Jun 9, 2020
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Hello,
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology and minoring in Public Health and Chemistry. I just finished my second year. I was pre-med when I first entered college, but am now thinking about going to grad school for a PhD for a few reasons:
  • I have a deep interest in cell biology, biochemistry, and organic chemistry and would love to explore these subjects through grad school. I don’t think I would like memorizing the massive volume of information that med students do.
  • I have a passion for tutoring undergrads and helping students understand science concepts. I think I would enjoy being a professor and lecturing. I’ve been told by many that I would make a good teacher.
  • I am also interested in research and a PhD would also allow me to do research and have my own lab.
  • I think it would take less time than an MD, but that depends on the residency I chose (4 years med school and 3+ years residency) and on how long it takes to complete the PhD (varies from 4-6 years).
  • Cheaper! Grad students can be teaching assistants to fund their education. Med school is expensive (although, I guess as a doctor, I wouldn’t have any problem repaying my loans).
Some reasons I am considering an MD instead.
  • I have read and heard (first-hand from my professors) that it is extremely difficult to get a job as a professor at a university. It is even harder to get a tenure-track position. On the other hand, it is relatively easier get a job as a doctor.
  • Even if you do get a job as a professor, the salary is relatively low. Average seems to be $60-$80k (sometimes less). A doctor’s salary is obviously much higher.
  • Most PhDs have to do post-docs anyway, so the time it takes to get a job as a professor may equal the time it takes to get a job as a doctor.
  • I could do research and teach as an MD. I just don’t know how I would go about this, but I have seen this done by some MDs, and is something I want to learn more about.
  • I mentioned this already, but my biggest fear is spending 4-6 years getting a PhD in Molecular Biology or something and not getting a job as a professor or having a really low-paying job.
I know some might recommend an MD/PhD program, but I don’t think I want to spend 8-10 years in school. Plus residencies and post-docs… I would be in my 30s before making a living.

So, I guess my question is, what would you do if you were in my shoes? Any advice?

Thank you! Much appreciated!
 
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red_tangoes

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Have you done any shadowing or have any clinical exposure?
 
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You mention this, but definitely don't discount the fact that a post-doc is usually necessary post-PhD before you land a faculty position. In some areas (esp. biology), it's usually more than one.

Also, as a note on funding: in STEM you should not go somewhere that does not fully fund you. It's not just TAships, but usually you are paid to do your dissertation research (Research Assistantships). You should get a small (but livable) stipend (~30k), potentially some benefits, and your tuition covered/waived.

It seems to me that one of the main things I don't see anywhere in your post is about your motivation for being a doctor and how clinical experiences of the day to day work a doctor does have informed your decisions, and that's a crucial component.

If you want to chat via PM, I'd be happy to answer questions about the PhD/faculty route.
 
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Jun 9, 2020
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Have you done any shadowing or have any clinical exposure?

I have clinical exposure. I have volunteered at 3 different hospitals and volunteered in a free clinic as a medical assistant, taking vitals, documenting chief complaints, etc. Unfortunately, I have not done any shadowing, which is something I know I need to do in order to gain a better understanding of the profession. I've just been confused for so long, I thought I should make up my mind before shadowing a doctor, but I should've shadowed to help me make up my mind haha.
 

red_tangoes

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I have clinical exposure. I have volunteered at 3 different hospitals and volunteered in a free clinic as a medical assistant, taking vitals, documenting chief complaints, etc. Unfortunately, I have not done any shadowing, which is something I know I need to do in order to gain a better understanding of the profession. I've just been confused for so long, I thought I should make up my mind before shadowing a doctor, but I should've shadowed to help me make up my mind haha.
Try to get some shadowing when you can. Honestly, if you enjoyed your volunteering experience and and MA position I think you'll have a good idea if you want to work in this field.

You can do research as a med student and maybe get a faculty position in the future and teach med students when you're not doing clinical work. I see many MD's as professors, assistant professors, and college masters in my school's faculty page.
 
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allantois

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Your reasons for MD are really reasons against PhD. You’ll be spending your time very differently as a PhD student (doing research) vs MD student and then resident (taking care of patients). Do more shadowing and choose what you like. It would probably help to get a PhD from a top university if you are thinking of being a professor
 
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Also of note: PhDs don’t usually involve years of immersive study in a variety of broad scientific subjects like you mention as a pro. It’s usually a year of background classes based on the specific department you apply into (biochem, neuroscience, what have you) followed by 4-5 years of full-time plus work on an extremely specific project. Your investigation thoroughly these years will definitely give you lots to learn, but not like undergrad.

As a PhD hopeful turned MD matriculant, I want to emphasize that a passion for teaching can be applied many ways in medicine. You love teaching undergrads, or do you love teaching? Educate your patients on what’s going with their bodies and empower them to better conception and control of their own health! Teach at a med school! Become a member of adcom, weigh in on how education can be improved, do consulting, whatever you desire! And still research!

My personal opinion after helping my boss transition from post-doc to PI is that running your own lab is a real slog. Definite labor of love. You will always be stressing over providing your own grant funding and justifying your job. And post-docs can last FOREVER depending on your publication impact factors and productivity. You might be stuck making 50k well into your 30s. But you will make more in industry if you go that route! Not nearly as much as any physician though.

I think both medicine and research need serious commitment to get into. Your work now is to immerse yourself more in each environment and not force yourself into a decision until you figure out what parts of the job you can’t live without!
 
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Ellatha

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You might be stuck making 50k well into your 30s. But you will make more in industry if you go that route! Not nearly as much as any physician though.

It’s possible to earn a physician’s salary with a Ph.D., just much harder.

Only 3% of PhDs in the United States land tenure track academic positions, so you really have to have a passion for it and be talented.
 
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FutureSurgical

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What I’m reading in the first half of the post is how much passion you have for Cell/Molecular biology and how much you’re driven to pursue a PhD. In the second half, you’re listing why MD has a better job outlook.

To me, it seems pretty clear: go for a PhD. I promise you’ll figure out how to get to the position you want to be in when you go along.

Also note you’ll be able to teach with an MD. It’s a requirement through residency and, once you’re done with it, you can always go back to medical school/graduate school to teach.

I believe someone already mentioned this, but shadow doctors and see for yourself. Maybe you love the clinical aspect too? You can apply to MD/PhD programs and get the best of both worlds. People with an MD/PhD will have more access to grants and have an easier time to get funding when applying (in general.)
 
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HouseJC

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If it helps, you can feel free to PM me too. I'm about to graduate with a PhD in Neuroscience/Immunology and am applying for MD schools this year.
 
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Goro

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Hello,
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology and minoring in Public Health and Chemistry. I just finished my second year. I was pre-med when I first entered college, but am now thinking about going to grad school for a PhD for a few reasons:
  • I have a deep interest in cell biology, biochemistry, and organic chemistry and would love to explore these subjects through grad school. I don’t think I would like memorizing the massive volume of information that med students do.
  • I have a passion for tutoring undergrads and helping students understand science concepts. I think I would enjoy being a professor and lecturing. I’ve been told by many that I would make a good teacher.
  • I am also interested in research and a PhD would also allow me to do research and have my own lab.
  • I think it would take less time than an MD, but that depends on the residency I chose (4 years med school and 3+ years residency) and on how long it takes to complete the PhD (varies from 4-6 years).
  • Cheaper! Grad students can be teaching assistants to fund their education. Med school is expensive (although, I guess as a doctor, I wouldn’t have any problem repaying my loans).
Some reasons I am considering an MD instead.
  • I have read and heard (first-hand from my professors) that it is extremely difficult to get a job as a professor at a university. It is even harder to get a tenure-track position. On the other hand, it is relatively easier get a job as a doctor.
  • Even if you do get a job as a professor, the salary is relatively low. Average seems to be $60-$80k (sometimes less). A doctor’s salary is obviously much higher.
  • Most PhDs have to do post-docs anyway, so the time it takes to get a job as a professor may equal the time it takes to get a job as a doctor.
  • I could do research and teach as an MD. I just don’t know how I would go about this, but I have seen this done by some MDs, and is something I want to learn more about.
  • I mentioned this already, but my biggest fear is spending 4-6 years getting a PhD in Molecular Biology or something and not getting a job as a professor or having a really low-paying job.
I know some might recommend an MD/PhD program, but I don’t think I want to spend 8-10 years in school. Plus residencies and post-docs… I would be in my 30s before making a living.

So, I guess my question is, what would you do if you were in my shoes? Any advice?

Thank you! Much appreciated!
Get an MS and be a lab mgr. I see nothing in your post that gives insight into why you want to be a doctor other than it fits into some preconceived schedule and/or it takes less time to do whatever you want to do, which seems to be research and teaching.
 
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Jun 20, 2019
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It doesn't sound like you have much passion or really any interest in treating patients and helping people. This will come across in your essays and interviews and adcoms will pick up on it. If you don't want to treat patients in any capacity, the MD simply isn't worth the time, money, and training. It's the only thing an MD can do that a PhD biomedical researcher can't do.
 
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cubsfan95

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If you have to ask MD or PhD, then it's either PhD or another career.
 
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If you have to ask MD or PhD, then it's either PhD or another career.
People say that all the time about the career they're in. Ask a lawyer law vs science, he will say pick any other career you can see yourself in before you consider law. Ask a doctor, same answer. Ask an engineer, same answer. Ask a business man, same answer. Ask a PhD, same answer. You obviously have no clue what you are talking about. You also don't have the right to talk about anything relating to MD with the stats you posted in your WAMC
 
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PipetteDreams

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Do you need to work with patients? Will your career be complete without patient interaction? Like others have said, it sounds like you're running away from what makes a PhD intimidating; you're not running towards medicine. Given your obvious passion for research and teaching, you'd be a great fit for a PhD.

I am PhD -> MD student, now M3. Happy to answer any questions about either track or applying as a PhD.
 
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People say that all the time about the career they're in. Ask a lawyer law vs science, he will say pick any other career you can see yourself in before you consider law. Ask a doctor, same answer. Ask an engineer, same answer. Ask a business man, same answer. Ask a PhD, same answer. You obviously have no clue what you are talking about. You also don't have the right to talk about anything relating to MD with the stats you posted in your WAMC

Eh, as a PhD I say go for it. There’s no direct cost and a small opportunity cost, and if you don’t like it you can usually bow out with a masters.

Graduate and professional programs are largely different because of the committement and cost investment, as well as the fact that there are no partial off ramps.

Part of a PhD is useful. It gets you skills that can help you get industry jobs. You can leave after a year and be in a slightly better place than when you started.

Part of and MD or JD... isn’t really useful. You can’t really leave after a year with a tangible gain, and you will have a load of debt to go along with it.
 
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