Entering a career in medicine is no small commitment. The competition is fierce, the training takes at least a decade.

And in the work place, life and death decisions are literally in your hands. If you are considering a career path that involves obtaining a medical degree, begin the process by evaluating the pros and cons.

The Pros:

  • Service: Physicians use medical science to provide a meaningful service for others. Many aspiring doctors are drawn to the profession because they want to help people in a direct and intellectually stimulating way.
  • Job security: We will always need doctors. In fact, in the next decade, doctors will be in especially high demand, due to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, general population growth, and looming retirement of older physicians.
  • Continuing education: Physicians of any stripe will have the opportunity to learn throughout the entire course of their career. Every day brings unique and unexpected challenges, not to mention medical science and technology are constantly progressing.
  • Money and prestige: While there are certainly easier ways to earn a high income and prestigious title, physicians do have a relatively high salary and generally garner community respect. Incomes will vary by specialty, with pediatricians earning a median of $156,000 compared to radiologists who earned a median of $315,000 in 2011.

The Cons:

  • Long training process: Becoming a practicing physician requires four years of college, four years of medical school, and at minimum, three years of residency training.
  • Medical school debt: According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, medical students graduating in 2012 had an average debt burden of $167,000.
  • Constant competition: Acing pre-med courses and getting a high score on the MCAT are only the beginning. Competition for medical school, finally earning that medical degree, residency positions, fellowships, and long-term jobs is tough all the way through.
  • Long work hours and high stress: A physician’s job is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. Add a 60-hour workweek, and you can expect to deal with quite a bit of stress on a daily basis.
  • Medical malpractice insurance: The cost of medical malpractice coverage is high and rising. The threat of facing a lawsuit is a major source of stress for any physician. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 75 percent to 99 percent of physicians would face a malpractice claim by the age of 65.

More on medical school

Know your medical school requirements
Are you ready to tackle the MCAT?
Understand how MCAT scores play into admission
How to use medical school rankings
Are you ready to take on and manage medical school debt?
What you should know about being a doctor
New medical schools address the physician shortage

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