Student loan debt is a necessary evil. Problem is, once you understand that it’s a necessary evil, you’re sorta lulled into thinking about the “necessary” part and less about the “evil” part, and then you wake up one day asking yourself how you ended up owing the government somewhere around the GNP of Honduras.
Unfortunately for Celeste, her story made me think of that. She’s $70k in debt going into her junior year. She writes:
Hey Judge Josh!
I’m in a bit of a conundrum here. I’m about to be a junior in college and have almost fulfilled all of my prerequisites for pharmacy school. However, lately I’ve been having a tough time deciding whether or not pharmacy school is something I really want to do.
That’s a familiar refrain around these parts. Ultra-specific programs of study are great for high-demand jobs, but if you start doubting yourself halfway in, there’s not a lot of room to wiggle over into something else.
My GPA is pretty good (it’s a 3.83 cumulative right now) and a thought that’s been going through my mind lately is possibly going to medical school. However, I’m already in a substantial amount of student loan debt (about $70,000 including my junior year… I studied abroad freshman year and that was a bit pricey needless to say).
Good Lordy that’s a lot of money. Congrats on the fine GPA, though.
If I got my bachelor’s degree and went to medical school, it would probably take me about another 2 years to finish, causing me to rack up even more student loans from undergrad without much of a guarantee of even getting into medical school because it’s so competitive.
I agree on all counts so far. So, in this theoretical situation, let’s ballpark it at $100,000 in undergraduate school debt, and no guarantee of med school acceptance. (Your GPA is pretty good, but I don’t have any way of knowing how you’d do on the MCATs).
I figure the perks of going to medical school would be that I would have a job that I really enjoy and that I would never be bored with what I was doing.
Well, I’m not gonna say you’re wrong, but that’s definitely an assumption that could go either way. I think doctors are like most other people — some love going to work every day, and some would be happy if a SCUD missile hit their office in the night.
I’ve always dreamed of being a doctor. However, I feel like pharmacy school would be a more practical route because I could potentially start one year from now instead of two and come out with less student loan debt because you don’ t need a bachelor’s degree to start pharmacy school. Also, pharmacy school, though competitive, isn’t nearly as competitive as medical school and has a much smaller price tag.
Yeah, I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head there. Pharmacy school definitely seems less risky — less money needed to spend on college and therefore fewer student loans, easier and quicker to get into a paying job, etc. Another thing to consider is that a pharmacist’s job will probably not be seriously impacted if the U.S. government institutes massive health-care reform; the same is not true for doctors.
I’m currently attending Wayne State University, which isn’t a very big, well known school. I feel like this might put me at a bit of a disadvantage even though I have a competitive GPA. I really would love to be a doctor, but I’m afraid that the competition and price of school are stopping me. Do you think I should stick with the pharmacy route or go with my dream of becoming a doctor?
Well, it’s a personal issue that revolves mostly around how desperately, down deep in your soul, you want to be a doctor. I’m never going to tell someone to abandon something they really, really, really want to do. And if you really, really, really want to be a doctor, you should go for it.
Now, from a practical standpoint, I think it’s pretty clear that pharmacy is the safer bet. You’re already in some wicked debt and a pharmacist job is all yours pretty soon, and that job will give you a secure income and a fairly relaxed working environment, from what I understand.
Regardless of where you’ve gone to school, your MCAT scores will determine your med-school path. Score high, and you should be fine.
I sense some self-doubt in you about whether you’ve got what it takes to get into med school (apologies if I’m wrong about that), and I’m inclined to say that if you’re doubting whether you can even get in, there may be cause for even more concern about whether you can make it through if you do actually get in.
But I’ll end on my favorite subject, which is student loan debt. You have a ton of it already, and if it were me, I’d be pretty nervous about tacking on a couple hundred thousand extra. If you do that, you put yourself in a position where you have few options: you must make it through med school and residency, and then you must work your butt off for many, many years to repay that debt.
I’m a guy who leans towards keeping his options open. Remember, you can always decide to go back to med school if you find that life as a pharmacist isn’t for you.
In the immortal words of Chris Rock, “Life ain’t short — life is looooooonng.” You’ve got plenty of time to finish up pharmacy school, feel out life as a pharmacist, and then make a less risky decision about med school afterward.
That’s my best two cents. What about you guys — what do you think Celeste should do? Let us know in the comments below.