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Considering leaving med school. Looking for different viewpoints.

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by MedTG, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. MedTG

    MedTG Muppet of a Man. 5+ Year Member

    Jul 28, 2011
    Hello everyone! I am currently an M2 and am strongly considering leaving med school. My reason is primarily because I really have no interest in clinical medicine. I first realized this about a year ago upon coming back from winter break. I would like to precede any further comment by saying that I have multiple years of clinical experience working in a hospital. I have also grown up in a family involved in medicine, which has given me the opportunity to shadow many specialties. Prior to med school I spent extensive time shadowing surgeons, anesthesia, pathologists, rads, medicine, OB, etc. I feel I am very aware of the options and what life as a doctor is like.

    I entered medical school with a pretty good idea that I wanted to do Pathology or Diagnostic Radiology. Both fields interest me more than any other field of medicine, and have minimal patient interaction. I am an extroverts introvert in the sense that I interact well with people, but do not particularly like being around people.

    I also entered medicine realizing that for me it was not my passion. I have many interests and hobbies, but none of them are the type of activities I can make a living off of, so for me medicine was something I figured could be intellectually stimulating enough to be bearable as a job, but would mainly be what I do to allow me to partake in the things I am really passionate about. Yet another reason Path and Rads interest me.

    That being said, I am encountering the same lack of initiative and interest after this winter break as I did last year, which has really continued since then. This has been exacerbated by having to learn the physical exam and beginning work with patients, since I have no interest in any of it. I am doing just fine in all my classes, but focusing and studying is quite the chore.

    My language makes it sound like I am decided, but my dilemma mainly comes from what my other options are. At this point I have the debt for 1.5 years of med school, and my previous degrees offer no job opportunities (I have a humanities background). I have considered looking into another field entirely, assuming it would allow me to finish school and begin working sooner than med school would. I am also curious about options an MD degree would offer if I did not pursue a residency.

    Regardless, I need some plan to get to a career if I leave medicine. I have always really enjoyed math and have strongly considered CPA. Pharmacy seemed like a possibility, but from talking to some administrators it seems like that would still be 4 more years.

    As I said at the beginning of this post, I am looking for realistic opinions and ideas. I appreciate everyone taking the time to read this, as I know we all have busy schedules.
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  3. loltopsy

    loltopsy 2+ Year Member

    Nov 28, 2012
    You like rad/path and don't like patients. That's fine. You suck it up for a little while until you can match into what you want to do for the rest of your life. Clinical rotations are only a year and a few months since you can sub I into rad/path in 4th year. And if you like math/physics, there's always radiation oncology.

    Starting over at a new school for an unrelated field is nuts. You may have grass is greener syndrome and decide you soon hate the idea of being a CPA. There's also consulting jobs you can get with an MD.

    Stop thinking about how much things suck now and just look forward when you can match into what you want. I'm only half way into 1st year, and I've had to do that several times.
    fastlane likes this.
  4. TheWeeIceMan

    TheWeeIceMan And like that... *poof*... he's gone. 7+ Year Member

    Apr 8, 2009
    Maybe you could try your hand at consulting firms. I believe some of the high end firms have paths for MDs. Landing one of these jobs is by no means a sure thing, though.

    You might want to look into a leave of absence to get your head on straight and figure out if you want to continue with medicine or not.
  5. BurghStudent

    BurghStudent lurker 7+ Year Member

    Jan 19, 2009
    The MD is probably the most versatile degree there is. Stick with it. Don't let the next couple of years influence what you do for a life time. By the time you're in residency, you'll have found the medium of less patient interaction you've been looking for. And as you probably know, many would kill to be in your shoes.
  6. thefritz

    thefritz thefritz 2+ Year Member

    Oct 28, 2009
    people on this board are obsessed with professional careers. in the old days you graduated college with a liberal arts degree and got an entry level position at a company somewhere. didn't really matter what you studied in college or what the job was or what the company's product was. it was entry level and they trained you and you pretty much took what you could get. you could still do this if you wanted to. but why? leaving med school to take an entry level position at some private company? it's just a job at that point and way to make a living. in terms of "just a job" medicine will provide a lot more opportunity. if you don't want the responsibility and prefer a 9-5 where you can call in sick and nobody cares, that's understandable and a big reason why a lot of people don't want to do it. but otherwise, finish.
  7. MedTG

    MedTG Muppet of a Man. 5+ Year Member

    Jul 28, 2011
    I have considered a leave of absence, and would probably do that if loans somehow magically did not continue to accrue interest during that time. Now, if someone walked up to me with a check that would allow me to just pay back all my debt and walk away right now, I would take that option in a heartbeat. When I say I like Path/Rads, it is more of a preference over other specialties, but still very much an ambivalence. Consulting would be much more appealing than clinical medicine if it were more of a sure thing.

    loltopsy: Why do you feel pursuing another field is such an awful idea? I have no doubt you have solid reasoning there, but would be curious to know more. There may be some elements of a grass is greener thought, but for the most part I would just like something that will get me out of school in less than six years, allow me to pay back my debts and move on.
  8. TheWeeIceMan

    TheWeeIceMan And like that... *poof*... he's gone. 7+ Year Member

    Apr 8, 2009
    Some people can't fathom the idea that one would not want to become a physician. You need to do what is best for yourself. I understand that having more interest will suck if you take a leave, but in my opinion, it would be worth it. It is possible that when you take a step out of the medical school oven, you will find that you would really like to continue (or maybe not, idk). Basically, I think taking a step back will hopefully prevent you from making a rash decision that you regret later.

    Good luck. I'm sure this is pretty rough on you.
  9. MedTG

    MedTG Muppet of a Man. 5+ Year Member

    Jul 28, 2011
    For sure. It definitely weighs on me. More so because it is really tough to get motivated every day. I feel like the leave of absence would really just stress me out even more since I would be putting myself more in the hole, and I would have no money to do anything during that time. I also really don't think I would be able to come back if I left. I feel like it would be very similar to coming back after the summer or the winter break. Perhaps not, though. I do also plan on talking to a counselor, as well as the folks at the school.

    I really appreciate the honest thoughts, and sincere advice.
  10. path4life

    path4life 2+ Year Member

    Jan 13, 2014
    Something you may want to consider is a one year post-sophomore fellowship in pathology. Many schools offer them and those that do often will take outside applicants if your school doesn't have one. They are an excellent way to see what working in pathology would be like (which is very different from shadowing). Most programs offer some combination of clinical service responsibilities (in which you would essentially function at the level of a beginning resident) and research opportunities. Many offer financial compensation for the year (often 20K+) and would allow you more time to think and reflect than the usual med school curriculum permits. If you do one of these programs you would also be very marketable in the match and would put you in a position to more or less pick your residency if you choose path. If you choose another field, it would still be beneficial and lead to some great pubs that could help you match rads, etc. If you are interested in applying for a post-soph, you could likely still grab a spot for this coming year (starting late June/early July) or you could apply for after your third year. It would mean taking an extra year, but I think it would be a great way to explore a possible career while minimizing financial hardship, especially if pathology is in the running.

    I had a similar trajectory to you (not 100% sure on med school, never liked the physical exam, contemplated radiology for awhile, etc.) and doing one of these programs completely sold me on path. Please PM me if I can be of any help. Good luck!
  11. thefritz

    thefritz thefritz 2+ Year Member

    Oct 28, 2009
    Truth. Especially our parents' generation where the top kids in school went to college and the top kids in college went to law school or med school. It was widely thought that everyone wanted to be a doctor or lawyer because that's where the money was, and if you weren't a doctor or a lawyer, it's because you couldn't cut it academically, not because you didn't want to. Our generation is completely different, more focused on pursuing one's dreams and having an enjoyable lifestyle. There is somewhat of an anti-intellectual zeitgeist going on in the country where people no longer view highly educated professionals as a universal ideal but rather as just another member of society right along with tradesmen like machinists and welders. Intelligent youth today have far less of a push or stigma associated with not pursuing higher education if what they really want to do is something like a trade that doesn't require college or grad school. Also, there is a large influx of lower IQ individuals pursuing college and even graduate education now. Interesting 180 our culture has taken. It's also the source of a lot of tension between our parents' generation and our generation, to whom the terms blue collar and white collar don't really mean anything. When a med student wants to drop out of school and do something less respectable (to them) that pays far less, the parents flip out.
  12. SouthernSurgeon

    SouthernSurgeon Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Yup. These types of threads tend to go two ways (1) a bunch of people who can't conceive of a career outside of medicine tell the OP to suck it up and keep going, (2) a bunch of people with no experience tell the OP it's easy to get a lucrative consulting job with their medical background.
  13. happygilmore


    Aug 27, 2013
    Well, there are other possibilities.

    Anyway, M1/M2 are pretty terrible, so in that respect I would say to stick it out IF you can see yourself as happy in path/rads as you would be as a CPA or something else.

    On the other hand, if you don't see them as at least equivalent in satisfaction and you would have much more joy and affinity in another career then quitting now would be advised.

    Medical school is pretty rough and being a resident will be challenging too. Other jobs ARE challenging but generally aren't as demanding as medicine.

    If you don't care too much about earning 100k or more, then you should be able to do just fine in the business world.

    With all that said, I think if anyone worked like a surgeon has to work in the business world, they could have equivalent success very easily. 80 hrs of work hours + study time just isn't seen in many business jobs. If you dedicate yourself for 5-10 years like any top medical student would have to - AND you have the business skills (social skills) then it's possible. This probably won't apply to the OP though as you've labeled yourself an introvert. Most successful business people are extroverts. Earning 100k or so still should be possible for the OP, average CPA earns just below that.

    Safest choice is to go on a leave of absence and start the new career. Sometimes people take a year off of medical school, recharge, gain perspective and then realize they were burned out, then feel good enough to finish their MD.

    Good Luck! Best advice: Be yourself instead of trying to do what everyone expects you to do.

    Which is why parents or other people's opinions of you should stay out of this decision making process. That's one sure way to misery, trying to please everyone.
  14. Smokemont

    Smokemont 2+ Year Member

    May 23, 2012
    In the mountains
    And do you think being a CPA will be intellectually stimulating enough? You like math? What kind of math have you been exposed to in your humanities background that makes you think you will enjoy accounting?

    With all due respect, let me be blunt. You likely have no idea what any career is actually like. This is not your fault. You claim to have had great exposure and a great understanding of medicine before you made the choice to make it your career, and now you want out. So, you ended up making the wrong choice and a horrible mistake about the career that you were most knowledgeable about and now you want to just choose another one? So you go back to school for a couple more years studying accounting and "math" and you find out, wow, this sucks too. If you truly do just want to work to pay your bills and spend most of your time with other hobbies you are passionate about then what do you need? Time and money. <=40 hrs/wk and enough money to live comfortable and support whatever hobbies you enjoy. The first jobs that come to mind would be dentistry, pharmacy, and medicine. Your already half way done with m2 and will be able to tailor most of m4 to whatever you want. Suck it up for now and get to residency. Make an informed decision about path or rads based on talking to pathologists or radiologists. If thats no good then do something like FM and work 4 days/wk in an urgent care or something. Make 100k and live your life.

    The vast majority of jobs suck. The grass is not greener. Don't just throw away the most versatile and well paying degree there is. Take some time off if you can and need to.
  15. PharMed2016

    PharMed2016 Eternal Scholar Physician Pharmacist 7+ Year Member

    Nov 2, 2008
    Personally, I would recommend finishing the MD. You have already invested a significant amount of time and money into the degree. It will only open doors for you in the future. With that said, have you considered a PhD? You might even be able to switch over depending on whether your school offers such a program. As for pharmacy; prospects aren't especially good nowadays given recent expansion of pharmacy schools in face of decreasing demand. Being a physician has a lot more job security.

    PS. Pharmacy is moving towards requiring PGY-1 training for a basic staff position and PGY-2 for specialty. That's 5-6 additional years. Might as well finish medicine.
  16. speeddemon

    speeddemon Banned Banned Account on Hold 2+ Year Member

    Feb 6, 2013
    Pathology has a horrible job market if the forums can be trusted.

    If you can get radiology in the area you want to work, that would be the ideal situation in my opinion.
  17. NickNaylor

    NickNaylor Thank You for Smoking Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    May 22, 2008
    Deep in the heart of Texas
    I don't mean to minimize what you're feeling, but in all honesty what you're describing is, I think, more common among your peers than you might be appreciating. What you're describing in terms of studying becoming a chore is me almost to the T a year ago. You're approaching what I would say is the hardest part of med school... you've been slaving away for 1.5 years memorizing who-gives-a-**** for no real gain, a bunch of frustration, and perhaps the feeling of completely wasting your time, especially when you might see friends doing other things that at the moment are substantially more appealing. The pre-clinical years are an "investment" which yields very little immediate return but requires significant up-front costs. Whether people admit or not, I'd say a good chunk of med students - perhaps even a majority - feel what you're feeling at some point.

    I say all that to simply make the point that before you quit - should that be the decision you come to - be as sure as you possibly can that you're able to differentiate the acute stress of med school with the more chronic problem of not liking medicine generally and the fields you're interested in specifically. A couple people above make the good point that part of med school is simply sucking it up and getting through it until you get to the point where you get to do what you're actually interested in doing. That's part of the reality of med school; for everyone, variable portions of med school are completely useless with respect to your ultimate career with the exception of giving you the insight to know which fields you enjoy and which you don't. I would say, though, that third year has on the whole been more enjoyable than MS2, though given what you included in your post that may not be all that true for you.

    It would suck if you decide to quit and then later realize (or even just question) that you may have actually liked it after all. I don't have much advice other than to do some serious reflecting and soul-searching to try and figure out which one of the two camps above you fall into. During MS2 I was have pretty regular thoughts of wanting to quit because I was feeling so utterly unfulfilled with the daily grind, and even in third year that thought enters my mind occasionally. But, looking back, it's obvious to me that that was more the product of the ****tiness of the pre-clinical grind rather than me not actually liking medicine. I wasn't able to see it in the moment then, but in retrospect it's obvious. Unfortunately that's the whole crux of this shebang, though - you won't really know until you potentially waste more time and money to find out.

    If you've thought about it and perhaps spoken with some physicians whose opinion you trust and are confident in your decision - whatever it may be - then you should do it. Pursue what will fulfill you most, but understand that every job is going to have its negative aspects. It's all about being practical (i.e., not spending a decade and tons of money switching from field to field to figure out what you're "passionate" about and "truly love") and finding a career that maximizes the upside while minimizing the downside. If that for you is medicine, great. If not, great - and go do what you think is.
    MedTG likes this.
  18. MedTG

    MedTG Muppet of a Man. 5+ Year Member

    Jul 28, 2011
    I minored in math and have tutored in math since high school. I took roughly through linear algebra as math has been an interest of mine since I was very young. A family member of mine also pursued degrees in business, and I helped them understand the accounting classes that they were required to take. I actually keep calculus books around just because I enjoy doing the problems from time to time. Yeah, I'm crazy. The information did not seem pertinent to the original post which is why I did not provide it. I appreciate your honest opinion, but I would be curious to know what makes you qualified to know that most jobs suck and that none are better than medicine.

    Also, I think you may have missed the part of the original post where I mentioned that I have shadowed in both Path and Rads (multiple hospitals and multiple doctors at each). It was one large advantage to having a considerable gap between my masters and med school. Lots of time to actually see what real life for different specialties is like. I apologize for the defensive tone, but you can probably imagine that your post may make someone feel that way.

    @happygilmore - I appreciate your evaluation, and I totally agree. The main thing holding me back at this point is what next move could provide money to pay back loans and allow for a good lifestyle. I am pretty much ambivalent towards medicine. I regret putting both path and rads down as interest. If I continue with medicine, I will go into Path.

    As for the business idea, that would be relatively enjoyable. I am actually very adept socially, I just don't enjoy being around other people. It often surprises people because I am outgoing and affable at social events and in conversation, I just would prefer to not interact with people unless it is necessary.

    @path4life - That is very interesting. I have never heard of that option before. It may be something to consider. I know my school doesn't have a program, so living expenses would likely be an issue. My real dilemma isn't if I like Path though, it is more of an indifference to medicine.

    @speeddemon - That is very interesting. I have heard the job prospects for radiology are waning pretty heavily. I have not heard path was tough to find work in.
  19. MedTG

    MedTG Muppet of a Man. 5+ Year Member

    Jul 28, 2011
    I barely recognized you without the Scrubs avatar!

    You make a very solid point. To be completely honest, entering the clinical years is what engendered my dilemma. I honestly do not mind the work of M1 and M2 (aside from the clinical stuff/physical exam). If the rest of the training was all books and tests where I didn't have to show up, I would be quite happy with that. In that sense I do think I am a bit different than many other med students. I really do not feel like I am missing out on much socially, mainly because I am not very social to begin with. I do not feel like I am completely wasting my time, as I am learning things that would have practical use. I just have no real drive to get to the next step of the process.

    I definitely agree on the career hopping and wasting more time and money, that is why I would have to find something new to pursue before I quit medicine. Being a doctor really holds no inherent value for me. I would like to find something that gets me out of school sooner and allows me to pay back the debt. Unfortunately that is easier said than done, especially since my undergrad and masters are in relatively useless fields. Fortunately I had scholarships for them and only have debt for med school (although that debt is already probably more than those degrees cost in cash). Whatever I would leave medicine to do, I would have to stick with though.

    I would enjoy speaking with folks who waffled and stayed in, as well as people who have left and done well, but finding those people is tough; especially the ones that leave medicine.
  20. PharMed2016

    PharMed2016 Eternal Scholar Physician Pharmacist 7+ Year Member

    Nov 2, 2008
    From what I've heard about radiology, its prospects are waning as pointed out by the OP. Now, interventional radiology is something that you may need to keep your eye on but there is always the never ending tug of war between the specialties for cases.

    PS. One the Path forums, look for BU Pathology - Dr. Remick's post regarding employment.
  21. cluckcluck

    cluckcluck 2+ Year Member

    Jun 16, 2011
    PM me. I can tell you my experience personally with many details, don't want to hijack this thread though.
  22. michaelrack

    michaelrack All In at the wrong time Physician SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Memphis TN
    Finance would probably be a more suitable field for you than accounting- more math involve. You may want to consider a Masters in Finance or an MBA with an emphasis on Finance/Accounting
  23. peonies3030

    peonies3030 2+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2011
    if u dont know what you want to do, then u should stick with what you are doing. U can do things after finishing ur degree. u are almost half way through it. There is so much u can do after you get your degree that does not involve medicine or patients. U can get ur mba afterwards as well, which will give u more options. If you really want to quit regardless, then u should make that decision yourself. I don't think anyone really would know what is good for u except u.
  24. Trismegistus4

    Trismegistus4 Worried Wellologist Physician 10+ Year Member

    Jul 22, 2003
    Location: Location
    Seconded. I agonized a lot over how much I hated medical school and felt I didn't belong there on SDN back in 2009-2010, when I was in 3rd year, and became known around here as a thread hijacker. I'm now a PGY3 psychiatry resident. MedTG, feel free to PM me.
  25. MedTG

    MedTG Muppet of a Man. 5+ Year Member

    Jul 28, 2011
    This hurts my brain.

    @michaelrack Thank you very much for weighing in. I think that makes a lot of sense. I have always seen myself eventually getting an MBA anyway.

    @trismegistus I appreciate it, and will PM you in the near future.
    southernIM likes this.
  26. histidine

    histidine 2+ Year Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    Consulting, as the name suggests, involves a lot of interaction with team members and clients. If you don't like interacting with people, consulting is not for you. When you start off in consulting, your duties may be more on the analytical end, but as you move up the ranks, your duties will involve managing your team, keeping clients paying, and giving presentations to higher-ups and making them happy.
    Elewynne likes this.
  27. happygilmore


    Aug 27, 2013
    With all due respect, 50-100k in debt is a small small small price to pay to do what you want.

    I wouldn't factor money in any way to this decision. If you can stick it out in medicine - even if it's "blah" right now, you may want to try - or at least do a leave of absence (best of both worlds, allows you to quit and have the option to come back). The issue with business, is unless you are truly passionate about it, you'll very likely find another "blah" job in business. I guess the benefit is that business won't demand more than 50 hrs a week. Medical school and residency require much more than that for many people, depending how intelligent you are.

    I would feel fine with either choice if I were you. I never really decided to quit, but I certainly felt like M1/M2 were really ****ty. Clinical years are far less ****ty.

    I'm not saying you're suicidal, but I've known people who hated this field so much to the point of suicide - you only get ONE life. You want to be passionate and excited about what you do. <100k is a small price to pay for a lifetime to do what you want to do. Again, the grass is not always greener. You've find equivalent levels of satisfaction in business and medicine. So it's a personality issue, what do you like more? Everyone who is successful in any field works their ass off. Steve Jobs said that once, "you have to love it, that's the only way you can work so hard." (paraphrase)
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2014
  28. Silent Cool

    Silent Cool Member Banned 10+ Year Member

    Jan 30, 2005
    What about CRNA or a 3-year PharmD program? Dentistry?
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2014
  29. Dral

    Dral Physician PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jan 8, 2009
  30. zeppelinpage4

    zeppelinpage4 7+ Year Member

    May 16, 2009
    N=1, but I had a cousin that realized midway through medical school that he was more interested in business. He took an extra year and got an MBA (some med schools might even offer MD/MBA dual degrees if I recall). Then he got a job in the business field right after graduation, forgot the details, but I think he does some kind of consulting for drug companies or research labs (I could be way off). Anywho, he was able to do something completely different with his MD/MBA, and the MD actually helped a bit because he was still in the field of medicine/science which really is a broad field. I don't think he needs to go on to residency at this point either.

    Maybe you can do a masters with your MD? And then spend a year after med school to pursue what you want with the masters. If that doesn't work out, you at least have the MD to fall back on and you can start residency. Just an idea...but I don't actually know much about this stuff or if it's plausible.
  31. Aminex


    Jun 11, 2012
    Fellow Humanities graduate/eternal wanderer here. I wish you the best of luck but, for me, it's my experiences out "in the cold" that are driving me back to medicine. It's like the Scared Straight shows back in the day when prisoners would yell at troubled teens about how they would be tossing salad for life if they wound up there. Laid off twice in less than 2 years, had to cashier at Wal-Mart briefly to make mortgage, things look up then down then up. I know medicine is not immune to these vagaries and U.S. healthcare in general is in a huge down moment since the profiteers are getting nervous. When hospital administration/1%er Aetna CEO/etc. shiver, the rest of us convulse. However, you can't layoff a license and no matter how grim it gets, a licensed professional--especially a physician--will get by. Look at the emerging trends of concierge medicine. Granted, that would take some serious extroversion and hustle but what a charmed life.

    It seems that only those that have reached the top and touch people are safe. By that I mean: not a midlevel at risk of changing legislation, radiologist at risk of worldwide undercutting via advanced technology, pathologist at risk of collapsing during the race to the bottom of high volumes, cut reimbursement, megalabs, etc., pharmacist threatened by irresponsible glut formation by schools et al. The second part (touching) is doing something that can evade outsourcing, commoditization or technological takeover. It's tough out there for anybody trying to do it from scratch. If you're hot for the statistics side of math, actuaries make serious bank (median $93K). It would be an odd twist of fate if you joined a health insurance company and your calculations wound up screwing the physician that might have been you :laugh:
  32. Kahreek

    Kahreek 2+ Year Member

    Jun 1, 2013
    Dont stupid, finish your med degree and get a path job or nuclear medicine or something very research focused.
  33. MerickManual


    Nov 30, 2013
    There is always administrative jobs, education, and political things you can get into once you're an MD.
  34. mycatishuge


    Apr 5, 2013
    If you like Math, you can consider getting a master's degree in biostatistics or economics now or preferably after third year (leave of absence), start working with people on projects, graduate from med school, and see if you want to do the statistics gig on a full-time basis. There is a paucity of physician-biostatisticians and physician-economists with actual training in economics and medicine. If you like pharm then you would have opportunities in pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics. You won't have to talk to people for most part (except for presentations which are a small fraction of your time). PM me if you want to know more about this.
  35. anony mini mouse

    anony mini mouse

    Jan 17, 2014
    I signed up for an account because no one else is telling you this.....accounting is less about the math and more about knowing the laws/principles governing the numbers. I'm a CPA so I feel qualified enough to say that the highest level of "math" per say that is needed is probably really just have to know how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and solve for x. And knowing excel is extremely helpful as well. That's not to say that the numbers are easy in, easy out. Sometimes you'll have entire excel workbooks just to calculate one number that you need. But, your equations in the worksheet aren't going to include logs, exponents, etc. They will more likely have the simple math functions with lots of nesting and some if/then statements.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that while accounting is math related, it is not math how you think it is. Most of the programs we use actually do most of the hard math work for us and we double check to make sure it's accurate, but the more important focus of our work is to make sure the numbers are what the law says they need to be.

    For an example, on business tax returns, the IRS says that only 50% of meals and entertainment expense is deductible. Well, what I do when I get that detailed list from the client is first, I of course check that all their math is right in totaling all the line items and multiplying by .5. But, the main thing I'm really looking at is whether or not the client classified those line items correctly. Like if they accidentally had a 100% deductible expense buried in there, we will do a reclassifying entry so that the client can get the full 100% benefit of taking that expense and not just 50%. We will also make sure that other expense accounts that are 100% deductible don't mistakenly include a meals and entertainment expense because that would be understating the tax liability. That's just a very simple example of what we really do, our work can actually get much, much more complex which is why people specialize and there are experts in about everything.

    The math is nothing like physics or chemistry. I would say that the area most similar to accounting is law, since it's really different sets of laws/legal standards (GAAP, IRS. Etc) that we are applying or makin sure that the client has adhered to. So there is actually quite a bit of questioning and lots of research. The largest difference (in my opinion!) between accountants and lawyers is in what the work end product is... With accountants it's usually numbers and a little writing, with lawyers it's all writing.

    Hope that helps!
  36. Kale01


    Jan 4, 2014
    I don't have an opinion one way or the other about OP dropping out, but an MD is not "the most versatile degree there is." Corporations do not look for MDs to do finance, i-banking, etc. The big consulting firms like McKinsey hire MDs, but they also hire undergrads, MBAs, etc. And they only accept 1% of applicants so it's extremely hard getting one of those consulting jobs (and much harder than getting into medical school).

    As for being an actuary, which someone brought up earlier in this thread - it's a stable job, but the exams are brutal, worse than med school exams. There are something like 6/7+ (maybe 9) exams to be an actuary. It's harder to qualify as an actuary than a doctor. My friend, who has a PhD in Mathematics from Stanford mind you, was gunning to be an actuary but after a couple exams, decided to be a CFA instead since the latter is much easier. If a PhD in Math from Stanford quit, I don't think just anyone can waltz in so easily and become an actuary.

    Either way, if OP stays or drops out, he will probably have to get another degree to be competitive in another field.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2014
  37. MedTG

    MedTG Muppet of a Man. 5+ Year Member

    Jul 28, 2011
    @anony mini mouse I appreciate the explanation, but I am well aware that you do not need to know integral calculus to be an accountant. It is more of the general features of the work that would appeal to me (e.g. the autonomy).

    @Kale01 I hear you. I would really enjoy being an actuary, but it is a tough market to crack. I would definitely need another degree to be competitive in another field, unless it is in a field I already hold a degree in. Both of my previous degrees are in humanities fields. Although that basically means you have a one way ticket to the back of the unemployment line.

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