The importance of medical professionals has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals and patients depend on healthcare staff to assess and triage patients quickly and make sure that every life is treated with the respect and care it deserves.
If you’re currently on a crossroad, trying to decide what career path to take, you might consider becoming a doctor, but you may feel intimidated by the idea. 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 or predictability in life.
However, being a doctor comes with many perks, including being respected and well-remunerated, making it an attractive option for someone looking for a fulfilling career.
Here, we share the top 10 reasons why you should consider becoming a doctor and what you can expect from this career path.
1. It guarantees a secure financial future
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the median salary for physicians and surgeons in the US is $208,000 per year. This is $23,000 over what CEOs earn on average and $150,000 more than the national average wage. Meanwhile, other countries offer similar or even higher salaries for GPs and specialists.
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 worldwide means that the demand for doctors will steadily climb, so there will be even more job opportunities in the years to come.
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 prestige and recognition. People respect and admire doctors, not only because of what they do but also because of the effort required to become a doctor.
Also, 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 work with a variety of people and help them 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 have the opportunity to teach and share knowledge
It’s not uncommon for doctors to hold a professorship at universities or to welcome trainees and train them on the job. If you enjoy teaching, being a doctor will offer you plenty of opportunities to share your knowledge and inspire others through your work and expertise. Dr Christine Bishara, MD explains that something she truly enjoys as a doctor is the opportunity to exchange knowledge and teach 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 look up to you for guidance and advice regarding their health. If you enjoy talking to people and sharing your expertise, then what can be nobler than teaching people how to stay healthy and prevent disease?
4. You can live anywhere in the world
If you are one of those people who enjoy moving around, then being a doctor can accommodate that lifestyle. Different countries indeed have different requirements and regulations for practising medicine, but doctors are always in high demand in almost every part of the world.
You might need additional certification or further experience if you want to move to a specific country, but in the end, you’re still guaranteed one of the highest-paid jobs in the world.
Sure, other professions might offer the same flexibility, but 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 heal and 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 more profound and 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. Their stories can be both heartbreaking and inspiring, as they show resilience despite various struggles in their past or present lives. I feel honoured 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 direct 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? Well, as a doctor, not only do you never stop learning, but you also have access to the latest scientific breakthroughs in your area of expertise, which you can then apply when treating patients.
Doctors are often the first ones to get access to new medications or to trial new, experimental procedures to treat certain illnesses. 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 diverse specialisms to choose from
People who are outside the medical profession might put doctors into a single job category. However, while medical students might start with the same curriculum of general medicine, there are actually many different healthcare jobs to choose from, depending on your interests and aspirations.
If you like working with children, you may choose to be a paediatrician, or if you are fascinated by the world of tropical and uncommon diseases, you may specialise in infectious diseases. The world of medicine is quite diverse, and there are dozens of areas of expertise you can choose from to contribute to the field in the best way possible.
8. You will 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, for instance, that being an empath helps him see beyond what patients tell him at face value and interpret their behaviour and tone of voice for more clues about how they feel.
‘Even in the face of illness, many people attempt to minimise symptoms so as not to express vulnerability. Recognising 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 M.D. where a quirky medical genius works every day to diagnose and treat unusual health conditions? Or have you heard of Robin Cook, a physician who uses his knowledge in medicine to write captivating, best-selling medical thrillers that have sold over 400 million copies to date?
These two examples go to show that the medical profession can be an excellent stepping stone for another type of career where your expertise can give you an edge.
For instance, on House M.D., there were four medical advisors who helped the producers come up with realistic and accurate storylines for the show. 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 a highly specialised, medical knowledge could give you a competitive edge if you ever want to enter a new career path.
10. It can make you more mindful
Doctors work in a high-pressure environment which is 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, working with people under these conditions can help you become more aware and grateful for your own circumstances in life. Facing a myriad of health challenges every day will help you become more mindful of your own health and wellbeing and seeing your patients recover and thrive can offer satisfaction like no other profession can. In a nutshell, practising medicine can make you more self-aware, more grateful and, ultimately, a happier human being.
So, here are the top 10 reasons why you should consider becoming a doctor. Once you have made your choice, there is a series of steps you have to follow in order 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 CareerHunter 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!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 25 November 2014.