If you’re wondering if med school is really worth it then Reddit’s an interesting place to get answers.
The communities’ unfiltered and honest opinion? Something that can be valuable for people considering whether med school really is for them!
To help you filter through countless threads, I’ve curated (based on my own experiences as an actual med student), what I feel are some of the best opinions.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The 5 main issues of whether med school is worth it:
- The issue of money
- The issue of time
- The issue of lifestyle
- The issue of career specialization
- The “you have to be passionate” issue
I think these are the 5 main buckets that most of the questions over the “worth” of a medical degree come down to. And Reddit has plenty to say both for and against each!
Ready to learn more? Let’s go.
The issue of money
Obviously, the first big question that most students think about when it comes to pursuing medicine is the cost.
With tuition in the U.S. averaging $250,222 (just at public schools), you can already see the magnitude of what you may be about to get into.
And that’s not even counting living costs!
Anyway, here’s what Reddit has to say on whether med school’s worth it from a financial perspective…
Is med school worth the debt?
Medical school is not just about the debt. If you live responsibly after you finish your residency (live like a student for a few years after your residency), you’ll pay off the debt just fine.– Anonymous
Graduating med school without debt, unless you have a very generous scholarship, is practically unheard of.
Whether it’s worth the trade-off of living like a student to get out of, is definitely something to consider…
Good luck living like a student when you are 35. You can’t avoid life expenses forever. Eventually you’re going to have to do things like buy a car, have a kid, live without roommates, and not exist off Taco Bell and Ramen.– u/ThrowawayXTREME
Watching your peers splash out on the finer things in life can certainly be irritating after all those years of work. But that’s a reality you may have to put up with.
Get through all the training though and eventually, you’ll reach a stable, comfortable life…
You may not be “rich” in the sense that you will own mansions and sports cars. Just don’t get caught up in the idea of what a doctor should be living like and you can live a very comfortable life.u/doktaj
The real question to make you decide if any of that seems worth it seems to be: how much is enough?
What about the opportunity cost of training?
Another factor that comes under the finance/cost quandary is the opportunity cost of training and med school.
Med school (on top of 4 years of undergrad) is 4 years long. But then there are the early years of residency where salaries aren’t exactly great either.
That’s time you could be working in other careers making some very serious money…
Investment banking and many other financial sector fields will give you way higher financial rewards. All my financial field buds make either more than me or make almost as much as I do without my debt and they started making that money way earlier.– u/tekdemon
But then the above is a little shortsighted when you consider the potential stability (and guarantee) that a degree from med school can eventually bring…
While you’re technically correct that graduating from medical school doesn’t guarantee you a job, getting accepted into a residency program will basically guarantee you a six figure salary upon finishing your training. Obviously, your mileage may vary when taking malpractice insurance and other costs into account, but becoming a medical doctor (particularly a primary care physician) is one of the safest career paths out there.u/redberyl
Of course with new technologies emerging there’s no saying what healthcare will look like in a decade, but it seems very unlikely we’ll be living in a world without physicians.
Is being a doctor worth the money?
Assuming you make peace with the above, what happens if the job isn’t worth the salary you’re paid?
Going to med school is a huge commitment. There’s no certainty you’re definitely going to enjoy working in medicine once you’re there…
I am answering from the perspective of a PGY-2…From where I am right now I cannot recommend a career as a physician…no amount of money is worth this. I love medicine, but that is only 10 minutes of every long, life-sucking hour, most, unfortunately. The rest of it is shaving off slices of your soul with a rusty cheese grater to appease administrators, insurance corporations, government regulators, attendings/fellow residents, malpractice lawyers, accountants, and every other manner of foul person.– u/earlymusicaficionado
PGY-2 = post-graduate year 2.
But what’s to say this isn’t true of any job (especially the more “financially lucrative” mentioned above)? Surely every career has its negative aspects?
I’ve wanted to jump off the hospital roof at times and I’ve loved my job at times. You deal with all of humanity and all of human emotion and you experience it all as well. Every bit. From euphoria to crushing despair. The emotional scars don’t heal. The high of things going right doesn’t either.– u/NeedsAdditionalNames
One of the biggest problems answering the question “is med school worth it?” is that you can’t really know until you’ve come out the other side!
But making money while you help people (especially compared to making money for a corporation) can definitely bring food for thought…
We are in one of the most highly paid, respected professions in existence. Additionally you can directly help people which is much more fulfilling in the long run than many other jobs where you’re just helping a company (not that there’s anything wrong with that).– u/dopalesque
The issue of time
Where financial troubles are an obvious caveat, the issue of time and training can be also.
From undergrad to finally making it as an attending physician, you could be all-in for the best part of two decades!
That’s a very real prospect…
Are you prepared to give up your youth?
Giving up some of the best years of your life, when you’re most mobile and carefree, shouldn’t be taken lightly…
When the process is over and you are established and comfortable, you will wake up as if from a dream, look around, and realize that you are middle-aged and that you traded your youth for your medical degree. Make sure that seems like a fair trade before you do it.– u/sockalicious
Of course, where there are cons there are pros. One big one is having a solid skill set behind you that you could capitalize on at any age!
Medicine takes away lots of time from your youth to give you a set of skills that makes you way more useful for society than most people, this in turn assures that you are marketable as a human resource and from there you can comfortably make your choice.– u/ElTito666
But still, there’s the kicker of getting so far in (having spent so much), only to realize you’re nowhere near finishing and not all that keen on actually becoming a doctor.
Again, that element of the unknown is something that definitely puts the “worth” of going to med school into question…
I don’t think its the age when people get into med school, its the fact that you can’t change your mind. If you’re a 3rd year who realizes they don’t want to be a doctor, you’re either $200,000+ in debt, or your parents have spent that much putting you through school. It can be hard or even impossible at that point to say “you know, I think I wanted to do consulting”.– u/rescue_1
Can I get that time back?
One quick response to any of those doubts is that by studying medicine (and coming out as a doctor), you may have more flexibility later.
The option of working part-time (and still taking a decent salary), could help minimize the sacrifice…
If the hours are what gets you down then work part time! Many physicians work part time or do locums work and still pull in over six figures which is MUCH better than hardly anyone else can do. If you feel burned out then accept a pay cut and work an easier or less time-consuming position. Physicians are in high demand no matter what kind of set-up you want and as long as you’re reasonable about your salary expectations you should have no trouble designing your ideal career.– u/dopalesque
While there’ll still probably be plenty of time left after you graduate, to do all the major things you maybe felt you were missing out on while still in medical school…
You will be on a different life path than some of your similarly-aged peers. You can absolutely date/develop relationship/get married in medical school and residency; don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. You will likely have kids later in life. That’s okay. Did you really want to be a teen parent anyways? Your children will enter the world in a financially stable household. Hurray.– u/papayafruitz
The issue of lifestyle
There’s no doubt medical school can be grueling. Some students find it downright miserable while others blossom and thrive.
Either way; the years you spend studying should definitely factor into any decision over whether medicine may be personally worth it.
Is it possible to make your own schedule?
One thing that could sway your decision is the fact that medicine really is what you make it.
For some that could mean constructing strong personal boundaries and finding autonomy in the career in other ways…
I did not like medical school, but pushed through and blossomed a bit in residency. Now, I make my own schedule, and I make what feels like an insane and unfair amount of money while actually having fun at work.– u/gahosp
And many med school graduates seem to agree that life gets better in residency.
Medicine allows you to have stability with great compensation, and you can “front load” your career. You start at your ceiling in many aspects. Sure, some doctors are working 80 hours a week while 50, but if you started Med school in your 20s, you have the option of retiring by 50 as well. You have the option of tapering off your hours once residency is over and still live a lifestyle greatly above the average American. If you want to go into family med and only work 25 hours a week, you have the OPTION to, very few fields allow that.– u/Swoltrasound
Perhaps it’s the negativity of many reports and comments you find online that paint going to med school in a bad light.
But there are lots of people out there making more measured, sensible assessments. Especially when it comes to personal responsibility…
I have met lots of attendings with fulfilling, balanced lives who are glad they chose medicine. In most specialties (even crazy ones like neurosurgery) there are opportunities to lead a balanced life. Many (most?) attendings who lead these horrible 80 hour work-weeks are doing so by choice or are living in a nightmare that they have spent years constructing. Medicine doesn’t have to be a lifelong grind where you are constantly giving 150%. Residency and parts of medical school certainly are like this, but it doesn’t have to always be this way.– u/reddituser51715
Is med school a nightmare?
It’s also important to remember that many students actually love medical school and are fascinated by the material and the study.
Basically, I’ve found what I love (research, helping others, my friends, family, working out and my girlfriend) and I’ve ran with it. I’m not currently the best in the world at any of these things by a long shot, but I finally feel like I’m living up to my potential and found my calling. It will be a long road but I see a bright future ahead, albeit with many inevitable bumps along the way. I understand that med school can be a nightmare for some, but for me, I feel like I’m living the dream.– u/Graphvshosedisease
Perhaps it’s worth it if you learn to truly appreciate it!
The issue of career specialization
The fear of being “trapped” in medicine, that you can’t do anything else once you’ve got so far in, is a common criticism that can encourage a lot of people away from the worth of medical school.
Especially when there are viable, cheaper, alternatives, that offer a similar job spec…
I think PA is a good balance between good paycheck, secure job, helping people and short training. though you give up autonomy (mostly)– u/greenerdoc
The advice to look over other healthcare careers first, before you dive into medicine, is good advice for the most part.
Is medicine any more specialized than any other career?
If you’re worried about your options being limited in medicine then perhaps you need to think about other careers.
Is it really any different to progressing in other fields like engineering and business etc?
I was an engineer before deciding to switch to medicine, and I couldn’t be happier with what I do on a daily basis. The only big advice I’d say is to follow what truly interests you. Ignore salary and other distractors, do what you enjoy doing and every day that you go to work you’ll enjoy. It makes a long career bearable.– u/cataphoresis
I used to work in the business world before I went to medical school. I felt very unfulfilled doing the same stuff day in and day out. Even though “dead end job” typically seems to refer to minimum wage jobs, I felt like the track in business was the same way, just with more money. I would work every year with long weeks and short weekends, only to become a senior analyst not much longer after? Going to medical school, while a horrible experience in itself, gave me new meaning. The sky was the limit again. Now I’m a PGY-2 going on 3 Internal Medicine resident. I’m excited about applying for fellowships. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ll become a hospitalist or nocturnist. It is far more fulfilling than anything I could have done back in business.– u/Pre-Med Volunteer
The truth is, medicine is usually a lot more diverse than most people think…
I love many things about my job. I love to teach the younger residents and students. I love doing procedures and fixing people’s injuries. It is satisfying to diagnose and treat so many patients of different ages, from all walks of life.-u/4thopinion
When you think about all the potential specialties and subspecialties, fellowships, and everything else, the idea that going into med school limits your options does indeed seem a little shortsighted.
You don’t even have to work in healthcare if you don’t want to!
The issue of passion
The last real problem is the idea of passion in medicine.
Is it only worth it if you’re truly passionate about it?
If you are going into medicine for the right reasons, and you can bring yourself back to that mental place, it will be worth it for you. If you end up in a situation where what you do is just push people through the system, I don’t think you’ll be happy.– u/FreyjaSunshine
Having the right reasons for something before you start, surely sounds like sage advice.
Can you satisfy the passion for medicine elsewhere?
Then again, the other factors on this list may mean that passion isn’t everything.
There may be a happy medium between the idea of medicine and not having to sacrifice everything that goes with it…
Allied health professions like NP or PA pathway are very attractive options right now, offering great patient care opportunities with a great balance of reimbursement to debt ratio. You should only go to medical school if you absolutely cannot see yourself as something other than a physician– u/CripplingSerotonin
Again, look into other healthcare positions first.
There’s a reason they like to ask if you’ve considered these things in med school applications!
Will the passion wane?
Perhaps the idea of “following your passion” into medicine is ill-conceived anyway.
While shadowing and clinical experience can certainly give valuable insight, they don’t offer a clear indication as to whether heading to med school would definitely be worth it.
Only when you’re entrenched in the job itself, will some of its major disadvantages become obvious…
I have spent so much money, and time, and youth on this career, I can’t turn back now. But sometimes it sucks. Yesterday I was thanked by a patient, and it felt good, but it doesn’t happen very often. Many of my patients leave frustrated, often because they hate that they will have to pay for the visit, or because they were seeking drugs that they didn’t get, or they stayed so long in my department waiting to be seen or discharged or taken upstairs.– u/4theopinion
What’s a career worth to you?
But at the end of the day, it’s down to you to define what really matters.
If it’s a certain salary or lifestyle you’re after that has little to do with personal sacrifice for the betterment of others, you probably need to do more research…
Is it worth it? It depends on how you define those terms. When I was initially applying three separate physicians told me not to do it, too much money and too much time. I also had some very supportive teachers in undergrad that encouraged me to do it because they had great experiences with med school themselves and their attributed their professional success to it.– u/SWF727
But to others, it’s a clear yes!
If you enjoyed this article, you might find the following ones interesting:
- How Hard Is It To Get Into Medical School? (Reddit’s Opinion)
- How To Study In Medical School (Reddit’s 26 Best Tips!)
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.