Jul 7, 2013
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I'm not a HS student anymore so I don't exactly fit into this forum but it's the best match I found.

I was debating majoring in computer science or biology (for dental school) and by now I'm fairly convinced that pre-dental is for me, despite having been a computer science major for one semester (and haven taking some pre-requisite courses for CS). These are the pros/cons I can think of for each route:

CS pros:
1) Shorter length of study. I can likely graduate in 3 years given my existing credits.
2) Relatively good job outlook currently.

Cons:
1) I never programmed in my life. I heard this wasn't a problem, since it's easy to learn, according to my non-programmer turned programmer friends.

2) Both my parents work in tech (CS-related) and basically they told me that the tech market is relatively volatile; that there is a "lower basement and a higher sky" for tech as compared to dentistry. One of them has to travel often to do contract work and that could be a con later when I'm older.

3) CS seems a tad boring to me. I feel as if I like interacting more with people than computers. Sure, there are times where I just want to be alone by myself. I also talked with professors and recent grads. Profs told me most CS grads end up being "test monkies." 2 pretty smart grads got paid internships which led to decent job offers from a major company to .... convert videos from flash to HTML5 (sounds like something I could do after Googling for a video transcoding app).

Dentistry pros:
1) I keep thinking about it, and it just seems like biology is my passion. And since dentistry requires so many biology courses, it seems as if it's a good fit for my passions.

As one friend told me, it seems as if "bio is in [my] blood." Well, yeah, I guess, I did do insane amounts of research on the standardized high school biology tests we took (AP, IB, SAT) and I am currently working on a SAT Subject Test in Biology study guide that I wish to publish on the side. But then, the same basically applies for me in any subject. I'm a voracious studier - chem, calculus, physics, philosophy, doesn't matter. Any subject is beautiful once you really get into it and start examining the inner workings - the whys and the hows behind the facts.

2) I also like interacting with people. Dentistry seems to lead relatively well to this end. I'm sometimes introverted, but often times, it doesn't bother me in the slightest to just randomly start a conversation with someone on the bus, in the classroom, lecture hall, etc. One of my dental assistants was very, very warm and talkative and I felt as if dentistry was a good fit for him; he could just go on and on sharing stories with patients as they were being worked on. Probably helped calm the patients, and probably served as some sort of catharsis for him. Also the dentist who my assistant worked for often gives lectures at the local university. Extratemporaneous public speaking is something I found such a deep love for (my classmates, teachers, and principals enjoyed my graduation speech). Yeah I know I just said I was sometimes introverted but there's a broad range for me. I don't really foresee a ton of human interaction in CS except working with your engineering team.

Dentistry cons:

1) Long length of study. I'm looking at about 3-4 years of undergrad (I have some credits that relieve me of some courses) and 4 years of dental school. However, I'm unsure if I should "redeem" all these credits as I heard that med schools/dental schools sometimes look down upon using AP credits in lieu of taking actual undergrad pre-req courses and. Or even worse, don't accept AP credits in lieu of actual undergrad pre-reqs. I'll be pretty old by the time I get out and I don't want to get out and be like wow, I just spent the first quarter of my life in school, where did the time go?

2) I think the above is the only con. I'm not afraid of studying; I'm just afraid of dental school taking over my life. I was talking to a few dental students on the bus, and they told me that although it's only been 4 weeks into dental school for both of them, it felt like 4 years for them. I believe they had 5 tests in 2 days. Now, testing isn't my problem. 5 tests in 2 days - they say lightning doesn't strike twice - but I believe for me it does. Bottom line: I'm not afraid of the courseload. I'm just wondering whether it'll engulf my life until I'm 26 and free. How much time will I have on the side for other activities and goals and aspirations?

3) Unlikely: I don't get into dental school and I'm stuck with a biology degree. This isn't really a con since I don't foresee myself in this situation. I guess I shouldn't have such a big ego and realize that being above average means being better than the other 50% and that only 50% is better than 50% ... but even if I don't get into med school I could always fall back on learning some CS with my parents. Also, unrelated, but I was thinking that even if I study bio and realize after 3-4 years of being inundated with chem and bio and having probably shadowed a few doctors/dentists by then I can probably still apply for law school (another possibility - I *love* reading about law).

Any suggestions, corrections to my (mis)conceptions, and life advice would be appreciated!
 
Last edited:

BioBeaver

Rah Virginia Mil.
May 21, 2013
402
40
IN -> VA
Status
Pre-Medical
What's keeping you from majoring in CS and just taking the dental school pre-requisites? That way you can have your CS degree and also have your dentistry possibility. You said you've never programmed though, which throws up a red flag to me. Head to CodeAcademy and try one of their courses in Ruby and Python. It's nowhere near hat real programming is like, but it'll give you a faint idea.

Regarding the cons of dentistry: You're going to have to realize that any professional school (med, dent, pharm) is not easy and WILL for the most part take over your life for four years.
 
OP
Teleologist
Jul 7, 2013
616
161
on your 6
Status
Pre-Medical
I could do that but it'll probably take up 4 years or more, and it'll probably take over my life too. Even now with a relatively light courseload I have to study a lot to get the grades I want. And in the end I'll just be throwing away either CS or dentistry; I can't be both. I guess it is an option though.
 

BioBeaver

Rah Virginia Mil.
May 21, 2013
402
40
IN -> VA
Status
Pre-Medical
You seem like you're really scared of things taking over your life. A Biology or CS degree certainly have the capacity to "take over your life", and dental school is guaranteed to. So don't let that factor into your decision. You need to think about what you want in a career and go for it.

Keep in mind you're looking at very different careers here. Don't let salary or your parent's opinions sway you one way or another; this is what you'll be doing possibly for the rest of your life. Do you want to work with computers, design software, and use programming languages, OR do you want to study more science, and ultimately end up working on people's mouths and oral health? That's the real question here! If you can't decide and think you want both, then a CS degree with a Pre-dent track is the way to go. If you are positive one way or another, then go that way.

Accept the fact now that anything worth having is going to be a lot of hard work and very time consuming.
 

Stagg737

5+ Year Member
Jul 2, 2013
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You seem like you're really scared of things taking over your life. A Biology or CS degree certainly have the capacity to "take over your life", and dental school is guaranteed to.

Don't let salary or your parent's opinions sway you one way or another; this is what you'll be doing possibly for the rest of your life.

Accept the fact now that anything worth having is going to be a lot of hard work and very time consuming.
Good advice all around. You've picked 2 careers that seem to have decent stability and that you won't need to worry too much about money. That being said, go with what you're passionate about. You already know you like bio, so go Learn some coding/programming skills and see if you enjoy it. If you don't, then bio should be a an easy choice. If you do, then you've got a win/win situation. Besides, you're still a freshman, I know plenty of kids that changed to a pre-professional major their junior year and did really well.

Either way, if you pick something you're passionate about, it won't really even feel like work. Letting something you love to do take over your life doesn't seem like such a bad thing to me. The only thing I'd disagree with bio beaver is that neither career will totally take over your life unless you let it. I know dozens of people in med school, and all of them have said that even though it's a ton of work, they still had social lives outside of school. You have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do. For now I'd just enjoy undergrad and explore your passions more. You'll figure it out in plenty of time!
 
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Jun 28, 2012
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Since you mention you're not in high school, I'm assuming you're in college: what year are you? If you're a freshman or even a sophomore, you still have time (a bit less if you're a sophomore) to figure out what you're interested in and what you might want to do as a career. It's awesome that you like learning and if you have room in your schedule, I would suggest taking classes just to explore your interests. Have you taken any programming class or an upper level biology class like Genetics? I don't see any sense in worrying about your future in these careers if you haven't really experienced what they were like yet. Why not shadow a dentist to see if you really see yourself in that job? I don't see the point of preemptively stressing about how much work dental school may or may not be right now. Have you explored any of the other sciences? You don't need to major in biology to complete pre-dental requirements.

You sound like you're in a rush to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life so you can graduate early (you mention getting out in 3 years) and get on with your life. I was in that position going in to college (graduating in five years is the norm at my college and I was convinced that I would pull off everything in four years), but I've since decided that I will be staying for five years, which frees up room in my schedule to take classes outside my major. I think one thing to keep in mind is that your life doesn't all of a sudden start once you're out of college and/or dental school (you mention "wasting" a quarter of your life in school). Your life is going on now and it's not going to necessarily change drastically once you've gotten a job — maybe join some clubs or volunteer to make your life more fulfilling.