Alternatives to Medical Career???

Well OPM, after a serious talk with my husband it seems like my journey on road to being a physician has taken a real blow. For personal reasons I can’t get into right now, the long haul (years of schooling, debt, time away from family once I finally become a doctor, etc) just isn’t ideal for our family. I’ve always been one to prioritize: God first, then family, then career.

Knowing what I have to do and walk away from my dream is killing me inside; but I’d rather walk away from this, than my marriage - walk away before med-school, than in the middle of it! Does anyone know of any fulfilling, viable alternatives to becoming an MD/DO - preferable staying clinical - if not I’d still be open to anything. My husband needs to be reassured that I can have somewhat of a 9-5 schedule, with <$250k in loans.

I feel like I have found such a supportive “family” environment here on OPM, I know that any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

My alternative to medical school is to become a Pathologist Assistant. The money is good (70K+)and I’d get to work next to my favorite Docs, Pathologists. There also appears to variation in what they get to do (I’ve heard of some Dx cases with final apporval by a Pathologist of course), but I know that’s on the extreme end of job duties.

Anyway, Physician Assistant is another good alternative.

Just an FYI, not now doesn’t have to mean not ever, as I’m certainly living proof of that! It’s been almost 10 years since I was accepted until it was the right time for me family wise, to apply again, but I never gave up!

In addition to the great option PathDr2b mentioned there are a ton of alternatives available. I’m not sure what area you are passsionate about but to name a few~ PhD in Molecular Bio- they have such an impact on the future of treatment for patients; PA; go to nursing school to become an NP, DNS, DNP, or PhD; PT, OT, ST; Rad Tech; Med Tech; alternative therapies- Chiropractic, Accupuncture, Naturopathy; The field of healing is wonderful because there are so many options when you are open to them. Good luck and I’m sure you will make the best of your situation. You mentioned your guiding philosophy so I just want to add- let God truly guide you though in your ultimate decision, whether that is to attempt med school or not, and try to turn off the static from the outside.

The fields of medical employment are extremely wide and varied - and all are important. Not just the “top dog” jobs implied by DO / MD -

If you want much of the same responsibilities consider paths leading to either Nurse Practioner or Physician Assistant as possibilities.

Nursing offers HUGE possibilities.

Others to consider: Surgicial Tech / Ultrasound or radiology tech - these are just a few Ideas to consider.

Do not feel bad about not persuing the DO/MD … It is a nobel path sure. But not worse sacrificing family or marriage for. You are to be congratulated for being somewhat rational about it.

Steve Y.

As has been pointed out previously, Physician Assistant (PA) and Nurse Practitioner(NP) are two popular paths and are closest to the traditional “doctor/patient” view of clinical medicine that most of us have.

PA programs are typically 2 years either as upper level undergrad or as masters level, full time. The advantages include the shorter education path, the lesser cost, smaller loss of revenue, and regaining full earning potential immediately after school. Many work as full-time hospital staff and/or in medical practices, thus have regular set hours (or at least as much as a practicing physician).

NP are usually master’s level degree designed for those who have nursing degrees. Going back a step, many nursing programs have flexible schedules and arrangements. There are BSN programs now designed for those who have degrees in other fields. Many of those who have an AA in nursing get their advanced nursing while working. Nursing in general offers the most flexible working arrangements with respect to hours, location, and function.

Chrystie, there are lots of alternatives to DO/MD for clinical practice. If your hope is to work in an outpatient setting, you should investigate PA/NP programs. I don’t know the NP field well any more but at one time, there were at least a few programs where a person with a bachelor’s degree in any field could pursue a master’s degree in nursing.

I work alongside a PA whose clinical duties are pretty much exactly the same as mine. She is terrific - I wish we could clone her! - and has her own “panel” of patients who ask to see her and schedule all their appointments with her. Nurse practitioners are often the ones running clinics such as student health centers, with a physician consult who is not on-site usually. I have encountered PAs and NPs doing rounds in the hospital for a surgeon, cardiologist, pulmonologist, gastroenterologist. (One of my very favorite clinicians is an NP who works for a GI group, I would entrust my care to him in a heartbeat!) You really do have many, many clinical options without going as deep in the financial hole or as indebted in time, either.

I agree with your perspective. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my marriage and family for this career; by the time I started considering a career in medicine I had been married for over twenty years – a very significant investment! I am glad it worked out but if I were not doing this, I’d probably be a Realtor! (and crying right now, for sure)


Wow! You guys are truly amazing. I know there are so many possibilities out there to consider. I really appreciate all of the support. I took the time to do some limited research on the main clinical alternatives, namely NP/PA and at this time I don’t want to rush into something that I’m only going to regret later; by paying the money and investing the time into these programs when once I start working, I’ll be daydreaming about being the DO/MD.

This was the first big “disagreement” that has come up in our marriage regarding my route to medical school. Maybe we both just freaked out - thinking about the money, time, etc. I think pathdr2b really put things in perspective when she said it could be that the timing is just not right. I’m still relatively young, have a successful career teaching - no kids - and 2 big furry Akita dogs. I know all too well from experience that “every delay is not a denial”.

I’m going to take all of your suggestions into consideration and do some careful soul-searching and truly seek God to understand if it’s time for me to divert onto the “other” path at this point in time. Thanks again for all of your replies and support.

The below isn’t an NP program but it is an MS program for non-nurses to become both RN (year 1) and enter advanced nursing (year 2 or part time). Gives you an idea of the range of possibilities in this field masters/pro…


Your post struck a chord with me - I seem to be having the same discussions with my husband and battles in my heart and head with what to do about becoming a doctor.

I truly believe this is the path I’m supposed to be on…returning to school to fix past mistakes, applying to med school, etc. but it is difficult to think of where that puts my husband and 3 month old son.

There is huge cost involved in more ways than just money and I’m struggling as well - I just keep reminding myself what God ordains, He sustains.

I would love to talk with you more about this journey, perhaps we could encourage one another…if you want. You can email me at if you’d rather do that

Take care and I hope for discernment for you - to see what doors are to be opened and which are to remain closed for the time being. Nothing is ever over, it just maybe comes around a different way…just some wisdom I’ve learned on maternity leave (gotta love those 2am feedings)

Take care,


Hi there:

Don’t forget about respiratory therapy (I’m an RRT) as an alternative as well. Hospitals are still providing financial aid to attend school for nursing, respiratory, etc. The need will always be there.

Been there done that. I too have had the same issue of dealing with family vs. my dream of being a Doc. Specifically an Anesthesiologist. This has been my dream for 25 years now and I just turned 43. I started down the road to becoming a Physician and got through all the pre-reqs and just before taking the MCAT had an alternative fall in my lap. I worked for a Computer Reseller as a Certified Project Manager, while taking my pre-reqs, and was offered a position in sales. I now sell technology into Hospitals, Clinics and Physician Practices and 90% of my business is Medical related. I make more money than most of the Physicans I know, and I get to go home when I want. I will always long for the days of making it through Med School and helping people directly, but I still get to meet my objectives of helping others, providing well for my family and working in Healthcare. If computer sales ever fall flat I will go into Medical Sales and feed my obsession even more. I still study medicine and read just about everything I can. I now marry my knowledge of Medicine and Technolgy together to deliver life saving solutions that Physicians and Nurses can use. I can still look forward to the possibility of heading back to school after early retirement. Just keep the faith the world is ever changing.

I agree with the above posts there are numerous opportunities that are medically related. There are not a lot of jobs as a nurse that allow you only to work 9-5 initially, except working in clinics, surgical centers,…

I started off as a hospital volunteer in high school. I was floated to numerous areas of the hospital. I initially loved oncology, but then one fateful evening was floated down to the Emergency Department. I loved it! When I started college a few years later I was a biology major. I however hated chemistry and through help from friends mad it through with a “C.” I thought if I couldn’t handle basic chem that I could never make it through medical school. I transfered to nursing based on suggestions through a friend. I started working as a nurse tech at a nursing home and then transfered to the ED. After graduating and working as an Emergency & ICU nurse I decided to go to NP school. At UT Arlington, I could take classes every other week for 3 days and could work full time. To make a long story short, I quit to take my pre-reqs and MCAT. And now numerous years later, I am a board certified Emergency physician.

So, my advise, take your time, there are plenty of opportunities out there…you can always come back and go to medical school when the time is right. And who knows…you may end up loving one of the jobs you take in the meantime.

Rachel Yealy

Thank you all!!! It’s too quick to make a rash decision and quit my journey. I’m back in the saddle for now. Man that sounded cheezy! I will keep in mind what peaks my interest along the way. I’ll be teaching again this school year ('08-'09) and then back in the classroom myself- this time as a student, during summer 09. So, I figure that will be plenty of time to shadow/volunteer to get some real world experience talking to wife/mom physicians about how they balance their time within their respective specialties.

FYI - Rachel, your story was especially motivating. I think the most amazing doctors are created in the face of adversity. You are an inspiration… as are countless others on OPM. Thanks again!