Finance vs. Medicine

I'm an incoming college freshman at a T-20 undergrad and am unsure about whether I want to pursue finance or medicine.

Background for Current Career Dilemma

Let me preface this by saying that money really isn't my main motivator and I'm actually genuinely interested in both fields. My parents and my older siblings are all physicians, so I've had a lot of exposure to medicine and have enjoyed shadowing and observing interaction with patients. On the other hand, I've read a few books about finance and find IB interesting (both the technical side with financial modeling and the soft side with client interaction).
tl;dr: I prefer the security of medicine, but I think I would prefer my actual job as a banker

Advice on Different Career Paths

Medicine and banking are two very different fields, so it's worth learning as much as you can about both careers before deciding which path is right for you. Here is some advice from the WSO community on this situation:

  • Pursue what you're most passionate about
  • Go with your gut
  • Try to get experience in both through internships/externships/volunteering/shadowing to help you decide – there's only so much a pro/con list can tell you
  • If you go for finance and realize later that medicine is your calling, you could do a post-bac program and finish med school requirements
  • If you go for medicine and realize later than finance is your calling, you could do an MBA and work for a healthcare-focused firm/fund
  • Consider the educational requirements and student loan debt that comes with both fields

Recommended Reading

Comments (9)

 
Jul 18, 2013 - 1:41pm

i was/am in a very similar position (both parents were doctors and wanted me to take that route). The main thing for me was that while it is a secure job, after seeing the day to day life of a doctor first hand, I knew it just wasn't what I wanted.

my advice, go for finance if thats what you're interested in. i have a friend who quit his IB analyst job because he realized medicine was his calling so he did one of those post-bac programs to finish med school requirements and now he has a great story for admissions so even if you change your mind there is always the option.

 
Jul 18, 2013 - 1:46pm

If you have the strong ability to get a job with a practice after all your medical schooling is complete, go medicine. Make six figures until your 70. Banking is a different kind of beast.

Frank Sinatra - "Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy."
 
Jul 18, 2013 - 3:27pm

Do what you like or think you would like. Think how you would feel the day after pay day. It it still worth it when your wso/">shirt is bloody and your patient is dead?(This is a bit morose, I'll admit) How about when your girlfriend leaves you because you're married to the job?
I know its a bit stark, and building a premise on the ends of the spectrum is not as valid of an argument. However, It's nice to ponder what it feels like before stuff really hits the fan. I'm pretty sure no one on WSO can tell you what you would feel in those circumstances.

tl;dr go with your gut

PE is the new black.
 
Jul 18, 2013 - 3:41pm

I just want to start by saying that I am going to be starting Big 4 Audit, not IB, so take it for what it's worth...

But I was in a similar situation as you. I was considering both Medicine and Accounting. Like you said, salary wasn't a huge issue, you can and will do fine in both, even though anyone doing Big 4 here is made to believe you will be a beggar, but for me debt was. I have zero undergrad debt and will have less than $10,000 grad school debt at the time of graduation. The idea of having a mortgage-sized debt wasn't something I was fond of, and I only desire to live like a college student while I'm in college. I don't wanna be scraping by on loan/grant money till I'm 30. The power of compounding interest was also appealing to me.

After considering these reasons, I decided medicine wasn't my thing. I feel as though if I wanted to do it enough, I shouldn't even have considered those reasons, so I don't think it was a solid fit for me. Plus, being a self-employed CPA is one of the more "easy" entrepreneurial routes available, and that is a huge appeal to me.

Hopefully this helped a little, but I know our situations aren't completely similar.

 
Jul 18, 2013 - 3:44pm

I will graduate as a doctor in 2 years and am truly disillusioned by medicine. In my post I will exaggerate certain points which might be a bit controversial but I do this so you'd think about them. I have not met a lot of people who criticize medicine. Please note I'm a student and not a doctor yet, although I have had my fair share of clinical placements. I'm also based in Belgium, not in the USA. Let me start by saying that medicine is no job, it's a calling like being a priest. The fact that you have doubts lead me to believe that you shouldn't do medicine (and that you're smarter than average) due to the fact I strongly believe it's a calling. I will do my best to structure my rantings a bit.

1.In my environment people think medicine is for smart people and intellectually challenging, well let me say it is intellectually speaking quite boring. You learn a ton of things by heart: start with anatomy, physiology, etc. IF you learned this well (most doctors forget 75%) you'll be able to deduct quite a lot of symptoms & treatments, which might be called an intellectually "challenging" act. However the main part is studying by heart, no reasoning. Making a diagnosis is usually by pattern recognition: a certain set of symptoms, clinical signs and maybe extra investigations lead to a statistically most probable disease. I hate to say this, but a computer could do this job a lot better than humans. If one day doctors are helped by computers, what will their role be? Getting the necessary input information and EXECUTING treatments (once again no intellectual effort required).

2.Treatment. Patients are usually treated with medicine or surgery. Surgery seems to fascinate about every young medicine student. Bluntly and exaggerated said surgeons are glorified laborers. Instead of working with bricks they have a 10 square centimeter work field, for their whole life. I did my thesis related to cardiothoracic surgery. 60% of the workload of these surgeons consists of coronary bypasses. 3 was enough for me. This is extremely repetitive. Unless you truly like working with your hands don't go for surgery.

3.Emotions and feminine. Do you like listen to people complain? Do you naturally pay a lot of attention to people's emotions? There's a huge trend in medicine now towards paying a lot of attention to emotions. Honestly a doctor becomes more and more a psychologist. There's a reason why more and more women become doctors and less men.
This is also a consequence of so called evidence based medicine. Every little thing you do as a doctor is controlled and analyzed whether it is based on "scientific evidence". However, ignoring the fact that this evidence is very complicated and often methodologically incorrect, the science of EBM has become a religion. It becomes increasingly difficult to do what you think is right, you HAVE to follow guidelines and whatnot.

4.The pay. Although you say the pay isn't that important for you, I'd like to raise this issue. It's way easier to dislike your job and cry in a ferrari than in some piece of shit car. As a doctor you will only start earning acceptable money after you're 30. In the U.S. you'll have a lot of debt, in Belgium I will work for LESS than the minimum wage the first years. Doctors do not earn a lot of money. There are exceptions, and those are the doctors focused on money. I hate to say this, but this is often NOT in the best interest of patients. I strongly believe that you have an enormous responsibility towards patients and consider letting financial motivations prevail as morally unacceptable. This brings me back to my original point that medicine is a calling. The responsibility is huge and you have to go all-in. To summarize the pay situation: you start earning quite late, the pay is not that good and not to par with the time spent in education and with the responsibility you get.

5.The good part. When you or your loved ones ever get sick you'll be able to protect yourself and them from the very real and strongly underestimated dangers of health care.

When talking about finance I'm thinking trading. You have a huge world, with no external rules (I know this isn't true, but nothing compared as medicine) and somehow you have to be successful. It is very challenging and extremely interesting. It's all up to you. In medicine you follow a narrow clear cut path and for one third of your life you'll be somebody's bitch.

That's enough for the moment, I could continue for a while. It's a good thing you already have a lot of exposure to medicine now (I didn't, a huge mistake).

Your problem seems to be: safe and easy or interesting life. Nobody can answer that for you. Just ask yourself if you'd like to be bound by a pathetic amount of regulations in your life, and this will worsen with the socialization of the world. Also think about the future of medicine. Look at the demographic evolution. Do you have any idea how many old patients you'll see? The vast majority will be old to very old. Working with old people is honestly very frustrating.
Read Jean de la Fontaine's le loup et le chien. I chose for security at the time and I am starting to regret my decision more and more.

 
Jul 18, 2013 - 4:01pm

"On the other hand, I've read a few books about finance and find IB interesting (both the technical side with financial modeling and the soft side with client interaction). "

Reading a few books is not a good reason to choose a career path that will, most likely, encompass your entire life.

Also, financial modeling is overrated, you're not really adding value so much as backsolving for what the client wants. As for client interaction, that's only if you make VP or above, and you'll have different values at that time.

I would say long term, physician seems more appealing. Would you rather have a secure job/awesome perks later in life along with a great skillset/respect, or an MD who travels most of the week and doesn't really contribute too much to society?

Calm down.
 
Jul 18, 2013 - 7:02pm

Xavier359:

I will graduate as a doctor in 2 years and am truly disillusioned by medicine. In my post I will exaggerate certain points which might be a bit controversial but I do this so you'd think about them. I have not met a lot of people who criticize medicine. Please note I'm a student and not a doctor yet, although I have had my fair share of clinical placements. I'm also based in Belgium, not in the USA. Let me start by saying that medicine is no job, it's a calling like being a priest. The fact that you have doubts lead me to believe that you shouldn't do medicine (and that you're smarter than average) due to the fact I strongly believe it's a calling. I will do my best to structure my rantings a bit.

1.In my environment people think medicine is for smart people and intellectually challenging, well let me say it is intellectually speaking quite boring. You learn a ton of things by heart: start with anatomy, physiology, etc. IF you learned this well (most doctors forget 75%) you'll be able to deduct quite a lot of symptoms & treatments, which might be called an intellectually "challenging" act. However the main part is studying by heart, no reasoning. Making a diagnosis is usually by pattern recognition: a certain set of symptoms, clinical signs and maybe extra investigations lead to a statistically most probable disease. I hate to say this, but a computer could do this job a lot better than humans. If one day doctors are helped by computers, what will their role be? Getting the necessary input information and EXECUTING treatments (once again no intellectual effort required).

2.Treatment. Patients are usually treated with medicine or surgery. Surgery seems to fascinate about every young medicine student. Bluntly and exaggerated said surgeons are glorified laborers. Instead of working with bricks they have a 10 square centimeter work field, for their whole life. I did my thesis related to cardiothoracic surgery. 60% of the workload of these surgeons consists of coronary bypasses. 3 was enough for me. This is extremely repetitive. Unless you truly like working with your hands don't go for surgery.

3.Emotions and feminine. Do you like listen to people complain? Do you naturally pay a lot of attention to people's emotions? There's a huge trend in medicine now towards paying a lot of attention to emotions. Honestly a doctor becomes more and more a psychologist. There's a reason why more and more women become doctors and less men.

This is also a consequence of so called evidence based medicine. Every little thing you do as a doctor is controlled and analyzed whether it is based on "scientific evidence". However, ignoring the fact that this evidence is very complicated and often methodologically incorrect, the science of EBM has become a religion. It becomes increasingly difficult to do what you think is right, you HAVE to follow guidelines and whatnot.

4.The pay. Although you say the pay isn't that important for you, I'd like to raise this issue. It's way easier to dislike your job and cry in a ferrari than in some piece of shit car. As a doctor you will only start earning acceptable money after you're 30. In the U.S. you'll have a lot of debt, in Belgium I will work for LESS than the minimum wage the first years. Doctors do not earn a lot of money. There are exceptions, and those are the doctors focused on money. I hate to say this, but this is often NOT in the best interest of patients. I strongly believe that you have an enormous responsibility towards patients and consider letting financial motivations prevail as morally unacceptable. This brings me back to my original point that medicine is a calling. The responsibility is huge and you have to go all-in. To summarize the pay situation: you start earning quite late, the pay is not that good and not to par with the time spent in education and with the responsibility you get.

5.The good part. When you or your loved ones ever get sick you'll be able to protect yourself and them from the very real and strongly underestimated dangers of health care.

When talking about finance I'm thinking trading. You have a huge world, with no external rules (I know this isn't true, but nothing compared as medicine) and somehow you have to be successful. It is very challenging and extremely interesting. It's all up to you. In medicine you follow a narrow clear cut path and for one third of your life you'll be somebody's bitch.

That's enough for the moment, I could continue for a while. It's a good thing you already have a lot of exposure to medicine now (I didn't, a huge mistake).

Your problem seems to be: safe and easy or interesting life. Nobody can answer that for you. Just ask yourself if you'd like to be bound by a pathetic amount of regulations in your life, and this will worsen with the socialization of the world. Also think about the future of medicine. Look at the demographic evolution. Do you have any idea how many old patients you'll see? The vast majority will be old to very old. Working with old people is honestly very frustrating.

Read Jean de la Fontaine's le loup et le chien. I chose for security at the time and I am starting to regret my decision more and more.

Interesting input. Thing will Belgium is that they have no minimum requirement (pretty much) to enter medecine. Thus, the salaries there are pretty low.

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