Is there a career out there for someone who wants to go to medical school but doesn't want to practice medicine?
April 13, 2009 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm very interested in studying the human body and mind, particularly illness and disease. However, being a doctor isn't for me. What else is out there?

The main reason I don't want to practice medicine is because I'm female and want to start a family someday. I just can't see myself studying anything else.

I'd like a job that tends to have 9-5 hours, with a flexible schedule, and one that pays 50-60k/yr minimum. I would also prefer to work with people on a regular basis.

Are there jobs out there that are like that and that would require knowledge of my interests? Am I being too picky?
posted by biochemist to Work & Money (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
research, pharmacist
posted by nadawi at 1:26 PM on April 13, 2009


Get a PhD and be a professor. That's what I'm doing. Albeit because I prefer research to clinical medicine; I don't want children.

Many women, however, are doctors and manage to have families.
posted by kldickson at 1:32 PM on April 13, 2009

You do realize that many women are both doctors and mothers, right? And many doctors in a medical practice work essentially a 9-5 day.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:32 PM on April 13, 2009

Nursing seems pretty obvious. Depending on where you live, 50-60K is pretty doable. You do need to go through a nursing program but that can be either aa or bsn (i.e. not the type of time commitment medical school requires).
posted by ilikecookies at 1:32 PM on April 13, 2009

Epidemiology? or another Public Health job?
posted by pointystick at 1:36 PM on April 13, 2009

Get a PhD and be a professor.

Tough hours.

Pharmacy is a good option, and, yeah, a lot of MDs work 9-5. You won't make top dollar, but you'll definitely beat 60k/year. How about dentistry or optometry?
posted by mr_roboto at 1:36 PM on April 13, 2009

Physician Assistant.
posted by homuncula at 1:39 PM on April 13, 2009

My mother went to med school and became a psychiatrist. She started her own practice as soon as she finished her residency, and her schedule has always been quite flexible. She saw patients from a home office when I was little, saw fewer patients during a period when my father had a job for which he had to be out of town a few nights a week, and started seeing many more after I left home - all the while being able to run home in the middle of the day to eat lunch or do laundry and other household stuff. She mentors psych students from the school where she did her residency once a week or so, does research through the school's library website, and generally seems to have a great set-up. (I wish my future held something this cushy!) Anyway, it's a route you could aim for. Good luck!
posted by bubukaba at 1:41 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Clinical research at an academic hospital.
posted by sulaine at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2009

Maybe being a doctor is vastly different wherever you are, but where I live (Canada) there are many doctors who work half- or even quarter-time. While you might think the education investment is too large if you aren't going to work full time, a family doctor can make a reasonable income working two or three nine-to-five days a week.
posted by ssg at 1:48 PM on April 13, 2009

Physical Therapist?
posted by fings at 1:50 PM on April 13, 2009

Genetic counselor?
posted by scody at 1:52 PM on April 13, 2009

2nding epidemiology or public health. Or any of the other things people suggested, because they're all good ideas.
posted by fructose at 2:12 PM on April 13, 2009

Health journalist. Write about health for television, magazines, online or write your own books with medical subjects.
posted by cda at 2:33 PM on April 13, 2009

One of the awesome things about nursing is you 1. can start a lot sooner than med school and 2. it can be insanely flexible. Also, 3. still a high-demand occupation. I say this as the daughter of one and as someone who works in the hospital.

I worked with research nurses who did less patient contact and more research and worked 9-5, but shift nursing can have you home in the daytime and at work only while your partner is at home in the evenings/nights, or working the 7-3.30 daytime shifts. (My mother used to work evening or night shifts when we were in school. ) Evenings and nights pay better; a BSN is the standard degree and takes about 4 years, sometimes less.

That brings us to another consideration: how long do you want to be in school before you can do anything? I've heard pharmacists get easy hours and good pay - it's a supercompetitive field in the last few years, and it's a 6 year program in most of the US, in those places that have it. A clinical research job will not necessarily put you with patients and by no means is research a 40 hr/wk job; you're looking at at least 6 years, more like 10 to do a PhD.

On the shorter training time side, there are things like Respiratory Therapists (lots of people-time, high demand at least here in the Northeast) and other specialty trainings. Some of these are Associates' programs offered through community colleges and state schools; one way to discover what is available is by looking at their catalogs or talking to their Health Sciences departments.

The main reason I don't want to practice medicine is because I'm female and want to start a family someday.

Wow, this strikes me as amazingly old fashioned. Now, I work in a hospital where most of the docs work 60 hr weeks, but 1. Private practice can be a lot more relaxed and 2. Within my group, all the female doctors also have 2-3 kids. They also have nannies.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:36 PM on April 13, 2009

The main reason I don't want to practice medicine is because I'm female and want to start a family someday.

So do most people who go into medicine -- and more than half of the people who are going into medicine these days are female. The rule of thumb seems to be that if you want to spend your every waking hour working, medicine offers plenty of settings in which you can do so and be venerated for it, but if you want to live a more balanced life there are just as many opportunities to do that (after residency training, of course). You'll be leaving some money on the table, but so what? For what it's worth, the docs I've met who aren't working themselves into the ground have been almost uniformly better with their patients than those who are.
posted by killdevil at 2:53 PM on April 13, 2009

Get a PhD in Pharmacology.
posted by sickinthehead at 3:02 PM on April 13, 2009

I'll add that the most logical next step for someone in your shoes would be either an epidemiology or a public health degree. Both offer you a way to get involved in the science of medicine without the distractions of actual patient care. Epidemiologists and MPH degree-holders work alongside research-oriented physicians at all of the major medical research institutions.
posted by killdevil at 3:02 PM on April 13, 2009

I've always thought being a medical illustrator might be nice, but I don't have the artistic talent.
posted by rw at 4:37 PM on April 13, 2009

How about a pathologist assistance? Or you could go all the way and do med school with the aim of becoming a pathologist. Their lifestyle can be rather cushy and mom-compatible.
posted by greatgefilte at 4:55 PM on April 13, 2009

This is the blog of an anesthesiologist with two young children. She seems satisfied with her job and her family situation. The archives are deep, so you can go back and read about her med school experiences, how her life changed when she had her first kid, and so forth. I don't know firsthand, but it sounds like anesthesiology can be a parent-friendly specialization, especially with respect to the work hours.
posted by Orinda at 5:52 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a master's in public health - if you're interested in clinical interaction with patients, this really isn't the field for you. If you're interested in the incidence and prevalence of disease, the socio-economic-cultural-racial-what-have-you factors behind disease and health disparities, health policy or management, etc, then this a GREAT field to get into.

How interested are you in the mind? Have you considered clinical psychology? I would wager that the hours will probably be as bad as med school while you're in the program but you will very often get a stipend, and you'll get to interact with patients. Clin PhDs don't get prescribing privileges (in the vast majority of states) but it seems a rewarding career.

There are a LOT of options for someone who doesn't want to be a doctor, but I agree that not wanting to be a doctor because you want to start a family seems a bit old fashioned. There are a lot of resources for women who want both a medical career and a family. However, I have heard many many times before that people should only get into medicine if they can't imagine doing ANYTHING else. Maybe that should be your main consideration because it seems like if you want it bad enough and are willing to work accordingly, you can, most of the time, make it happen.
posted by Eudaimonia at 10:59 PM on April 13, 2009

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