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Engineer looking to go to Medical School

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Engineer89, Aug 22, 2015.

  1. Engineer89

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    Hello,

    My story thus far is as follows...I'm 26 years old and currently employed as a Mechanical Engineer. I've been thinking about going back to school to fulfill the Pre-Medical requirements and take the MCAT exam. My cumulative GPA in Mechanical Engineering was 3.63.

    From reading online, I need to take the following classes:
    Inorganic Chemistry (1 year) ... General Chemistry ( 1 semester ... I took Gen Chem I already)
    Organic Chemistry (1 year
    Biochemistry (1 semester)
    Biology (1 year)

    Do I need 1 year of Inorganic Chemistry or will General Chemistry II suffice since I took General Chemistry I during my schooling already?

    Currently I work an average of 40 to 50 hours a week. I believe I would have to somehow find a school in my area and hope they schedule classes from the above list in the evening so as not to interfere with work. Or...would online classes be suitable for the above? What classes listed above MUST have labs associated with them?

    Other questions I have pertaining to this endeavor are:
    Is my GPA high enough?
    Is my major suitable or does your undergraduate degree have no bearing on getting an interview for Medical School?
    How hard is the MCAT and what are its main focuses?
    Are the classes I listed above correct and what Biology classes would be best to take?
    What else am I missing or need to look at outside of school and work that would play a role into getting into a good school?

    My area of interests include: Otolaryngology, Neurosurgery, and Radiation Oncology.

    Thanks,
    Engineer89
     
    #1 Engineer89, Aug 22, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015
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  3. femmegoblue

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    You do not need to take an additional 1 year of inorganic. All you need to do is take that Gen Chem II since you already did Gen Chem I.
     
  4. femmegoblue

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    Also, Gen Chem I and II, Intro Bio and Orgo I and II must have labs. I assume you already did physics I and II, those also need labs.
     
  5. Engineer89

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    Yeah I did both Physics I and II. What Biology classes do you recommend to take?
     
  6. ChE04

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    Welcome. Before you take the leap I'd encourage you to seek out shadowing and/or volunteering experiences to see if you can see yourself doing this as a career. It's a very, very long path and it is not easy. Also note that your areas of interest are some of the most competitive in the field of medicine due to limited residency slots. You need to explore some of the less competitive specialties (ie, family medicine, internal medicine) which have more residency slots and thus are "easier" to get into, just in case. At this point you cannot count on being able to match into something ultra-competitive.

    In addition to the classes above you will also need physics, which you undoubtedly have already. The only classes you are required to have labs for are physics I & II, bio I & II, and chem I & II. As already stated above, you do not need inorganic chemistry.

    Is my GPA high enough?
    Yes.

    Is my major suitable or does your undergraduate degree have no bearing on getting an interview for Medical School?
    Yes.

    How hard is the MCAT and what are its main focuses?
    I took a different MCAT so will not comment on this except to say that it generally sucks pretty bad, but is probably the easiest "major" test you will take on your path to becoming a physician.

    Are the classes I listed above correct and what Biology classes would be best to take?
    Freshmen Biology I and II.

    What else am I missing or need to look at outside of school and work that would play a role into getting into a good school?
    Medicine is about service and to a lesser extent as a premed, leadership, so you need to show this on your application. Volunteer somewhere. Maybe you can spin your career as a leadership position depending on what you do. You also need some kind of clinical experience. For most people this will be some sort of medically related volunteering, for example at a local ER. Basically, get close to real patients however you can. Shadowing a physician is also something you should look into, it will give you some idea of what a physicians day is like. Research, while not necessary, will mark another check box that is valued moreso at research heavy institutions (ie, highly ranked in US News).

    Good luck.
     
  7. Engineer89

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    Yeah, volunteering and shadowing are definitely two things I need to look into. Which one plays a bigger role in getting into a Medical School? Research would be somewhat tough as I'm out of school and in a completely different field of sorts at the moment. Organic chemistry doesn't require a lab?

    My reason for listing those three specialties is due to the experience I've had this past year where I was in and out of the hospital for a multitude of things. I met multiple individuals in these professions aforementioned. I certainly feel that going into a position where I can help treat cancer is where I want to be in the medical field. But of course, I am open to other fields as well.

    I think one of my biggest questions for non-traditional students is: How did you all manage work and school? Did your workplace care that you were going to school to get out of what you are currently doing? I'm curious to see what the majority of people did in this regard. Because a lot of classes are taught during the day from what I am seeing.
     
    #6 Engineer89, Aug 22, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015
  8. ChE04

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    Yeah I forgot organic I and II labs also. You'll probably get more mileage out of volunteering, but you'll need some close contact with physicians too hence the shadowing. I saved up while I worked and so when I was ready to commit I quit my job to be a premed full time. Started volunteering in my free time before quitting though. I realize that's not an option for everyone. Research isn't really required except at research heavy schools. Don't forget about the letters of rec you'll need too.
     
  9. Engineer89

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    Is it possible to take any of the chemistry classes together in the same semester? Such as Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry? Certainly the faster it is accomplished the better. I would hate to wait 4 semesters to take just 6 classes. It would bode better that way if I were to do the same thing you did by quitting your job. I'm just a little hesitant to do that for this amount of time. Especially since the job I have correlates to my current degree. I was hoping there would be some school out there that would allow classes such as these to be taken online.
     
  10. ChE04

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    I believe organic chemistry is a prerequisite for biochemistry, and general chemistry I and II are prereqs for organic. You may be able to take biochem concurrent with organic II but that will be school specific. Back when I was applying there were only a few schools that absolutely required biochemistry (also statistics) so you may want to double check if you need it, although it would likely be helpful for the MCAT. Be careful trying to take too many classes at one time in addition to holding down a full time job. You have a solid GPA and it would be a shame to blemish it with sub-par performance in your post-bacc work. Have you tried looking at community colleges to see if they have class times more conducive to your schedule?
     
  11. Engineer89

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    I've looked at my old university class schedule and it looks like Organic Chemistry I and II and their associated labs could be workable considering they scheduled them in the afternoon. General Chemistry II may be possible at a community college in my area. I got to look and see. Biology I and II, I'm not so sure yet. I don't really see them on my school's schedule of classes. I do however see Genetics and Cell Biology. I've heard those are most beneficial from the Biology range of classes. Would these be considered more difficult than the freshman biology classes you had mentioned previously? I'll do some more research on Biochemistry and if it's needed. However, if it will be of benefit on the MCAT, I should probably look into taking it as you have suggested.
     
  12. echo-112

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    I'm an industrial engineer - I work in an academic setting for medical research so my work hours are flexible. It really helped with my classes for when a night class wasn't available.

    I'd recommend not taking classes at community college.

    I am currently taking biochemistry... it is needed at a *few schools, and the MCAT covers it. I took my year of biology I & II (+ lab) and gen chemistry I & II (+lab) together. Then I took O chem I & II (+lab) and wrote my MCAT at the same time. You might want to take or at least learn by yourself some sociology/psychology things b/c that's on the MCAT too.

    The MCAT is hard! It is designed to measure everyone on a normal distribution. But with practice and training, you can do well on it. I would consider studying for hte MCAT as much work as 2 semesters of a class. It's one of those things where you do your best at it, and your result still might come out as average. I would take a Kaplan/PR course for it. Well worth the money.

    Edit: also, your MCAT score is probably equally weighted to your overall GPA in terms of consideration my med schools. So its really important to at least hit a 'competitive' score, whatever it is.
     
  13. ChE04

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    For the biology requirement for medical school admissions you must take Bio I and II, or whatever the equivalent of freshman intro biology is at your institution. Check with the department if you have to. If you want to take genetics and cell bio in addition, that's up to you. But you will need the intro bio classes before you can take those anyway.

    A handful of classes taken at a community college is not a big deal given you already have a solid GPA, but it technically "looks better" to take classes at a 4 year university since they are perceived to be (and probably are 99% of the time) more rigorous. This would be more of a concern if your GPA was lower or if there was some question about your academic performance.
     
  14. cabinbuilder

    cabinbuilder Urgent Care Physician
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    You may want to message @JustPlainBill who was an engineer first.
     
  15. Goro

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    As of right now? Yes. The median GPA for MD matriculants is 3.7

    Is my GPA high enough?

    Nobody cares about your major, only that you do well.
    Is my major suitable or does your undergraduate degree have no bearing on getting an interview for Medical School?

    Check in with the MCAT forum. How hard is totally up to you.

    How hard is the MCAT and what are its main focuses?

    Yup.

    Are the classes I listed above correct and what Biology classes would be best to take?

    Shadowing, clinical volunteering and non-clinical volunteering. Whatever happened before college stays in high school, BTW. Basically, we want you to
    show AdComs that you know what you're getting into, and show off your altruistic, humanism side. We need to know that you're going to like being around sick or injured people for the next 40 years, and that you know what a doctor's day is like.

    What else am I missing or need to look at outside of school and work that would play a role into getting into a good school?

    Get into med school before thinking about specialties, especially the most competitive ones! Can you survive if you end up in Family Practice or ER? Because that might happen.
    My area of interests include: Otolaryngology, Neurosurgery, and Radiation Oncology.

    Thanks,
    Engineer89[/QUOTE]
     
    gyngyn likes this.
  16. Engineer89

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    How does the route to becoming a board certified doctor work exactly? What are the steps so to speak? I assume that most people go to medical school knowing what field they want to specialize in when all is said and done. Once medical school finishes, you go onto residency and a fellowship if need be. Is your residency field always in the area in which you want to specialize in? Do you switch medical fields during your residency to explorer more medical options? Please elaborate on this process as I'm very curious as to what point in your career it is set in stone as to where you end up in your career as a doctor.

    I do understand that I need to be open to other career endeavors or specialties within the medical field besides the ones I listed. One question that I have in regards to that note is how often would you say in your experiences throughout school that your fellow peers route changed throughout medical school and residency because of the level of competition being very high for certain fields?
     
    #15 Engineer89, Aug 29, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2015
  17. gyngyn

    gyngyn Professor
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    You will decide on a specialty in the 3rd year of medical school (for the most part).
    Depending on your USMLE scores, research, clinical grades and personal qualities, your school will help you decide if you can devise a successful strategy for the desired specialty or whether a parallel plan is indicated. Many of the programs in the fields you listed do not interview applicants below a pretty high threshold.
    The Match is a commitment to at least a year in the program into which you are matched.
    Completely switching specialties is uncommon after the Match. "Switching specialties" in the first three years of medical school is very common.
    Fellowships are served after residency for those who are eligible for and desire further training. Most fellowships require successful completion of an accredited residency in a particular field.
    Board certification is predicated upon successful completion of an accredited residency. Some specialties only have a written Board examination. Others (like mine) have a stepwise process that starts with a written exam, followed by submission of an acceptable case list that shows depth and breadth of unsupervised practice and ultimately, passage of an oral exam by multiple examiners. Maintenance of certification will require interval testing.
     
    #16 gyngyn, Aug 29, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2015
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  18. Engineer89

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    I have a question in regards to the competitiveness of a specific field. In Medical School, everyone takes the same exams, right? So when you say 'Can you survive if you end up in Family Practice or ER?' is that assuming that one's ambition is less than others? Guess I'm a little confused by what you mean there because I would go into something full bore, study hard, etc. Same as I did in Engineering and try my absolute hardest to accomplish the goal I set for myself. So in regards to that, are you saying that there are good amount of people who go towards some specialized surgical field but end up in Family Practice because their commitment to achieve their goal wasn't as strong as they first thought? Do elaborate on what you mean here because I am interested.
     
  19. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion
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    Cart-horse misorder alert.

    I suggest you're overthinking. I suggest you're expecting clean answers but your questions are way ahead of yourself. Let go of needing to understand everything right now. Get your butt in a hospital as a volunteer so you can start to form a slow, three dimensional, maybe nuanced perspective on medical practice. 4 hrs a week until you know whether it's a good idea for you to keep going (and then much more than 4 hrs a week, if you decide you're serious).

    Diving into coursework is fine but it's premature until you spend a lot of time with medical professionals. It's not like engineering where you go to school for 2-3 years before you get to do an internship. Clinical volunteering is available and identical for premeds, prenurses etc.

    All of us who career changed had to do the exact same things the 19 year olds have to do to get into med school. That means working as a bottom level stretcher pusher in order to earn access to the people who MIGHT help us form a realistic picture of how to address our own special snowflake needs and wants.

    Get some time around sick people and their patients (lol!) before you think about how to get a residency.

    Best of luck to you.
     
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  20. Engineer89

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    I'll start to volunteer at hospitals soon enough. I'm currently scouting some local universities and getting ready to apply to see their class schedules to see which has the most flexible hours. Once I got that down, I'll proceed onward. Please elaborate on what is more important in regards to getting into Medical School as a non-traditional student. I mean clearly it should be evident that most are working full-time jobs in their current/past career as they take classes and tests in order to get into the Medical School of their choosing. I understand the MCAT and GPA score's go hand in hand and are on an equal level in terms of gauging one's ability. But how much is the clinical volunteering experience looked upon? Does the applicant list the amount of hours they volunteered typically? The more the better? What exactly is looked at on the application form so to speak in regards to the volunteering experience? I'm only asking these questions now because of my work schedule and hours worked each week will clearly govern how much time I have to utilize between that, school, studying, and volunteering. Is the volunteering experience looked on as much as the MCAT and GPA score? What about personal experience in regards to why one wants to become a doctor? As you can see I have a couple questions still to ask but I need to exhaust everything on my mind before I go planning anything. Here is the best place to do that. Thanks for all the responses thus far, I appreciate the words of wisdom.
     
  21. Engineer89

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  22. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion
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    Nope. Online classes have two fundamental problems for med school admissions. One: there are med schools that won't accept them. Two: you need letters of recommendation which generally require you to meet your teachers.

    How did it go over the weekend with reviewing the websites of hospitals and free clinics near you, to get started with volunteering?
     
  23. Engineer89

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    From what I'm seeing the exams are proctored, so I think this university is rated pretty high in regards to its online program. Why would it matter if the classes were online or not? The main point is to complete the pre reqs and take the mcat in order to get interviews. Also, i have taken many online classes for classes outside of engineering and those don't show up on a transcript as an online course. You have a good point about letters of recommendation. I believe i read I need at least two. I would certainly ask a supervisor for one since they know my work ethic and drive the best. Does the professor who writes the recommendation need to be the teacher of a chemistry or biology class?

    Haven't started looking into volunteering just yet. First and most important thing is to find a school that is right for me and will fit into my work schedule. How important is volunteering for a non traditional student? Not saying I won't volunteer, just curious as to how many hours volunteered is a general amount people get before medical school.
     
  24. echo-112

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    certain schools do not accept online courses. If you took your biology/chemistry online, to these schools, you did not do the requirements. They will not accept you, they will not consider you (but they will take your application fee).

    First and most important thing is understanding what you are getting yourself into. Which is why the volunteering is important.
     
  25. Dullhead

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    You're trying to fight the system and it won't work. Reality is that some schools will take online courses, others won't. You have to figure out if the risk is worth it, or if the number of schools that do take online coursework is large enough that you have a good shot.

    As to the volunteering, DrMidlife provided an answer.
    The number of hours is anywhere from 250 to 2500. Head over the WAMC forum in pre-allo and take a look at the number of hours others are posting, and you'll have a good idea. Then head over to the Reapplicants section and browse some threads to get an idea of how common it is to get rejected for lacking "clinical experience".
     
  26. DrMidlife

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    This would be a good time for the OP to buy and read the MSAR. And get a look at the FACTS tables on AAMC to get a grip on odds. Such as the
    55%+ rejection rate.

    Unless this is an impulse control situation. We get that a lot around here.
     
  27. Engineer89

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    Alright I'll start emailing different medical school admissions and ask some of these questions to hopefully clarify everything.
     
  28. gyngyn

    gyngyn Professor
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    No.
    Buy the MSAR.
    There is a good chance that the person answering the email is a work study student who will refer you there for the real answer anyway.
     
  29. Engineer89

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    I did just find out the university I graduated from does not accept virtual online lab courses. Throw's that idea out the window then. I did however just apply to a university somewhat near to me. I hear it is very good for students who work full time jobs because they are very accommodating and have quite a selection of night classes.

    You are referring to this book? https://members.aamc.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?Action=Add&ObjectKeyFrom=1A83491A-9853-4C87-86A4-F7D95601C2E2&WebCode=PubDetailAdd&DoNotSave=yes&ParentObject=CentralizedOrderEntry&ParentDataObject=Invoice%20Detail&ivd_formkey=69202792-63d7-4ba2-bf4e-a0da41270555&ivd_prc_prd_key=30722A06-1290-43C4-AC3E-E188DA816E7F

    Anything else you recommend I look into buying to give me more of an idea of what is needed/expected of someone entering Medical School?
     
  30. BluMist

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    @gyngyn was referring to the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) @ https://services.aamc.org/msar/home, which as the name suggests, will list all the requirements you need to know.
     
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  31. Engineer89

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    During undergrad, I took General Chemistry I with the lecture on campus and the lab online. Now if I continue down this path, is that one online lab going to harm my chances of getting into a medical school if I were to take the remainder of the chemistry and biology classes needed fully on campus? I also took the electives online as well (did not care much for the humanities and social sciences at the time). This shouldn't harm me per say, just thought I'd throw it out there seeing as how the new MCAT incorporates some of these classes into the exam. I will certainly start looking at places near me in which I can volunteer and get some good knowledge and experience into what a Doctor does on a day-to-day basis. First and foremost, I need to find out if it is even possible to incorporate the classes I need into my current work schedule. Based on what I'm told about this university, I shouldn't have much of a problem. I applied and am waiting for an acceptance email so I can log in and do some investigating of my own.

    In regards to a non-traditional student's career change...I'm sure this is probably one of the first questions asked in the interview process. So I'm curious myself if anyone wants to share their story of why they changed career paths and how they like the adjustment thus far.

    Update: I noticed on the MSAR for some schools I've looked into via their websites prior to buying the online pass for the MSAR website, that some item's don't necessarily match up. The main item I have a question over is Inorganic Chemistry. Both schools I have looked at called for one full year of Inorganic Chemistry. But yet on the school's website it called for General Chemistry + lab (1 full year). Now I believe Inorganic Chemistry is a separate class. Could someone clarify if these two classes are the same and if I were to take General Chemistry II + Lab, if that were to count towards the 1 full year of Inorganic Chemistry + Lab?
     
    #30 Engineer89, Sep 2, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2015
  32. Meridian32

    Physician 10+ Year Member

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    For the purposes of med school admissions, inorganic and general chemistry are the same.

    I'm also a former engineer (software engineer) who is now an intern (1st year resident) in internal medicine at a large West Coast university hospital. It's been a good transition so far and I enjoy what I do most days. I second what has been said above about learning as much as possible about what being a doctor is actually like before making the leap. However, I personally found hospital volunteering very boring and did a total of maybe 40 hrs of it before quitting. Now that I am a doctor, I can say that being a doctor is much more challenging and interesting than hospital volunteering. What I found most useful was talking to actual doctors and my advice would be to reach out to friends of friends who are doctors and take them out to lunch and have them tell you about the pros and cons of their work. Volunteering is definitely a key part of the med school application and successful applicants do a lot of it, even while working full time, but know that it does not need to be hospital volunteering to count.
     
  33. DrMidlife

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    Misleading. Sometimes there's an upper div chemistry class called inorganic chem, same level of work as physical chemistry. These are subfields within the chemistry profession.

    And they are not med school prereqs.

    When people call general chem "inorganic" chem what they mean is that it's the chem you take before organic chem. It's general. You learn the periodic table etc.

    Most schools have a pre-health adviser or advising website that lists the coursework for premeds. Take those variants of the prereqs. The only real choices at a given school are whether to do honors (if eligible) or to do calculus-based physics vs. non-calculus physics. A separate issue is which biochem or which microbio, if you choose to take those classes as well (recommended!).
     
  34. Engineer89

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    How old is the typical doctor when he/she finishes their residency/fellowship and is board certified? If I had to guess, I would say around 34 years old. I would assume the typical medical student graduates at the age of 26 or 27 and undergoes a residency of 5 to 6 years. Any input on this?
     
    #33 Engineer89, Sep 5, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2015
  35. SantaFe99

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    Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
    Hi Guys;
    I am a 40 year old network engineer working for a fortune 10 company making good money and living a comfortable life, I have a passion of becoming a medical doctor and I want to get into it or at-least try my best, have no medical education however have done Masters of Engineering and while googling for how and where to start I stumbled upon this forum and thought of asking any help and/or guidance I can get.

    Reading through some of the responses tells me that it is doable, can I please get a response from someone on this forum who have actually done it i.e. from Engineer to Medical Doctor transition and may be we can do a 1:1 conversation and I can get some of my questions answered
     
  36. echo-112

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2014
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    68
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    Status:
    Pre-Medical
    Hi SantaFe99, I did engineering and also my MS. I'm 31 and I'm going through my pre-med phase right now. I've had a slow transition towards medicine. After my MS degree, I started working in medical research. It gave me the flexibility and exposure to pursue my pre-med courses and prepare for my MCAT.

    Your situation will probably be different from mine. You have less time, more money! I don't know how certain you are in your career switch, but I would spend some time with doctors to see if you really understand what the new career involves. Like, spend time around sick people (volunteering?), spend time shadowing doctors, spend some time reflecting on why you want to be a doctor.

    The decision should not be taken lightly - someone might feel passion to support their nation and protect their rights, but when they are landing on a beach in Europe and it is cold and they just **** their pants because countless machine guns are firing at them, and the water is red with blood and death, they probably will feel otherwise.

    If you are certain, then I would take the plunge and enroll in a formal post-bacc program. They are expensive but you can finish your pre-med requirements in a year and start MD school in another year... OR you could even go to a post-bacc that offers immediate acceptance into med school, so it only takes a year to transition!
     

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