Becoming a doctor is one of the noblest pursuits that a human being can undertake. It takes a strong, dedicated person to commit their life to the care of others. It’s also one of the only professions in the world where you’ll never have to worry about being able to find a job. From working as a school psychologist to performing surgeries, there’s a great demand for doctors around the world. You can also make a lot of money for your troubles.
Despite the benefits, pursuing a medical degree is a tremendous commitment. Even if you succeed, you’re going to have long hours, high stress, and have to keep yourself up-to-date on the latest advancements in medical theory and technology. It’s not a job you can be half-invested in.
Before you decide to become a doctor, read below to discover some of the toughest aspects that a job in healthcare presents. You’ll be in a much better position to make a well-informed decision afterward.
Medical School is Competitive, Tough, and Expensive
The first hurdle you’ll have to overcome in your path to becoming a doctor is medical school, and what a hurdle it is.
Not Many People Get In
Even just getting in can be a hurdle in and of itself. A report from U.S. News & World Report revealed that, despite a more than 25% increase in the number of people applying for medical school, most medical colleges accepted less than 4% of applicants. Some people even had to apply for anywhere from three to four years before being accepted.
It May Take Longer than Four Years
Though graduation rates for medical students were relatively high, it may take longer than four years. The American Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported that from 2005 to 2010, only 81% of all students graduated in four years. Some students even took as long as eight years to graduate, according to the report.
No matter which college you get accepted into, you can expect to pay far more than you did for your undergrad studies. The AAMC revealed that the average four-year cost of attending medical school was $207,866 for public medical colleges and $278,455 for private schools. That’s just paying out of pocket – for students who had to take out loans, interest rates lead to a debt of around $416,216.
You Make a Lot of Money, But You Definitely Earn It
Once you graduate from medical school, you’ll find that you won’t have a hard time finding a job and that you’ll get a very high starting salary. However, you can definitely expect to earn your keep.
It’s Easy to Find a Very Well-Paying Job
There were some very encouraging statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that really made the case for becoming a doctor:
- There were 713,800 doctor positions in the U.S. in 2016.
- The average annual pay for a doctor was $208,000. Even starting salaries average $107,000.
- The job market for doctors is expected to grow 13% between now and 2026.
While all these numbers prove that you can get a very well-paying job relatively soon after graduation, they don’t account for what you’ll have to do to earn it.
Doctors Work Much Longer Hours than Most Professions
A study by Best Medical Degrees found that, on average, a doctor works about 59.6 hours per week. Those hours only account for average shift times. They don’t factor any time you have to spend on-call, pursuing the continuing education credits you need to keep your license, or conducting research.
Not only that, but you won’t always be working in the day. Many hospitals have rotating shifts, especially for doctors in the ER. Coupled with a growing shortage of doctors, this has resulted in that some doctors call a “week of nights” – working four to five consecutive night shifts in a row.
Your Risk of Injury and Illness are Very High
Doctors tend to be smarter and more hard-working than the average person, but they’re still human beings. That means they get sick and they get hurt. In particular, the risk of contracting an illness amongst doctors is much higher than other professions.
You’re Exposed to Diseases Constantly
This shouldn’t come as a shock since doctors are constantly exposed to diseases. Since you have to analyze blood, urine, and other bodily fluids as part of your regular duties, your risk of contracting a terminal illness is very high.
And there are plenty of diseases to contract. Becker’s Hospital Review found that the most common infections found in hospitals include:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
They also reported that the most common causes of infection were from accidental sticks with needles and splatters of bodily fluid into the eyes, mouth, and pre-existing cuts and scrapes.
In some cases, contracting even one of these diseases can have you taken out of the workforce for a long time or end your career.
You’ll Have to Take Steps to Avoid Disease at All Times
In order to reduce your chances of getting infected, staying healthy and sanitary must be more than a habit – it will become a way of life. You’ll have to follow all the prescribed guidelines for handling patients and equipment (and there are a lot to memorize) and wash your hands constantly. You’ll also need to keep a healthy diet and get plenty of exercises to keep your immune system strong.
However, even the most thorough of preventative practices can’t 100% guarantee that you won’t become infected or injured. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be any accidents. You still need to make preparations in the event that you have to go on disability or exit the medical profession. You can’t rely on the coverage’s your employer provides. It’s often not enough.
It Will Be the Hardest, Most Rewarding Thing You’ve Ever Done
After reading the above, you may get the impression that being a doctor is more trouble than it’s worth. For the majority, the hardship and danger are more than worth the risk. The U.S. News & World Report reported that physicians reported an above average chance for upward mobility and a higher ratio of job satisfaction than most.
In addition, there’s no rating you can put on literally saving a person’s life. When you’ve been working for 12 hours, and spent the last six of those in surgery, all it takes is a heartfelt thank you from a patient and their family to make it all worthwhile.