Help, Advice Please!

I am a 34-year-old attorney. I am stuck in a dead-end job. I read documents all day alone in an office and research other documents. My career is hopeless and I’ve come to hate the legal field with a burning passion. I graduated from law school in 2007. During undergrad, I majored in an easy humanities subject because I was afraid of the sciences. Thereafter, I decided to go to law school because it was the only good post-secondary option for a humanities grad. I graduated in 2007 near the top of my class, but have been stuck ever since in a mind-numbingly boring job with $50k in student loan debt. Recently, I took some evening science and math courses at a local community college and loved them and did very well. In about 6 years I will have my loans forgiven b/c I work in public service. Is it crazy for me to want to go back to school and ultimately try to get into medical school? I would love to be in a challenging new career path where ultimately I can work with other human beings and help them. But can someone near 40 by that time really go to med school? Are there other paths I should consider? Pharm/P.A.?

Vince - yes, you certainly can get into med school at “near 40”. It’s good you have some time to build a great application.

You will need the science prereqs: 2 semesters with lab of Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. The biology should include cell biology and genetics (many intro bio courses too). Also, biochemistry could be helpful. You need some intro psych and soc as well (which you may well have). Most med schools do NOT require calc physics -non-calc is fine.

You will also want to have BOTH shadowing and volunteer experience. Start the volunteer at once if possible. Working in the public sector is very helpful. Any additional volunteering, esp if it is medically/clinically related and occurs over more than 1 year shows commitment to medicine. Check out your local hospitals for volunteer opportunities. Scribe in the ER often gives you some good patient contact.

Shadowing --what you are looking for is some significant time shadowing a doc in a field you might be interested in. You are after spending enough time that they can write you a decent letter of recommendation re your character, interest in medicine, etc for your application. Thus, you could wait till closer to your application time to do this. If you might apply to DO schools, you should be sure to include shadowing a D.O. in your plan.

Finally, think about what sort of medicine you might be interested in. Research experience is a plus, and sometimes your science faculty contacts taking your science prerequisites can steer you to some opportunities. But if you are interested in primary care, many schools with a primary care focus are less concerned about research experience. I essentially did NOT worry about that as I had many years of clinical experience. But coming from a non-med background, at least SOME research exp. would prob. help. Again, don’t need to worry too much about that now. Want to focus on taking the prereqs and getting good grades, and on improving your financial status.

I was 51 when I started applying to med schools. Will grad at 57 and finish residency at 60. You are just a spring chicken! (seriously , 40 is not terribly old to start).

Best of luck!


Kate, thanks so much for all the encouragement and advice! I truly appreciate you taking the time to respond and you have some great ideas there. It is encouraging to know that other people have pursued medicine as a second career later in life!

You’re welcome, Vince!

By the way , I reread my reply and saw a typo–should read (many intro bio courses DO --include cell biology and genetics within the intro bio course, that is).


  • vince Said:
Are there other paths I should consider? Pharm/P.A.?

I think this is a common conundrum. It's ultimately your choice but my inclination is to be leary of going an alternate route. If (say) pharmacy is something you're genuinely interested in, then go for it. If you think that you'll like it because it's kinda similar to what you really want to do even though it *isn't* that thing, stay away. My fiancee's in pharmacy school now. She was originally planning to do pharmacy school, then spent some time really considering medical school, and then re-settled on pharmacy school. I'll admit that what pushed her back was that her MD application was borderline, but she discovered pharmacy specializations she really fell in love with. They were what she wanted, not merely "kinda similar" to what she really wanted. She's doing extremely well and very happy with the career direction.

That said, her program has a number of people in it who are there who really wanted to go to medical school but weren't competitive enough, but could get into a PharmD program (PharmD programs have lower stats for acceptance). She tells me that these people are generally bitter because they feel like they should be somewhere better than where they are. One student she explicitly knows to have only come to pharmacy school because her school also has a school of medicine, and he thought the foot in the door would mean he could somehow transfer into the medical program. He's not a happy person from what I've been told.

My own experience backs this up too. I spent a while working on an MS in the graduate school at a large medical university. Trust me, I really do enjoy medical science/bench science, but it was tough. It was a time in my life when I wasn't very high on my long-term success for getting an acceptance to a medical school, and everywhere I went I saw people in white coats. Perhaps some people would find this motivating to keep their nose to the grindstone. Me, I just felt like it was a tease- a reminder of the issues I had in undergrad that I was then (and still am now) remediating.

I'm not saying that it can't work for you- but you really need to make sure that the career your going into is one that will make you happy. If being a pharmacist doesn't sound like fun, don't do it.


I’m 45 and have worked as a social worker in hospitals for nine years. Just started taking bio this month. In my post bacc program, there are occasional discussions on back up plans. They encourage us to have them, and I think it’s healthy to think “what if” I don’t get into MD or DO school? It actually makes the journey less stressful knowing that there are alternatives. I’d be thrilled to get into osteopathic school but I’ve decided that I’d also be happy becoming an ARNP or a PA. I also spend less time wondering if I’m doing the right thing going down this path. I don’t think I am less motivated to succeed in my classes and to strive for the physician route either.