anesthesiologist Assistant
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Nurse Practitioner
Physical Therapist
Occupational Therapist
Respiratory Therapist
Radiation Therapist
Cardiac Perfusionist
Surgical Technologist
Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist
Cardiovascular Technician
Forensic Toxicologist
Genetic Counselor
Health Information Manager
Health Services Administration
Medical Dosimetrist/Medical Physicist
Medical Librarian
Neurodiagnostic Tecnologist
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Pathologist’s Assistant
Prosthetist (designs, makes & fits prosthetic limbs

some thoughts on becoming a doctor that I have learned the last year. My son also just began pre-med this fall and definitely feels the pressure. He already has a pre-med adviser who is part of the university’s medical school. For their medical school, the typical entrant had a 3.72 GPA, a 85th percentile MCAT, and a minimum of 400 hours of community service/shadowing/medical volunteering. From my own doctors I have learned that 1)nobody cares where you went for undergrad 2)nobody cares where you go to medical school as long as it is in this country 3) where you do your residency and post-graduate training is the most important factor towards the success of your career. A specialist I have said to go to the med school with the best value - try to keep your debt down. Go to the cheapest decent undergrad university you can, preferably one that has an associated hospital. Finally, you can no longer get rich from being a doctor. The combination of health insurance trying to dictate costs, malpractice insurance premiums, and student debt loads of doctors mean true financial independence won’t come until well into your 30’s (depends on your specialty). Yes- it is an area of stability and growth with flexibility you may not find elsewhere. Early on you will be the one to work on all holidays and be on call often. While in residency, 12-18 hour days are common. Become a doctor because you like working with people, you want to give them hope, you like making people smile, and you want to make a difference in the world. In my opinion,no other career has such a combination of traits. I am in science working with biopharma and biotech companies - I know I am helping to create new medications to help people but it’s not the same as a doctor. Think about where you will be 10 years from now and if that is what you want to do.

My D is CS premed sophomore at Vandy. She just landed a great summer internship for next summer and she starts to rethink “why do I want to do med if I can make over 100k after undergraduate?”. But I believe the money should not be the determinating factor here. You need to have some passion for healing and natural inclination to sciences. She is still continuing on with premed and wants to do job shadowing before she knows for sure. Because of the math and science classes she has and will take, she will have a math and chem minor. She decided to delay bio 2 in favor of more CS classes next spring (after all three labs might be just too much), but will continue orgo chem next semester.

In her case, it is not the debt, nor the GPA consideration, but the opportunity cost that makes her rethink her options.

Thanks for all the advice!

I don’t really want to be rich. I just want to live a comfortable life. I know that I will face hardships in my life, but I’d rather that these hardships didn’t result from unemployment/low income. I am aware that medicine is a very demanding profession with high moral and ethical commitments. I have family members who are docs and they have informed me about the nature of the profession. I am thinking about other careers, which might fit my interests. I don’t really want to be a engineer (requires math which I’m not too fond of and had bad experiences in HS with) or entrepreneur (too much instability and depends on the market). I am looking for stability and intellectual curiosity in my job. I suppose I’ll just go to a job fair and do some research online.


The job market is continually evolving and changing. Jobs come into and go out of demand. (Computer keypuncher/operator used to be well paying, secure career. Today, no one even knows what a computer punch card is.) With very few exceptions, I think all young people have to prepared to change careers/retrain as the economy and job market changes. There are literally hundreds of jobs today that simply didn’t exist when I was in college. I’m sure that as technology and AI advances there will be hundred of jobs 15 years from now that simply don’t exist today and hundred or thousand that have become obsolete.

And for the record, I trained, then re-trained and then retrained again and worked 3 different career fields during my working life.

Some things about medicine as a career you need to consider–

Even medical specialties come into and go out of demand. There are constant turf wars between various specialties-- cardiology vs. interventional radiology for heart attack treatment/stenting or neurosurgery vs neuro-radiology for stroke management or neurosurgery vs orthopedic surgery for spine surgery, for example. Family medicine physicians used to man every ER in the US until about 1985 when the idea of a specialized physician just for emergency medical situations was first suggested. Today you can’t work in the ED unless you are a formally trained EM physician.

Physicians are in a constant state of retraining as medical practices change and best practices evolve.

I am the mother of two young physicians. Being physician is a tough life. There are long hours and huge demands on your time. Even after residency, the work hours are much higher than the typical 40 hours work week of other careers and professions. It’s tough to manage a reasonable work-life balance.

Physicians also carry a heavy burden of responsibility. The physician suicide rate is about 3x higher than an age-matched peer population group. (And among med students & residents, the suicide rate is 5x higher than their age-peers.)

The cost and length of training required of physicians is enormous. Medicine requires 4 years of med school, 3-7 year of residency (add another 2- 3 years if you plan to sub specialize) before you can practice independently and earn a “doctor’s salary”. Residents & fellows are paid peanuts–less than your high school math teacher–while routinely working 80-100 hours per week. And let’s talk debt. The typical med student who graduates from a public med school (lower cost) has an average of $190K in student debt and a graduate of a private med school has $250K, just from med school alone, at an annual 7.5% interest rate. (And since most residents can’t start paying off their debt until residency & fellowship are done, the interest continues to accrue and capitalize each year. Having over $350K in debt when a new doctor first reaches attending status is very common.) Then there are 6 figure practice buy-in costs if you want to go into private practice.

Whether you go into private practice, large group practice or academic medicine, there are constant production pressures from your management. Your salary literally depends on the volume of patients you see, how many diagnostic codes you can generate for each patient, and how those patients rank you on Press Ganey Patient Satisfaction surveys. In large group practices you are often an “at will” employee who can be fired at any time. CMGs (Corporate Management Groups) are taking over large segments of medical care. The corporate bean counters offer no benefits, but pay big salaries–but miss a day of work because you’re sick or the weather is bad and you have reimburse the CMG for someone to cover your shift. Want health insurance? Too bad–buy it yourself. Want maternity/paternity leave? Too bad, only if you pay the salary of a locum to cover your shifts. Insurance reimbursements are also outside your control, yet those reimbursements control your income.

Malpractice costs can run as much as $120,000/year (higher in NY and PA) if you’re in a high risk specialty–OB/GYN, any surgical field or radiology.

Want to live in a desirable area–like major East or West coast cities, Chicago , Dallas, Austin etc? So does everyone else–and your salary will lower than it be in small town West Texas or SE Utah…

Yes, medicine does (usually) provide a secure, well-paying career, but it comes with hidden costs, both financial and personal.

Since none of your motivations include an unrelenting passion for helping people, I don’t think you should pursue a medical career. There are ALOT easier ways to have a comfortable life.

@WayOutWestMom Your post #6 should be pinned at the top of the premed forum. Great information and reality check for all college premeds. Continued success to your 2 young physicians!

Stay on your plan. Fulfill your med school course requirements with a degree in Microbiology (not to be confused with general Biology). If you decide not to pursue medicine, you can go to graduate school or go straight to work. Be very careful about accumulating debt. Consider transferring to a less expensive school.

Hi Nathan. I just wrote this to another poster as follow-up from years ago. Thought you’d like to see this too, about my son, a great easy-going kid. He worked hard all through college and discovered another direction in the spring semester of his senior year…

Good news is that my son, class 2014 got into several medical schools. Really nice ones too. He had done everything right: top notch school, top grades, excellent research, lots of volunteering, great connections and conversations with many doctors, amazing MCAT scores.

But he wasn’t so sure about med schools when all was said and done, so he deferred. He eventually declined their offers. He has always loved his life: gf he’s crazy about, writing FT day job, living in a ‘happening’ city, doing lots of comedy gigs. Who knew?!!!

Folks ask if I was disappointed by his choice. How can I be disappointed? He’d be a great doctor, but that wasn’t his decided career path. Yes I’d be comforted to know the progressive career steps he’d make if he had continued, but he’s the one who has to live his life, not me. He’s happy and that’s what we want for our kids.