Career Life Advice

I am a pretty young “Old Pre-Med” (almost 26 years old), but thought it might help to share my story with some of you.
When I entered college as a Pre-Med student 8 years ago I had very high aspirations. I had wanted to become a Doctor for as long as I can remember. There were a number of reasons I was interested in pursuing this career path (i.e. my love of providing care to others, prestige, personal fulfillment, financial security, etc.). I came to college as a student-athlete and was assigned 19 credit hours my first semester (i.e. Gen Chemisty I, Gen Chem Lab I, Human Bio, Human Bio Lab, Calculus, English, Microeconomics). Needless to say I was overwhelmed and found myself drowning quickly. At the conclusion of my freshman year I was effectively “weeded out” of the Pre-Med program with a cumulative GPA of 2.3. I was convinced by faculty members that it would be difficult for me to raise my GPA to a competitive level and that I should find a new major.
I continued to wander through a variety of majors over the next two years until I finally settled on Accounting. I took that degree and began a small software development company with a good friend of mine in 1998 (i.e. We now have 15 employees.). As I have grown as a person and matured over the last four years it has become more evident to me that a large part of who I am has been surpressed since I had been removed from the Pre-Med program years ago (i.e. My compassion for people.). This is something I can no longer ignore and have been trying to capture that level of fulfillment by coaching football, volunteering at local hospitals, and shadowing various health care professionals in search of a career that would allow me to be me. However, I am stuck. Nothing seems compelling to me. Because of the effort I have put into my business over the last 5 years, I feel burned out. Everything seems so daunting. I have been struggling so much with the thought of “what should I do with my life” that it has started to affect my health.
After alot of thought (almost too much) I have started to look at Nursing as a second career option (via an accelerated BSN/ND program), Physical Therapy, or even making a second attempt at Medical School. I am familiar with the basics of each profession, but cannot make up my mind about which would be the greatest fit for me. In order to offer advice I understand that you need to know more about who I am, so here are some of the things that are most important to me in a career:
1. Personal Fulfillment - I want to feel as if the work I am doing is making a difference in the lives of the people I help. Its also important to me that I feel as if I am fufilling my potential. Have I challenged myself and done the best for myself that I could.
2. Financial Security - I grew up in a somewhat “poor” family and want more for my “future family”. I also have a mother and younger brother who I would like to be able to help financially if it was needed.
3. Professional Respectability - It always been a concern of mine to be respected by my peers. There are some professions that are regarded as suboordinate even by those who you may work with in a chosen field (i.e. Stereotypical Nurse and Doctor relationship).
4. Flexibility - There are other things in my life that I would like to do outstide of my career. I have always been involved in extra-cirriculars (i.e. coaching, volunteering) and would like to continue to do these other things.
A couple of additional thoughts…
I am anxious to get married and have a family. Some of these paths would require a lot of time and put this off for a while. However, I know that one of the reasons I have these options available to me is because I am somewhat unattached and do not have the responsibility of a family yet. So, I want to get started down a chosen path soon.
I guess after reading this you can see that I put “almost too much thought” into things.
Thanks for your time.

A few quick thoughts. Since your goals seem to be most oriented towards helping others, you have alot of options in health care. Given your family and financial goals - - and the likely need to complete substantial coursework to raise your GPA before applying - - I would think about medical school AFTER exploring the other options. I say this because you sound like you want work-life balance and the opportunity to help others. If medicine is your dream, then go for it - - but if there are other, less stressful options that meet these goals, at least consider them carefully.
Although I am not an expert, it is my impression that Nurse Practioners and Physician’s Assistants have a great deal more autonomy and are decently paid relative to RN nurses - - I believe salaries for these professions max out at around 70-90k. In these careers, you are oftentimes doing the work of a physician and not being paid for it. On the other hand, PA school is only two years versus the decade of training that most doctors go through. In addition to physical therapy, some other things that come to mind are dentistry (tremendous opportunity to combine volunteer work with your practice to help low-income people) and optometry. These options would allow even more professional autonomy than nurse/PA but you would need to think about whether you could focus on eyes, dental, etc. I really think you need to job shadow. I have found this to be invaluable - - instead of just thinking about it, you need to actually experience a day in the life of a physical therapist, dentist, nurse, etc. and talk to people in that field. You should also ask them about careers in health care that they think sound interesting - - we are all thinking about the better known avenues but I bet there are less well-known alternatives.

Now that I think about it more, another interesting, and I believe pretty lucrative option, is to consider the CRNA field - nurse anesthesia. I think that these folks make similar money to primary care doctors, though you are often being “supervised” by an anesthesiologist, which might bother you. Also, the training program is pretty demanding.
In the end, you are not going to find a job that meets all of your goals. You need to figure out which are most important to you. And, I would also ask around a bit about the “financial security” aspect of medicine. Some of my friends in primary care or even specialties in very competitive cities were disappointed in their salaries - - while 100K is nothing to sneeze at, if it comes after a 10-15 years of college/med school/residency and 150,000 worth of loans, you may not achieve “financial security” for many years. From a strictly financial point of view, I would become a dental specialist - - I know some very happy orthodontists who say they like working with kids, work 4 days a week or less, and own multiple boats!
Good luck.

Hi Justin! Welcome!
I agree with the first poster that you should fully explore the various healthcare fields. You just may find the fulfillment you’re seeking in one of those professions which would probably require less time.
That being said, if you decide that you really really just want to be a doctor, go for it. Your advisors never should have let you sign up for 19 credits your first semester as an undergrad in the first place, especially since you were an athlete. And then they never should have tried to dissuade you like they did. Minimum at our school is 12 credits and most of our athletes (Div II) only take 12-15 credits per term. Students without any huge time commitments can thrive on 19 credits, not students with a lot on their plates like you had!
You didn’t say what your gpa was when you graduated, but obviously since it’s been awhile since you last took a science class one of your first steps would be to try your hand at the med school prereqs again. I would fully expect you to have a much easier time of it now (providing you don’t take 19 credits again!lol).
Given your “other” life I’d say you’ll have a good well-rounded background and some interesting ECs to apply with, and I think a really good chance of making it through this time (barring bad grades again and a horrid MCAT lol).
Whatever you decide to do I wish you luck!
–Jessica, UCCS

I agree with all the previous posters…i too was discouraged from med school my freshman year because I got several B's…so i became a nurse, went back and did the nurse practitioner, and how i'm in the pre-med world again. Nurse practitioners have a lot of autonomy, but again, we are limited…example, rads is kinda hard to get a job unless you do pre-procedure evaluations…CRNA made very good money, and they have a higher leve lof autonomy than NPs, but if you're looking for patient contact, you won't get it b/c your patient is out most of the time during surgery. So you have to look at what you want.
Whatever you do, make sure that it makes you happy. I thought something else other than an MD was the way to go, but 8 years later, I am back to the MD…and i'm a younger pre-med like you, so I can truly empathize! Good Luck! :smiley:

Wow, what a great thread. You guys are sure giving great advice.
Regarding the issue of working as a doctor and having no time for the rest of your life – my thoughts on this are that life is about choices. (I am 5 months pregnant, planning to apply to med school next year, so you can imagine all the agonizing I've gone through). Anyway, you can choose a competitive, demanding specialty and work in a competitive research hospital. And yes, you won't have much time for the rest of your interests. On the other hand, you can still be a doctor, and yet choose a less time-consuming specialty, maybe even a less competitive residency, etc, all this, and still have time for your family and the rest of your life. I know a young doctor who works in Internal Medicine at a hospital, 8-5 M-F, with one weekend on-call shift per month. (He did have to work the night shifts, etc, for a while first, before he landed the gravy shift).
Maybe I'm just dreaming, but I believe we can become doctors and still have lives outside of work. I think the problem is that most pre-meds, even older pre-meds, are very ambitious people. It's really hard for extremely ambitious people to choose a less competitive route. That's why you have to make a conscious choice to do it, and remind yourself everyday why – it's that you're choosing to spend time with your family, etc. Surround yourself with others who are making similar choices, or who are very supportive of your decision.
OK, enough of my ramblings!
Hope this helps.

Hey Justin,
As has been said, there are a lot of ways to help without becoming a physician. However, if being a physian is what you really want, do it. It's going to take some work but it can no doubt be done. Ignore the naysayers and go do it. Good luck!!!

Thank you everyone for your insightful posts. I was very surprised to get as much of a response as I did. You all have hit on a point or two that really struck me, so I will try to address each of you.


You are 100% correct. I am looking for “work-life” balance and the opportunity to help others, especially children and adolescents.
I am not sure what my dream is, which is part of my problem. I wanted to be a Physician long ago, but have lost sight of why that was so important to me. Its funny, I can remember telling my Health teacher during my sophomore year in High School that I wanted to be the Team Doctor for the Cleveland Browns. All through High School being a Doctor is all I wanted to do, yet it only took me a year of college to get derailed.
I have had a considerable level of job shadowing experience with Physical Therapists (i.e. I have had 3 reconstructive knee surgeries due to football injuries). I also had the opportunity to shadow a Pediatrician in High School for the second half of my Senior year. I have currently been talking with the Director of Nurse Recruitment at UHHS in Cleveland to set up some job shadowing in varying nursing roles. Next Wednesday I will be spending the day with some Nurses in Pediactrics (i.e. Its the same unit I actually volunteered in last Spring). In late May I will spend a day in Medical-Surgical. I hope to do some shadowing in Oncology and Emergency as well.
I think its also worth mentioning that I am surrounded by Health Care professionals. My best friend is a 3rd year Med Student (i.e. wants to go into Neurosurgery) his father is an Emergency Physician, my girlfriend’s father is a CRNA, her step-mother is a Head Nurse on a Cardiac team, and her mother is a Geriactric Nurse. This is just an odd coincidence. To be honest I have never really discussed their professions with them. To this point, them being involved in health care has had little influence on me but will serve as a valuable resource. Of course, every single one of them will have a different opinion.


I didn’t realize until my Junior year in college, what was REALLY required to take the MCAT and make a run at Medical School. I came in like most Freshman: UNINFORMED about my options. I definitley feel like I was effectively “weeded out” of their program. It was definitley a shock, but I do blame myself for not being more passionate about continuing on. I am the type of person that deeply values the knowledge and experiences of others, so when my GUIDANCE Counselor told me it was over, I believed him.
When I graduated with my BSBA in Accounting, my Cumulative GPA was around a 2.8-2.9. So, it is pretty low (although I did go through a pretty tough B-School). As far as my pre-reqs go I did finish a year of Calculus (received an A and a cool.gif and also a year of General Chemistry (C, C). When I began thinking through the idea of going to Medical School again, I put together the list of pre-reqs that I would need to complete:
General Chemistry I, II (Re-take)
O-Chem I, II
Phyics I, II
Human Biology (1 SEM)
Microbiology (1 SEM)
Even if I were to earn a 3.7 or higher on these courses and score in the 50%-75% on the MCAT, what kind of applicant would that make me? Competitive? Borderline?
The one thing I have always had going for me is the number of things I am involved with outside of work/school. At the same token though, I feel that it has sometimes been to my detriment academically. Its a good thing that EC’s are taken into consideration.


I am glad you decided to leave me a post. One of the professions that I have been looking at closely is the Nurse Practitioner. If I may, I have some questions about it:
1. What specialty did you select? There are numerous, I know. The areas that strike me as the most interesting are Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediactric Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Would you mind sharing a little about each of these (i.e. work conditions, responsibilities, etc.)?
2. What was it that you have found most unsatisfying about being an NP?
3. How well is your input received from Physicians and how would you characterize their treatment towards you?
4. What type of work schedule do you typically keep? Has there been much flexibility for you?
5. What are some of the things that you feel you miss out on being an NP?
Any other informaton you would be willing to share about your experience would be GREATLY APPRECIATED!!!

You do have a lot on your plate! You are a very courageous.
You mentioned that:
"I think the problem is that most pre-meds, even older pre-meds, are very ambitious people. It’s really hard for extremely ambitious people to choose a less competitive route. That’s why you have to make a conscious choice to do it, and remind yourself everyday why – it’s that you’re choosing to spend time with your family, etc."
This really struck something in me. Sometimes I feel that if I do anything other than being a Physician, then I am not fufilling my potential or I am taking the easy route. The same has gone for other pursuits that I have been interested in. Things that I have thought about doing, I have always wanted to do at the highest level.
I mentioned the idea of being an NP to be friend who is a 3rd year Med Student. He said that it seemed like I was “settling” for that. In actuality I may not have meant to come accross that way, but my “ambition” was almost making me feel guilty about the idea (which seemed to come through in my tone). That discussion with him sparked some curiosity in me again about Medical School.

Justin - What you told your health teacher back in high school is one of my dream jobs lol! Our stories are actually very similar…I was a figure skater/dancer but had switched to choir and theater involvements during high school. I wanted to be a doctor most of my youth, and all through hs (until my sr yr). I even took 5 years of science in prep during hs. But then I had incredible choir and theater teachers as well, and I decided my jr/sr yr to become a choir director instead. Went away to school, hated it (I didn’t know how to live on my own at all either which didn’t help) and spent the next several years floundering around trying to figure out what to do with my life. Then i got back into skating and dance and was pursuing those as careers for awhile, but with dance my career would have been too short and I’d still have needed something to fall back on, and with figure skating my money ran out. I worked full time retail for a few years and considered management, but I was being pulled back to school and couldn’t see myself doing anything other than medicine - hopefully orthopedic surgery/sports med either working for a skating tour, sports team, or olympic training center biggrin.gif
Having finished a degree in something will be very helpful, and while your gpa wasn’t great it wasn’t awful either. Do well in your pre reqs, get a good score on your MCAT, you’ve got tons of EC’s both health related and not…I’m not an adcom, but I think you’d make an excellent candidate. The grades will definitely have to be there this time, but I’m finding my attention span now that I’m 29 is soooo much better then it was the first time i went through college. You may end up being a better fit for DO schools than MD schools given all your ECs (especially with your comment about being so involved sometimes at the detriment to the academics), but you won’t know that until you’ve taken classes, gotten the best grades you can and taken your MCAT. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the end you got accepted to both (of course barring any bad things as far as gpa/MCAT).
It also sounds like you’ve been exploring the other options, but you really DO want to be a doctor. Make the commitment and give it your all. You will make it.
I’m just still in shock that your first school made an athlete (in football no less) take that many credits at once. I don’t blame you for listening to your counselor, but there is no way for athletes to handle those sort of schedules. I wonder if they didn’t have a bias towards “football players” and that’s why they told you to sign up for sooo many classes that first semester.
Don’t blame yourself for not being more “passionate”. You were an 18 yr old kid. You followed the advice of others that you thought you could trust. 18 yr olds don’t have the capacity yet, for the most part, to make those sort of decisions…especially if they have more than one interest…in your case medicine and football. The fact remains that you ARE passionate about medicine or else you wouldn’t be thinking about going back to school now. And the fact that you are a competitive person by nature, you will succeed this time. biggrin.gif
Good luck!
–Jessica, UCCS