41 and seriously thinking. Need advice.

Hi folks. Yes, I’m one of those insane people who is seriously thinking of going to medical school AFTER 40. At least I find myself thinking how much I would REALLY like to do this, but at other times thinking it’s perfectly insane to even consider it.

But, on the other hand, I have been loathing going back to my career (software engineering) which I have very much disliked, oh probably not long after I started it nearly 20 years ago (and even a year or two prior to graduating with an Electrical Engineering degree in 1995, I was seriously questioning my interest in it).

The thing is, even back then I had spoken with a professor in the Pre-Med department, about going to Medical School. I don’t even remember what was said, but I either got discouraged by what was said or about the prospects of switching majors and many more years of school when I was nearly done with my current one, and itching to start a career and make some money. I grew up in a somewhat lower-income struggling single-parent family, and even while in school on grants & loans and working part time I was helping to support my mother and brothers.

Since earning my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, I’ve primarily been writing software (and if I had to actually do any Electrical Engineering now I’d be very lost). I was laid off from my six-figure software engineering position over 2 years ago, and have spent the time ‘finding’ myself (which has basically been just living off savings & unemployment, and delaying getting back to the career which I very much dislike, though I assumed I would get back to doing; not really thinking about going back to school).

So… I’m really at the point where I HAVE to decide to do something different or get back to my current career (an old co-worker presented me with an opportunity), and then it just HIT me, something I was always interested in but never consider it a possibility - becoming a Doctor. I Googled ‘Is it too late to go to medical school’. And to my surprise I discovered that people past 40, DO actually go into medicine, and get into medical schools!

Well, the more I think about it, the more excited I get about the prospects of doing it. I’ve gone from being in a long-running funk of not knowing what to do and needing to get back to my career, to actually having a renewed excitement about life. Interspersed with thoughts of, ‘It’s ridiculous to think I could or should do this’ and 'Why didn’t I consider this years ago!".

Well… now I’m wondering where do I go from here. I’d like to NOT delay any longer, because I know I will need some Pre-reqs to even consider getting into Medical School, if it’s even possible. As this post is getting long, I’ll give some more details about where I’m at in the next post.


The hardest part is getting started. Well, maybe not, but getting started is a big hurdle in itself.

41 here almost 42, hoping to have all prereqs finished within 2 years and the degree done within 3. Would like to apply in the 2015 cycle.

You’ve got an engineering degree. You KNOW how to be in school and do well with tough material. This should be no different. Just sign up for that first class and get the gears turning. You’ll be up and running and on your way in no time. In the meantime, read these forums, learn as much as you can, and keep Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) at arms length.

Good luck!

So… here’s the thing looking at my old Electrical Engineering transcript from a private 4-year college, I obviously have A LOT of math (probably nearly as much as a math major - although frankly given the kind of software-engineering I’ve been doing, if I was asked to solve a Calculus question I think I’d be quite lost).

The same with my Chemistry. I’d be lost for the most part trying to solve a chemistry problem today. Though I do have all my old text-books and could probably refresh my memory fairly quickly. I have (Chem Principles I and Lab - which I received a C & A in respectively, and Chem Principles II & Lab for which I have an A, and Withdrawn from lab - which is because I switched from Microelectronic engineering to Electrical engineering for which the lab wasn’t required).

I have a semester of English Composition (B), and a semester of Literature (B).

I have University Physics I (F - but taken the following semester with an A), and Physics I Lab (A). Also University Physics II © and Physics II Lab (B). And finally University Physics III © and Physics III Lab (B).

I have Intro to Psychology PSI (A), and Foundations of Sociology (A), and Philosophical Critical Thinking (A).

These were all done during my 1st year in college. The remaining years were more Math and Electrical Engineering focused, and my grades were better (mostly A’s and B’s). Except for my last semester where I got about all C’s, because I had already secured a job with a Fortune 500 company and just didn’t apply myself.

Despite graduating High-school 12th in a class of 256 students, all-in-all my college GPA wound up being a 3.08. (Seems pretty low). I could have done better but I was under a lot of stress, was more immature, and also worked 20+ hours a week.

So, my questions are,

A) Am I at all Medical School material, given my low GPA.

B) If so, WHAT do I need to study to get into Medical School. Do I need to take Physics and Chemistry over?

C) Can I get this all done within the next year

D) Is it too late already to get into any of these classes for the fall?

E) What is the earliest I could realistically think of starting Medical School?

  • CaptainObvious Said:

The hardest part is getting started. Well, maybe not, but getting started is a big hurdle in itself.


Good luck!

Thanks Captain. Indeed getting started IS hard. I need to push through that barrier that is holding me back. Do I go back to my old career, where I can earn a pretty decent paycheck but probably want to blow my brains out, OR do I start down the path of doing the one idea that has gotten me excited in all the ideas that have floated around in my mind.

I'm sure that I STILL have to think about it just a bit more, however in the mean-time I should at least try to get the pre-reqs out of the way, so that I can do that while solidifying whether-or-not I truly want to continue on the journey.

Of course, the longer I refrain from returning to my current career, the less appealing I will look to potential employers (been out of work for over 2 years now!!). I REALLY wish the idea of going to medical school had occurred to me 2 years ago. It had briefly crossed my mind on occasion over the last several years, but I quickly dismissed it as MUCH too late to do that, without actually exploring whether or not it truly was. And since being out of work, I've just assumed that at some point I would return to writing software, because it's all I have the training and experience for.

I would love to start taking some classes in the Fall, but I'm not sure if I can get into them being July already.

And what about financing for the Pre-req courses? I could dip into some savings, but I think I'd rather have that collecting interest and capital-gains, and take out interest-deferred student loans. If it's not too late to apply. (Which I would need to do for Medical School for sure). Plus I would still need money to live on during that time. I'm currently single and therefore have no spouse/partner to help support me while in school, so savings would have to help pay living expenses.

Just read in another thread that GPAs below 2.75 are usually auto-screened for DO school, and below 3.0 auto-screened for MD schools.

So maybe my 3.08 GPA is okay. Would course-work I do for my Pre-reqs count toward boosting my total GPA? (Say I could get straight A’s in whichever classes I need to take).

Also what are the differences between MD and DO schools? I was always under the impression MD’s and DO’s are essentially the same.


Welcome. Anything can be done; read the diaries here and you’ll see. I was in a similar situation to you, graduated with a sub-3.0 GPA, pre-2000. While I’m still in the beginning of the application process (not quite a success story yet), I can give you my $.02.

Figure out your exact BCPM GPA (Biology-Chem-Physics-Mat h). Depending on what grades you received in your math classes, your BCPM might not be too bad (for MD schools). DO schools don’t count mathematics in their sGPA, so your sGPA right now will only consist of those Chem and Physics classes you took.

If you took Physics and Chem back before '95, you’ll need to retake them. Scoring well on the MCAT requires a solid understanding of concepts in Physics/Bio/Chem/Orgo. The good news is that DO schools will use grade-replacement for classes you retake.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get all of this done in an academic year. IMO, your best bet is to take the full two years, learn every bit you can in each class, and kill the MCAT.

Check out the Low GPA Success Stories on SDN too. PM if you have any ??'s. Good luck.

Thanks for the advice and encouragement Older,

Yeah my first couple of years in college could have been better. Those are where most of the pre-med relevant math & science classes I took were, and I got too many C’s in those classes. My first crack at Physics-1 in college I actually received an ‘F’ (though I did miss the final). This after winning a small physics scholarship in High School by scoring a 98% on my regents physics final. But my 1st college physics professor was absolutely HIDEOUSLY awful. He couldn’t teach his way out of a wet paper-bag to save his life. On retaking the course the following semester, with by-far the BEST professor in my entire college experience, I received an ‘A’.

My later math and electrical engineering specific classes in my final 2 years (3 years actually due to Co-Ops) I did much better in. But ultimately while my total GPA was 3.08, the BCPM is likely to be lower, unless all my later math courses count, which are A’s & B’s. So perhaps I should re-take the pre-req courses.

In any case, while I don’t mind spending whatever time is necessary for the Pre-req’s and doing well in them, I would sure hate to spend 2 years doing that only to find I wasted my time and can’t get into Med School.

It kind of blows that MD school won’t replace older grades with newer re-take grades. Seems someone without a science based Bachelors degree is better off later in life deciding to go to Med School, in situations like mine where the 1st couple years of college right out of high-school were a bit tumultuous.

By-the-way, are there any advantages to getting and MD, or disadvantages to a DO?

Thanks, and I will check out that link. :slight_smile:

I skimmed over the other replies so my apologies if I’m repeating something that’s already been said.

First I very much agree with the sentiment that you should go for it. Secondly, I may be mistaken, but my understanding is that the majority of med schools want you to have taken the science pre-req’s semi-recently. If your physics/chem is 20 years old I would plan on retaking all of that, (many universities probably won’t let you take O Chem if you haven’t taken gen chem in the last few years either) it will help immensely for the MCAT as well as has been mentioned. The math shouldn’t be an issue, you can’t use a calculator on the MCAT, and the trig you’ll need will probably come back to you in physics.

The requirements most schools have are as follows:

2 semesters of General Chemistry

2 semesters of Organic Chemistry

2 semesters of Physics

2 semesters of Biology (I highly recommend Anatomy & Physiology…they’re not technically required but will make you a stronger applicant and help immensely on the MCAT)

2 semesters of Math above 1010 (generally AP doesn’t count)

2 semesters of English (generally AP doesn’t count)

Some schools require a semester in one or more of the following: Psychology, Statistics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, or Genetics. Of those I’d highly recommend Biochem & Genetics, lots of that on the MCAT and my understanding is that’s only going to increase.

Above and beyond that, you have to take the MCAT, which is (in my opinion) by far the hardest part of the whole ordeal. Most pre-meds take the exam the same year they apply (you apply to matriculate the following year if you haven’t discovered that already). While all the pre-reqs provide some solid grounding, this is like no test you’ve ever taken before. Plan on spending 2-4 months before hand doing some pretty hardcore studying for this thing. You want to be VERY solid in your grasp of Gen Chem, Physics, & Biology. The verbal section you can really only study for by practice, and 2012 is the last year with the writing section. 2015 adds a section on psychology and social science, so you might want to take that into account in your planning and such.

So you have at least a couple of years of undergrad work to do, but if you do it well that should bolster your GPA quite a bit, and everyone says the school’s care more about a positive upward trend then just a high overall GPA. As you already have a degree, you might look into a post-bacc program. I don’t know much about them as I’m still an undergrad myself, but I’m sure someone will chime in with the details on that stuff before long.

Furthermore, most schools want you to have spent time shadowing a physician and have some clinical experience (read: patient exposure) so that you’re “sure” that you really do want to go into medicine. Those couple years you have of pre-reqs give you a good amount of time to get that stuff in as well.

Best of luck in whatever route you go with

Thanks Prodigal, that information is very helpful!

Now I only need to figure out how I can start taking these courses beginning in the Fall of THIS year. I hope I’m not too late to do that.

My goal, of course, would be to ace all of these courses in order to boost my GPA and be well prepared for the MCAT. I’m assuming I won’t find this too difficult, but then I could be wrong.

I am fearful that things could not work out in one way or another, and that I will have wasted a good deal of time and money trying to pursue this goal, even in just taking the undergrad Pre-reqs. (That may not concern a 20-somthing as much, but at my age I’m not keen on potentially wasting my time.)

I am curious what are some viable, good career opportunities, with the Pre-med courses under one’s belt, in the event they don’t make it into Medical School? Will these course be of any value to me should I fall short in some way? Are there other degrees other than a medical degree that would be good alternative and rewarding careers that are professional, valuable to society, and well respected?


Welcome! I can relate to some of what you are saying. I have a B.S. in Computer Science and I’m currently working in IT while trying to pursue med school. I’ve lost most interest in anything related to my current career field but have to feign interest at my job.

Definitely check out some of the GPA/MCAT averages at the various med schools (both MD and DO) to determine what you’ll be up against. I wish you luck. It can definitely be a challenge to balance school, work, and other responsibilities in life.

Foxfire -

Welcome!! No one has tackled the “what are the differences between an MD and a DO” yet. I’ll try to be balanced.

Licensure: you can be licensed to practice medicine, any specialty,including surgery or whatever, in all 50 states and in many other countries with either a MD or DO degree. SOME countries do not allow full licensure for DO’s so if you are planning to live out of country and practice, that can be a problem. Usually NOT a problem for short term medical outreach trips. For a list of countries that honor DO licensure,consult the website of the American Osteopathic Association, which is continuing to work on this issue. Here’s a link to a map giving a quick look of areas with full practice rights : http://www.osteopathic.org/inside-aoa/developmen t/…

Specialties: You can apply to the osteopathic match (for AOA accredited residencies) and the NRMP match (for ACGME residencies) and for dually accredited residencies. There are SOME specialties in which there is not an osteopathic residency program so for those you would need to apply via the NRMP match. This last year, ACGME proposed two changes to their current policy of Common Program Requirements – that may impact a DO grad’s ability to apply to the second year of residency programs after completing an osteopathic general internship, or to apply to ACGME fellowships after an osteopathic residency. THis may or may not be a problem once you finish med school as there is ongoing negotiation taking place. DO grads can still apply to any ACGME residency.

Training: Are there differences between what you will learn in med school? Possibly. A plus of DO training is that you will get at least an additional 300 hours (possibly more) of education in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine - both diagnosing and treating primarily musculoskeletal, lymphatic drainage, and GI complaints with hands-on techniques. It’s not chiropractic although there is a little bit of overlap. I find myself much better prepared to handle musculoskeletal complaints (Virginia Tech has an agreement with VCOM, the osteopathic medical school associated with them, to provide sports medicine care for all their athletic teams).

Will you get the basic sciences and medical training? Yes–many DO students take USMLE exams as well as COMLEX exams, in order to have USMLE scores to apply to ACGME accredited residencies.

Will there be a difference in your clinical training? - possibly. Most MD schools are associated with major academic medical centers, and much of your experience will be inpatient, even though much of your practice will be likely be outpatient. You will likely be sent to other clinical sites as well. Some DO schools follow this model, and some have you rotate in several smaller community hospitals and clinics. My own school has different statewide campus regions - since I am interested in rural family practice, I selected a rural area to do much of my clinical rotations for 3rd year. In smaller hospitals without residency programs, med students often get to do MORE on rotations since there is not a resident waiting for the experience.

There is a somewhat different philosophy in training. It’s true that MD and DO programs both emphasize holistic practice. But I think we get a bit more content about it.

Hope that answers some of your questions. Let me know what else I can tell you.


Gee thanks for all that info Kate. That helps clear up a lot.

While I don’t have any philosophical objections to either approach (I suspect each have their pluses and minuses), I do get the impression that the MD has more opportunities available to them (or that there is SOME institutional bias toward them and against DO).

I imagine I would apply to both types of schools and then make a decision based on which one’s I might get accepted into. Since I’ve heard that DO schools are more open to Non-traditional students perhaps that will be my only choice, which I’m perfectly okay with.

I am really eager to get rolling on this, despite only recently exploring the possibility. I don’t know what the possibility of getting into a Pre-Med program for the Fall is, this late in the year. Probably not good. I would sure hate to delay another whole year, since it appears I will need 2 full years of Pre-req courses, and THEN I will have the additional ‘slide’ year I believe it is called.

Google Vincent Laurence, the 49 yr old from University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. Used to be a carpenter and farmer. Now going for residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Very inspiring. Goodluck. I hope you can find some sort of connection,of use or meaning from your electrical engineering background that will help you stand out. Perhaps neuroimaging? (tech and bio?) There’s a lot of bio and tech fusion in neuroscience. Myself, am hoping to go into neurology.

There’s a video of him on my blog. Link below. I thought he was pretty inspiring.

Fantastic story. That certainly is an inspiring video.

I am going through quite a mental quandary at the moment. I’ve been presented with an opportunity to go back to my previous career (an ex co-worker of mine who is the hiring manager at a new company has an opening for the position I was laid off from and is very interested in having me).

So… on one hand, I will go back to making a fairly decent salary, and not have to accumulate substantial amounts of debt to pursue a medical degree, which isn’t even necessarily a sure thing; I’m going to need to get just about straight A’s in my Pre-reqs and kill the MCAT to overcome my low 3.08 GPA (lower science GPA), and probably otherwise wow an admittance committee, then if accepted go through Medical School and do very well so that I can hopefully get matched to a residency. Meanwhile I’ve lost out on a lot of earning potential over those years.

But on the other hand, I really did loath my previous job and while the thought of having a pretty decent income again is appealing, I know that after a short while of being back I’m likely to be absolutely miserable.


I wish this decision was somewhat easier. I think if Medical School wasn’t such a huge investment (particularly in the cost of tuition), it would be easier to decide. While doing something you truly enjoy and find fulfilling is important, being able to comfortably retire one-day (even if it’s 5-10 years later than most people) is important too.

I would add that besides getting started, another hard part is knowing when is the right time to apply.