The importance of medical professionals has never been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals depend on healthcare staff to make quick assessments and ensure that every patient is treated with the care they deserve.
If you’re currently trying to decide what career path to take, you may find the prospect of becoming a doctor both exciting and scary. First, there are the long years of studies and additional medical training that doctors need to complete. Then come the long shifts and working weekends, which can erase any semblance of routine.
However, being a doctor comes with many perks, like being respected and well-remunerated, making it an attractive option for those who seek a fulfilling career.
Here, we share the top 15 reasons why you should consider becoming a doctor and what you can expect from this career path.
1. It guarantees financial security
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the median salary for physicians and surgeons is $208,000 per year. This is $28,000 over what CEOs earn and $150,000 more than the national average wage. Meanwhile, other countries offer similar or even higher salaries for doctors.
If your ambition in life is to have financial security, then there are very few other professions that can guarantee it. Likewise, a rapidly ageing and growing population means that the demand for doctors will steadily climb, creating even more job opportunities in the future.
2. It grants you high social status
It’s almost a cliché that all parents want their kid to be a doctor, and there’s a reason for it. Besides a high income, being a doctor gives you a certain level of recognition. People think of medicine as a noble profession, not only because of what doctors do, but also because of the effort required to become one.
Plus, who’s to say that you won’t end up being the physician of the next NBA superstar? Or that you won’t get to treat members of the political and business elite? The opportunity to help people with one of the most essential things in life — their health — can open a great many doors you didn’t even know to exist.
3. You can spread knowledge
It’s not uncommon for doctors to hold a professorship at universities or provide on-the-job training to new physicians. If you enjoy teaching, being a doctor will offer you many opportunities to share your knowledge and inspire others. Dr Christine Bishara, MD explains that something she truly enjoys as a doctor is the opportunity to exchange knowledge with others:
“I really enjoy teaching, but also learning from others. Whether it’s teaching my patients about disease prevention or teaching students medical skills, teaching allows you to share your knowledge.”
Being a doctor means that you will be a source of knowledge for your patients, who will turn to you for guidance. If you enjoy talking to people, then what could be nobler than teaching them how to stay healthy?
4. You can live anywhere in the world
If you’re someone who enjoys moving around, then being a doctor can accommodate that lifestyle. Though different countries have different requirements for practicing medicine, doctors are always in high demand around the world.
You might need additional certification if you want to move to another country, but, in the end, you’re still guaranteed one of the highest-paid jobs in the world.
While other professions might offer the same flexibility, the competition might be stiffer, and the pay won’t be nearly as good as that of a doctor. Opting for this career means that you’re future-proofing your finances while still enjoying the status and freedom that comes with it.
5. You can change people’s lives
Many people will agree that doctors’ work is life-changing. Whether you treat minor health issues or help seriously ill patients find comfort, your job as a doctor will always change people’s lives for the better.
Not only that, but the nature of this profession allows you to connect with patients in a profound, meaningful way. Psychiatrist Dr Patricia Celan, MD claims that one of the most satisfying aspects of her job is to support her patients through their struggles and see them thrive:
“What I love about psychiatry is the privilege of meeting and supporting patients from various backgrounds on their recovery journeys. […] I feel honored to help people when they are at their lowest, most vulnerable point in life, and watching them steadily improve through their recovery process is highly rewarding.”
6. You have access to scientific breakthroughs
Are you fascinated by stem cell research? Or, perhaps, you love learning about the human brain, and you want to apply that knowledge to help people? As a doctor, not only do you never stop learning, but you also have access to the latest scientific breakthroughs, which you can apply when treating patients.
Doctors are often the first ones to get access to emerging medications or trial new procedures. If you love science and want to play your part, becoming a doctor could be the best decision you could make.
Not only that, but doctors are often researchers themselves. If you have a knack for numbers and you like to develop different hypotheses, you can easily switch between research and medical practice throughout your career.
7. There are many specialisms to choose from
People who are outside the medical profession might think of doctors as a single job category. However, while medical students might start with the same curriculum of general medicine, there are many different healthcare jobs to choose from, depending on your interests.
If you like working with children, you may choose to be a pediatrician, or if you are fascinated by uncommon diseases, you may specialize in infectious diseases. The world of medicine is diverse, and there are dozens of areas of expertise you can choose from to contribute to the field.
Arranging an informational interview with a medical intern or professor can help you make an informed decision. They’ll tell you all about the role itself, the institution they work in, and a specialization in general.
8. You can sharpen your interpersonal skills
Are you good at problem-solving? Do you find that you’re more resilient than most of your peers? Then you already have some of the key skills needed to be a doctor.
Other than being experts in their field, doctors also have to be excellent communicators, team players and leaders. Dr Jared Heathman, MD explains that being an empath helps him see beyond what patients tell him and search their behavior for more clues about how they feel.
“Even in the face of illness, many people attempt to minimize symptoms so as not to express vulnerability. Recognizing this and exploring deeper feelings allows physicians to better manage symptoms and diagnoses.”
Being a doctor will push you to keep improving both your scientific knowledge and interpersonal skills in order to give the best possible service to your patients.
9. You can stand out in another career
Have you ever watched the popular TV series House, where a quirky medical genius diagnoses and treats unusual health conditions? Or have you heard of Robin Cook, a physician who uses his knowledge to write best-selling medical thrillers?
These two examples go to show that the medical profession can be an excellent stepping-stone for another career where your expertise can give you an edge.
For instance, on House, there were four medical advisors who helped the producers come up with realistic and accurate storylines. Likewise, Cook used his years as a surgeon and aquanaut (a submarine doctor) to write his thrillers, gain an audience and change careers.
Perhaps you’re contemplating your very first career choice, or you might be looking for a career change. Whatever your circumstances, having highly specialized medical knowledge could give you the competitive edge you need to change careers later on.
10. It can make you more appreciative
Doctors work in a high-pressure environment, often fraught with stress, unpredictability, and urgency. They can be handling dozens of patients every day, each with their own challenges and life stories.
Still, pursuing a career in medicine can help you become more grateful for your own circumstances. Facing a myriad of health challenges every day can help you become more mindful of your own health, too.
In the words of pediatric oncologist and hematologist Dr Evaggelia Karaoli: “The best thing about being a doctor is seeing my patients thrive and go on to live their lives happily after their painful treatment journey is over! Finally, we don’t win all battles, but through pain and loss, I learn how to be strong and appreciate every sunrise I can see.”
11. It’s a highly rewarding career
When we talk about job satisfaction, we refer to things like salary range, flexibility, work conditions, and career advancement opportunities. For some people, a rewarding career may also be one that provides autonomy, variety in terms of day-to-day tasks, or the opportunity to make a real impact on their community.
As we’ve seen, medicine combines several of these aspects into one. The pay is excellent, you have access to the latest medical technologies, and your work is impactful.
If you’re the type of person who isn’t scared of working hard and gets a sense of accomplishment from helping others, you’ll be a good fit for the role.
12. You never stop learning
Thinking about lifelong learning may be a little daunting before you’ve even applied to med school. However, let’s take a step back and consider what continuous learning really means.
A career that requires you to frequently refresh your knowledge is stimulating and keeps you on your toes.
Feeling stagnant at work, on the other hand, can quickly evolve into low mood or even burnout. That’s because repetitive and monotonous tasks can result in fatigue, which you then have to fight against to complete even the most basic of undertakings.
Much like the human body, which relies on activity to stay healthy, the mind, too, needs its “exercise”.
13. You enjoy high job security
While some professionals are watching their jobs slowly disappear, doctors have no trouble finding career opportunities around the world. Though the human lifespan is increasing, our health still deteriorates with age, meaning we now spend longer in poor health than ever before. This is one reason why doctors can expect to enjoy high job security in the future.
The other reason is, of course, that humans will inadvertently keep getting injured or sick, despite their lifestyle choices or because of them.
14. You receive excellent benefits
Hospitals and clinics often attract talented physicians with competitive employee benefits packages. These usually include dental and medical coverage, disability insurance, retirement plans, and continuing medical education allowances.
It’s also not uncommon for doctors to be entitled to 35 days of annual paid leave. Without rest, stress and tiredness can pile up, leading to an increased risk of harm to both the practitioners and their patients.
15. You have access to various loan repayment programs
A large student debt can have some undesirable, long-term effects on young adults. These include higher levels of stress and depression, as debt can result in the delay of life milestones, like homeownership.
As medical schooling leaves students with an average debt of $200,000, having ways to reduce debt after graduating is essential. Some loan repayment programs doctors may be eligible for include:
- The National Health Service Corps program, for doctors who commit to work in underserved communities for a certain amount of time
- The Indian Health Service program, for doctors who commit to work two or more years in medical facilities serving American Indian or Alaska Native communities
- The Armed Forces loan repayment program, where doctors who serve in the US military can receive financial aid in exchange for their service
So, here are the top 15 reasons why you should consider becoming a doctor. Once you have made your choice, there are a series of steps you have to follow to start off your medical career.
Other than selecting an area of expertise, you also need to consider what type of work environment you want to work in. You must research your options to make sure you’re happy with your choice.
Choosing the right career is an important but challenging decision we all have to make. If you’re still having second thoughts or are unsure what career path to pursue, then take our career test to see how your skills match up to over 250 career paths!
Can you think of any other good reasons to become a doctor? Share them with us in the comments section below!
Originally published November 24, 2014. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.