Medicine isn’t a career you pursue on a whim. Given that attending medical schooland completing residency take so much hard work, is being a doctor worth it? Before making your final decision about your future occupation, learn how some physicians feel about their careers.
The benefits of being a doctor
You probably know that TV shows about physicians aren’t particularly accurate, but there are advantages to working in medicine. Hear about the perks of the profession straight from the MDs who know firsthand.
1. Working in medicine can be immensely satisfying
Many physicians choose their careers because it’s the one profession that makes them feel most content, even if they can’t quite articulate why.
“It’s truly hard to put into words everything that I love about my job,” says Dr. Julieanne Watters of MedExpress. “And that’s why I think job satisfaction is one of the most notable benefits of being a doctor.”
2. Physicians are encouraged to stoke their natural curiosity
If you love to learn, medicine is one of the best fields you can pursue. Medical school is just the beginning of your education. Physicians who’ve been practicing for decades regularly encounter unique situations, new treatments, and evolving technologies. In fact, physicians must meet continuing education requirements to maintain licensure throughout their careers.
“You get to work in one of the most challenging and intellectually satisfying fields.”
“You get to work in one of the most challenging and intellectually satisfying fields,” says Dr. Kate Tulenko, founder of Corvus Health.
For some, the sheer capabilities of the human body make being a physician remarkable. This is certainly true for Dr. Yemi Odugbesan, a cardiac anesthesiologist at Physician Anesthesia Services, PC. During a conversation at an airport, a pilot told her that he gets to work with the greatest machine that exists on a daily basis.
“I said I absolutely disagreed with him,” Dr. Odugbesan recalls, “because it is actually I who gets to work with the greatest machine on earth: the human body.”
3. Physicians positively affect patients every day
For many physicians, the ability to positively impact patients’ lives each day is easily the biggest perk. Doctors often see individuals who are going through something incredibly difficult.
“It’s so humbling to care for sick and injured people on some of their hardest days,” Dr. Watters says. “When I get the chance to put a smile on their faces, it’s even better.”
The exact impact physicians have depends on their areas of expertise. Dr. Odugbesan singles out working the obstetrical floor and being involved in transplant procedures as some particularly notable examples.
“There is nothing more precious than the gift of life, and to see a heart begin to beat in a donor’s recipient for the first time is miraculous,” Dr. Odugbesan says.
4. Physicians have quite a bit of job security
Certain jobs have become obsolete as technology has advanced through the years. Doctors are rarely among those worried about staying relevant.
“There’s such a shortage of physicians that, as long as you’re credentialed and haven’t lost your license, you will always have a job,” Dr. Tulenko notes. Her opinion aligns with shortage projections from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Need further proof? Dr. Tulenko points out an important fact: “We still have to bring in about 25 percent of our doctors from overseas because we're not training enough in the US.” This also means that international medical graduates who attended a quality program should feel confident about their abilities to join the US physician workforce.
5. Being a doctor is never boring
Physicians may have to work nights, weekends, and holidays. While it’s true that you might miss a few social events, practicing medicine affords you the opportunity to see fascinating cases. There’s never a dull day as a physician. If you need further proof, just take a look at a day in the life of an emergency physician.
6. Physicians can impact the health care system
“Physicians are in one of the most highly regulated professions there is,” Dr. Tulenko says. She points to electronic medical records as being somewhat time consuming for physicians. However, Dr. Tulenko mentions that hiring a medical scribe to assist with taking care of the charts can help drive efficiency and ensure quality.
“If the scribe can enable the physician to see one additional patient a day, the scribe will pay for themselves,” Dr. Tulenko explains.
Also bear in mind that there are many ways physicians can advocate for providers and patients at the federal and state levels. Whether you’re most passionate about reforming payment models or creating better access to health care, you have opportunities to get involved.
So is being a doctor worth it?
Knowing you’ll need to complete four years of medical school, three or more years of postgraduate training, and continuing education requirements throughout your career, is becoming a doctor worth it when it’s all said and done? You’ll be encouraged to know that scores of doctors are incredibly happy they chose careers in medicine.
“Taking into account all the pros and cons, becoming a doctor was ultimately worth it to me,” Dr. Odugbesan reflects. “I would go to medical school all over again.”
When deciding if medicine is the right fit for you, Dr. Odugbesan says you should explore any career paths that interest you. It’s also a good idea to hear perspectives from practicing doctors.
“Talk to as many different physicians as possible,” Dr. Tulenko suggests. “How do they like their work? What do they see as the future of medical care?” These types of conversations can really help you figure out how to proceed.
Choose a meaningful career
Is being a doctor worth it? Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself.
If you recognize you’re meant for medicine, you might want to start thinking about applying to medical school. Learn more about the admissions requirements and timeline by checking out “A Sneak Peek at the Medical School Application Process.”
*This article was originally published in October 2018. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2021.