Medicine vs. Computer Science: Which Is Right For You?

Medicine and computer science are both lucrative majors. Although medicine is a field that will always be in need, the demand for computer science is rapidly growing due to technological innovations. 

The medical field has adapted to a variety of technologies, but there are still many significant differences between the responsibilities of doctors and computer scientists in the industry. Understanding these differences can help you make the best decision for your future, so we have answered all of your questions regarding medicine and computer science. 

Let’s dive into it.

The Primary Differences Between Medicine and Computer Science

Computer science and medicine are completely unrelated fields of study. While medical school prepares you to do surgeries and treat illnesses, computer science enables you to study computer systems and understand the digital world.

According to AAMC, more than 160 medical specialties and subspecialties exist in the United States. Therefore, many career choices are available for medical graduates to select from.

On the other hand, there are around 23 common specializations in computer science, including full-stack developer, mobile application developer, business analyst, and so on. Due to the rapid growth of technology, there are many opportunities for new specialties in computer science.

MedicineComputer Science
ProsHigh incomes
Diverse specializations
Opportunities to serve humanity
Excellent career flexibility (remote work)
Potential for passive income
Career opportunities 
ConsLong academic period
Poor work-life balance
Malpractice insurance
Risks of developing health problems
Keeping up with new innovations
Less socialization 

Length of Studies


It can take 10 to 14 years to obtain a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. During this period, you will learn academically and receive clinical training.

After earning their undergraduate degree, students attend medical school for four years. Students study medicine through pre-clinical courses and clinical experiences during these four years. In the second and final year of medical school, students must take two of the three parts of the national medical licensing exam, USMLE.

You must complete the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 exams to be eligible to apply for the National Resident Matching Program. The length of residency programs varies for each medical specialty. For example, a thoracic surgery residency program may take seven years, whereas a pediatric residency program lasts just three years.

You can take the USMLE Step 3 exam to become a licensed physician after the first year of your residency program.

All things considered, learning medicine takes a lot of time.

Computer Science:

It takes four full-time years to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science. After graduation, you can find internships and jobs, but there are also several masters and Ph.D. opportunities.

A Ph.D. in computer science can take four to five years, whereas a master’s degree can take two to three years to complete.

In comparison to medicine, computer science has a shorter academic period.

Admission Requirements


Medical school has a complex admission process. A four-year college degree in any area is required for admission to medical school. Therefore high school graduates are not eligible to apply. 

You must achieve higher marks than you would for admission to a different major. The admissions board considers your total GPA and your GPA in prerequisite courses for medical school. The applicants must have taken science courses, such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics (with labs), and Math.

Moreover, applicants must pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to be able to apply to medical schools. Even the admission requirements for medicine are more strict than those for any other degree. For their application to stand out among the thousands of applications, applicants must also include an outstanding personal statement.

Here are the average grade requirements for medical school:

  1. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3 
  2. Average GPA of 3.6 in medical school prerequisites
  3. MCAT score must be 512 or above

Not all medical schools require extracurricular activities. However, some may ask for clinical, research, and volunteer experience.

Computer Science:

There is a general admissions process for computer science majors. However, admission to CS programs in prestigious colleges might be competitive. After completing high school, you can apply to colleges. 

Applicants are required to submit their SAT or ACT scores in subjects like Math, Chemistry, and Physics. Some colleges may require high school English, natural sciences, and math prerequisites.  

Here are the average grade requirements for computer science:

  • High school GPA between 2.0 to 4.0 (above 3.0 for top schools)
  • SAT scores between 1080 to 1570
  • ACT scores between 26 to 33

Extracurriculars in robotics, math, or any computer-related subject will look good on your application.

Acceptance Rate


Medical school has highly competitive admission. In 2018-2019, the medical school acceptance rate was 41% in the United States. Only 21,622 applicants out of a total of 52,777 applicants were accepted. According to AAMC, they received 16 applications per applicant, yet more than half of the applicants failed to score an admission.

Computer Science:

Each institution has a different acceptance rate for computer science degrees. The University of Illinois has an admission rate of 60%, compared to the low acceptance rates of 4% at elite universities like Stanford and Harvard.

It is easier to be accepted into computer science than medicine since there is less competition and more higher education institutions available nationwide.

Cost of Tuition


  • Average cost of medical school: $54,698
  • In-state resident tuition: $51,464
  • Out-of-state resident tuition: $57,933 
  • Tuition fee in private medical schools: $59,555.
  • Total cost of USMLE exam: $3,000 to $4,000

Computer Science:

  • Average cost of a computer science degree: $10,560 to $40,000
  • In-state resident tuition: $10,740
  • Out-of-state resident tuition: $27,560 
  • Tuition fee in private universities: $38,070
  • Application fee: $30 to $75

Average Salary

Physicians earn more than computer science graduates. However, computer scientists join the workforce much earlier than physicians. A computer science graduate can be in the top 25% of earners in their field by the time a doctor begins making a good salary after completing residency.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, physicians have a job outlook of 3%, whereas computer scientists have a much faster job outlook of 22%. By reading the chart below, you can learn more about the wage differences between computer science and medicine specializations.

PhysiciansComputer Scientists
General Surgeon – $287,283Network Architect – $121,681
Obstetrician – $235,792Machine Learning Engineer – $113,013
Neurologist – $234,741Data Scientist – $97,579
Psychiatrist – $219,174Computer Engineer – $75,097
Pediatrician – $158,042Software Developer – $73,999

Related: How Much Do Doctors Make A Day: Specialty Breakdowns



A typical doctor’s work week is between 40 and 60 hours. Most doctors experience stress and burnout due to their heavy workloads and everyday encounters with numerous emergencies. 

96% of medical professionals agree that burnout is a growing problem in the healthcare industry. The lack of a healthy work-life balance leaves doctors with little time for hobbies or social activities.

Computer Science:

One of the factors contributing to CS graduates’ high job satisfaction is the excellent work-life balance seen in computer science careers. They can work from home or as freelancers and enjoy flexible working hours. Like most people, they work eight hours a day and 40 hours a week.

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