Premed FAQ: Is it ok to become a doctor for the money?

You want to choose medicine for the money. And you want my permission. Well, go ahead.

There are 2 problems I’ve recognized every single time this question comes up.

  1. The person who asks it (assuming they’re asking in earnest and not just trying to get a rise out of someone) doesn’t know they’re not supposed to ask it. In other words, they’re kind of dumb.
  2. The (dumb) person doesn’t listen to the responses. They’ve already decided that it’s ok to become a doctor for the money, and they were simply asking as a courtesy, without the slightest intention of considering other peoples’ thoughts on the issue.

Well, in my new-found blogging spirit of “who the hell cares if people are listening to me?” I’m going to address the issue anyway, once and for all. It’s going to take a while, so I’ll do it in a series titled “Medicine for Money.” That way my non-existent readers don’t get too bored.

Because this is such a frequently asked question, I have plenty of fodder for discussion. I’d like to start by ridiculing some of the fruitless analyses other people have done on this. Don’t worry, they won’t be offended. They’ll be glad that I’ve linked people to their crappy content.

Here’s one: http://benbrownmd.wordpress.com/

And here’s the other: http://www.er-doctor.com/doctor_income.html

While I admire the effort (and I don’t begin to disagree with the point they’re attempting to make), the numbers aren’t that hard and fast. There are zillions of different possible scenarios with different debt figures, different choices of medical specialty, different investment outcomes, and myriad other things that would affect the final figures for net worth or how many years it takes for a physician to catch up to a UPS driver.  It’s easy to ignore these spreadsheets because they are so hypothetical; I could spend the rest of my life creating equally plausible, yet contradictory spreadsheets where the physician comes out vastly ahead and maybe even becomes POTUS. I might pay attention if they posted 30 years of tax returns for a real UPS driver and a real physician, but the fake projections are sadly unconvincing.

This series will not rely on math to prove any points. It will not rely on hypothetical or anecdotal “evidence.” It will not make appeals to your emotions. It will just explore the reality of choosing a career in medicine for the money, and the implications of making such a choice in the high school and college years.

I hope you enjoy, and comment along the way.

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One Comment on “Premed FAQ: Is it ok to become a doctor for the money?”


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