You may have set out on one career path and started to feel a pull toward medicine along the way. If you’re in this position, you may be wondering just what becoming a physician requires and whether making such a major change is worth the sacrifice. For some career-changers, becoming a physician sounds good in theory, but the reality of the educational requirements and the job itself lead them to decide against it. Others go through with the switch to medicine and are glad they did.
To make your decision about whether to pursue a career change to medicine, start by gathering information about the medical profession:
The Aspiring Docs pages of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) site at have a wealth of information for those considering a medical career.
Immersing yourself in a clinical environment is essential. Volunteer in a hospital, outpatient clinic, or other clinical setting to determine whether you enjoy working with patients.
You should arrange to shadow several physicians to see firsthand what their jobs are like and speak with them to get their perspectives about being a doctor. As a volunteer, you may have very limited interaction with physicians, so you need to seek out shadowing experiences to get insight about a doctor’s work.
To apply to medical school, you must take prerequisite courses such as biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics as well as the associated labs. If you’re unsure about pursuing medicine, taking one or two of these classes may help you make up your mind, especially if you don’t have a science background. You may find that you enjoy science course work or discover that a career that requires years of science classes isn’t a good fit for you after all.
If you have a spouse or significant other, make sure you discuss your decision to go to medical school with him or her early on. Your becoming a doctor will require a major investment in time and money for your entire family. It may require relocating and other big changes in your family’s life, so having the support of your partner is important.
Making the decision to change careers can be difficult, especially when you’re considering switching into a field that requires the level of commitment that medicine does. So take your time and investigate the field carefully. If you do decide to move forward with your plans to become a physician, know that you’ll be joining many other successful med students and doctors who pursued nontraditional paths to medicine.