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Is Becoming A Doctor Worth It? (A Doctor's Honest Review)

Is Becoming A Doctor Worth It? (A Doctor’s Honest Review)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Before you apply to medical school, you need to know if becoming a doctor is going to be worth it.

Whether or not becoming a doctor is worth it is an entirely personal assessment. Having worked as a doctor for a couple of years now, I can tell you how I feel, but I can’t tell you how you will.

The majority of medical professionals do feel that becoming a doctor is worth it. In a recent survey of UK junior doctors, 67% answered that they did think that working in medicine was worth it, despite the significant downsides to being a physician in the NHS.

I’ve written this article to try and help you decide whether becoming a doctor will be worth it for you. I’m going to explore why I think it absolutely is, whether medical training in itself is worth it, as well as when becoming a doctor might not be the right choice for you.

Is Medicine Worth It?

There are significant downsides to being a doctor in the NHS. Long training times, long working hours, relatively low pay for the first few years and the constant threat of litigation.

Which is why I think it’s very telling that when I asked 287 of my fellow junior doctors whether they thought, everything considered, becoming a doctor was worth it- 67% of them answered yes.

A junior doctor taking a set of observations from a little girl

It’s easy for the negatives of working in medicine to be highlighted- negativity makes better headlines in the news, negativity sparks more discussion and those with a negative attitude will normally shout the loudest.

Now, to be clear, I’m not trying to minimise the shortcomings of a career in the NHS, nor am I denying there is huge room for improvement when it comes to working conditions, pay and the professional handling of doctors.

All I am trying to do is bring you a balanced view of whether becoming a doctor is worth it so you can make up your own mind about whether you want to start down the path of medical training.

Why I Think Becoming A Doctor Is Worth It

I’ve worked as a doctor for a few years now, and despite the occasional really bad day, I really couldn’t see myself working in any other profession.

The training to become a doctor is incredibly long. You have to do five years at medical school, two years longer than your non-medical colleagues, and then you start at the bottom of a long ladder of different medical grades until you reach the top rung of ‘consultant’ 8-10 years later.

But throughout that time you are working as a doctor and getting to make a tangible positive impact on people’s lives. Just because you don’t hold the top job title doesn’t mean you can’t work to improve the life of every patient you see.

Working in a hospital can be incredibly busy- so much so that you barely have time to wolf down a sandwich at lunch. But there is a camaraderie among the whole medical team, as everyone’s working together to improve the quality of care provided to the patients in front of them.

Although junior doctors are expected to work long hours for relatively little pay, things do improve as you move up the ladder. As a proportion of your career, you’ll spend a small slice as a junior doctor but the majority as a consultant. A consultant who can agree on their own working hours and has the potential for taking on private work to boost their income.

I personally think, despite the notable downsides, becoming a doctor is entirely worth it and will most likely be a decision you’ll never regret.

When Is Becoming A Doctor Not Worth It?

A career in medicine isn’t for everyone and I do think there will be times and people that becoming a doctor won’t be worth it for.

For example, if you’re just interested in it for the money, I can assure you there are far easier ways of earning far more money.

I can’t say I was ever drawn towards medicine because of the paycheck, but I do find myself having to remind myself of that fact when some of my friends who studied economics or finance at university are probably earning double what I am working in London.

If you don’t have some interest or passion in learning about the human body then you’re just going to find the subject matter really dull. And as a result, you’ll find it far harder to motivate yourself to learn, study or explore the field of medicine- thus drastically increasing the perceived effort it takes to become a doctor and stay up-to-date with your clinical knowledge.

A doctor listening to a patient’s heart

Finally, if it’s not you that wants to become a doctor, but rather your family, friends or colleagues that want you to, it probably isn’t going to be worth it.

Working in medicine isn’t some land of milk and honey where every doctor skips home at the end of a long day whistling their favourite Disney song.

You need to want to be a doctor in order to enjoy it, as objectively it doesn’t always compare favourably to other jobs you could hold as an intelligent, motivated young graduate.

If you do actually want to be a doctor however, then you’re able to draw satisfaction from the fact that every day you’re getting to make a small difference in the world working in your dream profession.

Is Medical School Worth It?

Even if you don’t end up working as a doctor until you retire, I’d suggest medical school sets you up pretty well for whichever direction you choose to take your career in.

Although it is longer than a normal degree, and arguably a lot harder work, going to medical school can be a great investment in your future. It will leave you in more debt than a standard three-year course, but medical school offers so much more than a standard undergraduate program.

You’ll learn not just theory, but practical skills, as well as how to interact with patients as a doctor. I’ve found developing a good bedside manner to be some of the most valuable transferrable skills from my time studying at university.

A medical degree can set you up for a lifetime’s work as a doctor or, equally, you can take that degree and secure a job in pretty much any other line of work as it’s proof that you’re intelligent, hardworking, and an excellent problem solver.

Going to medical school might seem daunting but there really isn’t much to lose. If the worst comes to the worst, and you’re really not enjoying it, you’ll very likely be able to transfer from the medicine course onto a similar scientific undergraduate course- such as biomedical science, and just slot into their cohort.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a doctor isn’t going to be worth it for absolutely everyone. But if you’re seriously considering the question, and are on the fence, then I’d suggest it almost definitely would be for you.

If I had my time again I wouldn’t even consider not studying medicine- although I would hopefully do a better job cooking for myself in halls the second time around…

In my humble opinion becoming a doctor is absolutely worth it and you almost certainly won’t regret getting that spot at medical school.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.