Financial advice

Well, in retrospect, I’m sure everyone will appreciate a request for advice that /doesn’t/ involve the proverbial “best” way to get accepted to medical school.

Basically, I’ve made the decision to go to paramedic school next year before I transfer to Davis (and won’t have time) since I’m only really going to have organic chem next year, and since with a 1 unit class I can just hover at 6 units at the normal college to stay half-time for fin aid, I’m going to do the medic program through NCTI while I have a lax schedule.

The problem? Well, the program is $8,750.00. So why on earth would I do it? Well, EMTs start at $13.50/hour in Sacramento county. Paramedics start at $21-22/hour. Even if I only work one shift a week, and work full time during the summer, I know that at the very least I’ll break even on the cost of the program by the time I finish at Davis. So that’s not my question. My question is that I also was planning to pick up scuba diving this summer.

So the million dollar question here is, do I take up a sport that, while it will provide leisure and relief from school, will cost me quite possibly up to a grand in gear to get started, or do I take the money I would have spent on it and start saving for the cost of the medic program and not do too much for leisure/relief?

You know, you’re only young once. I would say, go for the scuba diving. You don’t need the EMT or paramedic training; you’re going to learn everything in medical school anyway.

If you want to be well prepared for medical school, take biochemistry and genetics. If you want to have interesting stuff to talk about at interviews, do the scuba diving. Lots of premeds take emt thinking it will help their application, and the word is that adcoms find it booorrrrring.

Follow your interests and when you write them up, you’ll sound and be more genuine about your enthusiasm. But, only you can decide what to do.

Good luck,

As long as you can still cover the bills, keep a roof over your head & the family feed - I say go for the scuba lessons too! Life is too short & believe me, medicine already suffers under the burden of physicians who have nothing else to offer the world outside of their “physician-ness”. The greatest asset nontrad bring to the profession is real life, a real-worldliness & an ability to relate to patients like they are people…because the ARE people.

Believe me, interviewers are going to be a LOT more curious about your scuba diving! Go for it!

I’ll be the dissenter. I think paramedic training will serve you well, especially if you decide that you need to do some work while you are at UCD, and especially if you have some time where you’re not doing anything other than applying to med school.

It may also be a way to make some extra cash during the first year or two of med school although that is somewhere between dicey and inadvisable for many.

Plus it’ll be cool in and of itself.

The money you’ll make in a single shift when you get in financial squeezes as a student–or shifts that you could pick up in the summer–could really make a big financial difference for you. This is not trivial at all. Scuba diving will only drain money from you in a time when you are making one of the most insanely long-term financial decisions of your life (med school).

Since I’m from Sacramento I can say that there is so much to do in that area of the world that I have a hard time believing that scuba is the only way to fend off boredom. Just GET OUT OF TOWN! (Which you’re going to have to do to go scuba diving anyway, unless you’re going to look for gold in the American or something, which is definitely a sucka’s game.)

Another point: once you are at UCD the odds are high that they will have some kind of scuba course which will cost much much less. See if this is true, and if it is, then I’d definitely go for the medic training. Also, look around and see if any of the fire departments have water units or any other special groups which would pay you to learn scuba as part of your medic duties. Finally, consider renting gear as opposed to buying it, which doesn’t make any sense for someone who will only be able to dive now and then. (As you will when you are a pre-med. How often are you going to be able to get to the ocean?)

If UCD won’t pay, the fire depts say forget it, you are sure there isn’t any way to do cheaper rentals and courses, and you’re still just dying to do scuba, then one more thing to ask: seriously, you can’t figure out any way to amuse yourself above or in the water? surfing? snorkeling? hiking? canoeing? whitewater rafting? snowboarding? whitewater kayaking? mountain climbing? you’re killing me, it’s going to freakin snow where I am right now, and all I can do is mope around and listen to that freakin morose Prince song “Sometimes It Snows in April” and you’re complaining that you’ve got nothing to do? love it while you got it, man! Like Joni Mitchell says, “You don’t know what you got til it’s gone”.

If your answer is no, scuba is all that can amuse you, then go to a psychiatrist and get yourself checked out for depression.

And if the psychiatrist says, no, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor has a low likelihood of curing your perceived need to do scuba, then I have to admit, you gotta do what you gotta do. But seriously, doubling your wage in a job you can do as shift work, as needed, is so huge for a student that I really advise you to think twice, or three times, about choosing scuba.

One more note. I also disagree pretty strongly that interviewers will be more interested in scuba than paramedic work. Lots of kids are EMTs which is boring for an interviewer. But paramedic work is more serious business. You will have a lot to say about patient care and you’ll have some better stories because of the kind of ambulances you’ll get to be in. It will help you get into med school, it will help you in med school, and it will help demonstrate that whatever you’ve done you’ve been at the top of the heap. Scuba is cool and all but it doesn’t show much about your dedication or your leadership potential or what kind of doctor you’re going to be. If all you end up talking about on a med school interview is what kind of fish you tried to spear on your last dive, that is not the ideal situation.

So basically I just couldn’t disagree more with what everyone else has said.

But, on the other hand, all hyperbole aside, it may not actually be that big a deal either way, so good luck whatever you do.



I’ll disagree or agree with everyone and say… DO BOTH! You can become, depending on your SCUBA certification a search & recovery diver or a rescue diver. You can combine your love for SCUBA and medicine. I see it as win-win.

There’s nothing better than SCUBA. One of the reasons I’d like to get accepted to medical school in Puerto Rico is to get 4 great years of diving. Heck if that means 4 dives in 4 years then it was worth it.

As far as ADCOM’s and what not. I ain’t got no experience on this one but I would think being a paramedic AND some sort of rescue diver would look good on your app. You combined play and work.

I say go for both. I wish I had become officially certified sooner. I say go for it. Next you know you’ll be slapping me in the face asking about becoming a tactical paramedic and that I WILL NOT TAKE THAT FROM YOU! Enjoy the journey!

I agree with the do both sentiment! You ONLY live once!!

Tim -

I’ll agree and disagree (although not with quite as much hyperbole as Joe ).

It is true that becoming an EMT these days seems to be the cool thing for pre-meds to do (much to my annoyance). It annoys me because the vast majority of them are doing it because they think it will look good to adcoms, not because they have any real interest in EMS or Emergency Medicine. A lot of them don’t even DO anything with their certification - they just take the basic class so they can put on their AMCAS that they are an EMT. The adcoms find this very boring and not relevant at all. It’s pretty obvious which people did EMT just to “look good”.

Now, on the flip side, if you got your EMT and actually worked/volunteered for awhile it IS interesting to adcoms. My volunteering as an EMT is what started me down the path to med school. It was very relevant to my interviews, but igt was very apparent that it was important in my life.

So - lets talk about the paramedic thing. It is my personal belief, having worked with lots and lots o’paramedics that you ought to have at least a year’s experience as a basic EMT before paramedic school. Quite honestly, most the medics who went right from basic to medic school without any real basic experience were among the worst medics I’ve seen. Not saying that this is the case for you, but in many of their cases the medic was all about the ego and power. Too often they would do unnecessary things just because they could. I also found that because they had never worked as a basic, they tended to skip/forget doing the basics (ABC) and go right into “I need to get a line/intubate/push a drug” - often to the detriment of the patient.

Ooops - gotta go drop the dog off at the groomers - I will continue my rant on why I think you should maybe NOT become a paramedic in a little bit. Try to resist jumping all over my post until I finish.


Ok - so pros for becoming a medic: It is definitely interesting. It’s a good experience that will help you out some in medical school. Being a medic will probably help you get hours, if your area is anywhere like where I am. EMTs are a dime a dozen, but medics are in short supply. I could have named my hours as a medic, but as an intermediate EMT, I was often begging for hours. If you end up not getting into med school the first time you apply, you have medic to fall back on.

Cons: the cost. As you have already said - you will “break even”. I would argue that unless it will gain you significant flexibility and etc in hours, you are better off staying with EMT and actually getting ahead (and using that money to scuba dive). The medic class won’t help you out nearly as much as you might think it will in medical school. The things that will help you out the most (patient contact, patient care skills, etc), you can get as a basic. Yes, the background will help, but there are other courses you could take (maybe not at the CC) that would be far more helpful to you in med school.

Other insights: (Please don’t take offense at any of this - this is based on lots of personal experience and what little you have posted here - so it may or may not apply to you). I understand the enthusiasm you have - I really do. I begged our EMS director to let me take the intermediate course a month after becoming a basic, even though he usually didn’t let people take it until they had been basics for a year. For me, it worked out well. For the other two people he had to let take it because he let me take it, it didn’t. I think the one, had she had some basic experience first, would have decided not to take it. She officially quit being an EMT after about two years and more or less had quit (quit picking up shifts, runs, etc) much earlier than that. I’ve also seen several other people who, had they gotten at least a little experience in as a basic, would have not gotten their medic cert. My point is (besides the fact that some experience would help you tremendously in medic class) that you haven’t even finished the basic class yet. In other words, I’m not seeing that you have any experience with EMS outside of what you’ve done in class - you haven’t had the chance to see the less glamorous side of it. Many people, once they DO see the other side, decide EMS is not nearly as cool as they thought. If you do have more experience/background, I apologize for making the assumption that you might not have a complete of picture of EMS as you think.

In short, I’m not trying to discourage you from becoming a medic. I can see plusses and minuses either way. Had things worked out differently, I would have taken the medic class - I was accepted to the class and it would have been paid for by the service I volunteered with, but the schedule didn’t work with my job. I encourage you to try and look beyond your newbie enthusiasm and really analyze things objectively. If you can, talk to a few medics. Ask them to be brutally honest with you about how they feel about going right from basic to medic, would they have done it again, etc. Try to pick a couple that aren’t the gung-ho live, breathe and die EMS to talk to, as well.

There were some good points made about the scuba diving in other posts as well. Do some exploring and find out if there are any dive teams in your area. You might be able to get your scuba training free and some help with your gear if you get accepted as a volunteer for a dive team.

Hopefully, this is some more food for thought. If I were in your situation, I would probably be just as enthusiastic as you are about doing the medic class. So, sit down and make some pro and con lists. Try and be as objective as possible about the cost/benefit ratio - I know this is tough to do when the medic is something that really interests you. If, after analyzing everything and talking to some more people in your area, the balance tips in favor of medic, then go for it. If not, be the best EMT you can be and do a little scuba diving.


PS - If you are a good, enthusiastic, willing to learn EMT - you might be surprised at how much your paramedic partners will teach you. Obviously, this doesn’t get you more pay, but you can learn a lot of valuable stuff as a basic, and it won’t cost you almost $9k.

First of all, I have to say that I appreciate everyone’s responses. I think a few did miss, however, that the main reason I would be doing the medic course is because of the massive increase in pay–the extra knowledge is just icing on the cake. I’m sure many people will disagree with me, but I consider the financial aid system as completely broke and just as completely worthless, so I’d prefer to have as much financial power as possible as a student. I was planning to get experience as an EMT before I did it; I think that’s an unwritten requirement for the program I’m thinking of anyway. If I can’t get a job with AMR over the summer, I’m just going to start volunteering with the local FD, so either way by the time medic school comes around I’ll have had a year of experience as an EMT. I do have a lot of background in it though as my best friend has been an EMT for about four years and just finished medic school himself. I’m aware of the downsides of the job, but on the other hand, I’m also aware of the upsides as well as the fact that I am building a very strong fondness for emergency medicine.

As far as other things than scuba to entertain myself, sure there’s plenty of other stuff, but gear is always the main cost. As Joe pointed out, Sac is close to a variety of different things such as snowboarding and the like. I can honestly say that snowboarding out of his list is the only one that really interests me, however, since I got about as much experience in basic with a pack on my back as I want to in my whole lifetime so anything to do with hiking can go straight to hell. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Sky diving is another interest but that’s even more expensive than scuba.

The cost of the class doesn’t list it as a grand anyway, lists it as $500-600 estimated, so I’m sure they do rent a lot of the equipment. Some stuff I just would pretty much refuse to rent, and would rather own, such as the regulator, wetsuit, etc…stuff that is pretty much going to cause injury or death if it fails (outside the oxygen tank since it’s pretty easy to test whether those give air or not by cracking the seal) I don’t want to have to rent. Call me paranoid, but I consider the vast majority of people to not give a damn about what they do, so I’m not going to trust the people in charge of maintaining the rental equipment to actually do their job.

I also do agree that interviewers mostly probably don’t give a damn about an EMT-B cert with no experience. I would have never even bothered going for EMT without actually using it. Sure, you have the chance of being shot at and whatnot, but I can’t think of any jobs on campus that pay 13.50/hour to start. Plus the nature of the job is perfect for a student since you can study inbetween calls.

The primary (and lurking) reason though that I am planning on the medic thing (unless I start working as an EMT and just don’t like it, which I know won’t happen but I’ll mention it for the amusement of others) is that I’m not so arrogant as to assume that I’ll get accepted to medical school the first time. And if I’m not accepted the first time, I sure as hell would rather be making 21-22/hour while I wait instead of 13.50/hour. Especially since I’d have to start paying back my undergrad loans at that point since I’d be done with school for the time being, and with an EMT’s pay, that’d simply be impossible.

As I said though, I do appreciate everyone’s responses. What I’ll probably do I suppose is go to the first day of the scuba class at the college and voice my financial concerns to the instructor, if he doesn’t cover the financial costs of scuba on the first day, which I would be surprised if he didn’t. I can always drop the class if it does look like it’ll be too expensive of an investment.

And btw Crooz, I’d never become a tactical medic, cops love themselves way too much, their egos would clash with mine. ducks since I believe you used to be a cop and runs off cackling

Just a little help with your choice or words…you have some background in EMT because of your friend’s experiences? Sorry young grasshopper but you can not have someone else’s background.

Truth be told NO ONE knows what they’re getting into. I mean they might think they know but you only know when you know…until then you just think you know. It’s like me and I think I know what EM will be for me. I’ve worked along side EM physicians but “alongside” and “in a man’s shoes” are a different story.

Sermon over.

No cop here…but I did stay at a Holiday Inn express last night.