How to study osteopathy with no savings
June 27, 2005 5:42 PM   Subscribe

I am considering a career change, and need advice. I am thinking of going back to college to study osteopathy. Am I making the right choice? What sort of financial arrangements can I make to avoid massive debt?

My current career is in I.T. management. I find it, and where it would lead, stultifying and completely uninspiring. I've always wanted to "make a difference", although I've never been sure how. Money isn't hugely important to me, but I couldn't spend my life volunteering.

Osteopathy seems a potential good choice. Colleges I've looked at do work with HIV patients and geriatric people, which I would enjoy. It would also tie in well with martial arts, a hobby of mine. (A career in standard western medicine doesn't appeal, for lots of reasons). I am qualified to get onto an osteopathy course. I live in London, England, and the course would be in London.

The one thing that really worries me is the financial side. I'm 32 and don't have much in the way of savings. I would hate to be approaching 40 with nothing under my belt but a huge debt. My plan is to start a 5 year, part-time osteopathy course next year, and in the mean time, save up to put down a deposit on a 2 bed house. I plan to live in it during the course, and rent out the other bedroom to help with the mortgage. I'm hoping that student and bank loans would cover the mortgage and other living costs. I could live in shared accomodation, but I've been doing this since the age of 17 and I've had enough of it. I also think that I couldn't study effectively in shared accomodation.

The Student Loans Company will lend me a large amount of cash, but I estimate this to be less than half of what I'd need to live on. The bank would probably lend me the other half, but would be far happier if I had something like a house as security. I presume this means they'll be happy giving me a loan, even if I use it to keep up mortgage payments, and even if they are providing both the loan and the mortgage. I am nervous about asking them this question directly!

I suspect there are holes throughout this plan. Can anyone point them out, and help me to plug them? Or better still, suggest ways of ensuring it would work? I don't need general advice like "investigate other career options", since I've been doing that for a while. Any thoughts or similar experiences would be greatly appreciated.
posted by ajp to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My plan is to start a 5 year, part-time osteopathy course next year

What do you plan to do with the other (non-student) part of your time. If you're planning to work part-time as well, what do you think your income and expenses will look like, roughly?

Tuition and student expenses: ?
Mortgage payments: ?
Living expenses: ?

Total expenses: ____

Part-time work: ?
Rental: ?

Total income: ______

Difference (outflow/borrowing): ______

Also - if you're ten or so years out of college, and have no savings to speak of, do you have a plan (or expectations) that you're going to reduce your spending? (At least here in the US, IT management pays reasonably well; if true in the UK as well, then it would seem that failure to change will inevitably result in rather large debts by the time you finish school.
posted by WestCoaster at 6:28 PM on June 27, 2005

If the financial considerations to become a D.O. are too steep, you might consider another healthcare career at a "lower" level of education and, consequently, cost. Nurse practitioner or Physicians Assistant, perhaps, or even chiropractic or naturopath...?
posted by davidmsc at 8:52 PM on June 27, 2005

Read this - just the first chapter did it for me:

"view your job as primarily an income-generating device; any other benefits are purely secondary. Having a mercantile approach... simply means using your job to generate the money you need to pursue your personal goals, rather than looking to the job itself to fulfill those goals."

I know you're saying that money isn't so important to you, but the point is more, what if you're approaching 40 with nothing under your belt but a huge debt AND you're unfulfilled by your new job (if you get one!).

Sorry, I'm not trying to put the downers on what sounds like an admirable idea, I'm just saying that you're taking a hell of a risk, and all the education and diplomas and honorable debt in the world ain't going to guarantee personal satisfaction - I think many will agree that that can be much more... complex....
posted by forallmankind at 9:23 PM on June 27, 2005

My job in healthcare has worked out to be tremendously personally fulfilling - but for almost none of the reasons that I originally thought it would. Most doctors I've spoken to either can't remember why they chose to go into medicine or admit to me that their motivations turned out to be invalid.

I don't know what would have happened if all the reasons I had originally planned on had fallen through and nothing else had appeared to replace them. Lost my 20's with nothing to show for it? Wow, that's a recipe for serious sorrow.

Be careful. Being a healthcare worker isn't a job, it's a calling. Go spend some serious time around people doing exactly what you plan to be doing, see how they live, see if you'd like it. If you're not sure, don't do it.

Taking care of sick people is difficult, emotionally draining, exacting work. There is no room for errors, no room for shift workers who don't take their work home with them, and it can't be properly done part-time. Modern osteopaths have to know as much as modern MD's, so don't fool yourself that you'd be working less hard or somehow being part-time for that reason.

Finally, there are a lot of hoops/hazing to jump through before you can go practice. I am 32 now, same as you, and I could never face doing that process again - it'd ruin what's left of my physical and mental health.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:39 PM on June 27, 2005

I second what ikkyu2 says - you should go do something at least vaguely similar to this on a volunteer basis or the like to try it out in some way. You don't have time to reboot your career very many times in life and it's expensive in almost every way.

I assume you have already pondered whether it's the tasks or the goals at your existing career that leave you cold and decided that simply going to do that but in a more Meaningful setting wouldn't work.
posted by phearlez at 7:06 AM on June 28, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments so far. I'm still reading, so keep 'em coming if you've got something to say! I thought I'd add a little more detail, since some questions have been asked.

The non-student part of my time will indeed be taken up by part-time work. I envisage that this would make me enough money to pay for entertainment (like going to the pub with friends), and I'd rely on borrowing money to cover the larger part of my expenses such as rent and food.

I am prepared to take a significant drop in disposable cash. I'm preparing myself by trying to acclimatise my spending habits. I've opened a second current account with my bank, and I put a small amount of cash in there monthly. I then try to live on it. So far this has been difficult, but not impossible. I just need to control my impulse spending. I'm lucky enough to have enough cash at the moment to cover some really expensive items: I've paid my gym membership for 4 years, purchased a new laptop, and so on. My next life-style change will be to get back on my bike instead of using public (or private) transport.

I've realised that time is more important to me than money. My job currently feels like a "time thief" rather than a "lifestyle enabler". Excuse the cheesy language, but you know what I mean :-) Yes I know money is important, but so far I've used it as a way of buying my dreams and that just hasn't worked for me. Sure I can afford to go on holiday anywhere I want, but I'll only get 1 week off work at a time, when the boss tells me I can go.

The point about a "calling" is interesting. Osteopathy is the only career I've found in the last 18 months of looking (half-arsed looking, admittedly) that appeals to me. It is rigorous and scientific; I could use it to help the unfortunate (such as those with chronic painful disease); I would be my own boss, working to my own time requirements (I'm aware of the pros and cons); I relish the thought of excelling in my studies; I can help people close to me. Osteopathy hasn't "called" to me. But nothing else has either. I'm quite willing to accept that it's not the right thing for me to be doing, but it's the closest I've come so far. I've thought about standard Western medicine and chiropractic, but they don't appeal - the reasons being far too detailed to go into here. But thanks for the suggestions.

I've spent 1 day with my osteopath in her clinic. It was very informative, and I'm trying to arrange another session with a different osteopath. One thing that appeals is the variety of career options that are available. Private and public clinics; volunteer work; teaching; research; travel - it's a very portable career.

The "same job, different company" option is an alternative. My job is in middle management, specifically in I.T. My career path would naturally be to aim for a place on the Board at a big firm. This doesn't appeal at all. I could move into a different sector, possibly a charity or similar. I suspect that such companies have very limited need for I.T. management. However, I am preparing my CV specifically to investigate this option.

Many thanks for all the comments, questions and advice. Any comments on the house-purchase would be great. And apologies for the length and complexity of the question :-)
posted by ajp at 10:14 AM on June 28, 2005

I thought I'd add this little anecdote from my own life.

When I was 17 and a senior in college, I was working in a lab at Harvard with a lot of postdoc MDs. Late one night I was in the gel room with one, a guy I knew as "Chuck." We were chatting and he asked me why I wanted to go to medical school.

One thing that appeals is the variety of career options that are available. Private and public clinics; volunteer work; teaching; research; travel - it's a very portable career.

My answer was starting to be something very much like the above, when he interrupted me. He said, "Stop. There's only one reason to go to medical school."

I said, "What? What do you mean?"

"You go to medical school because YOU WANT TO TAKE CARE OF SICK PEOPLE. There's no other reason."

This was the single best and wisest piece of advice/input I have ever received in my whole life. "Chuck," by the way, is now a director of a lab at the NIH and one of the acknowledged world leaders in his field.

I don't see that osteopathy is any different from allopathy in this respect at all. Both involve doctors taking care of sick people as sort of the core competency.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:31 PM on June 28, 2005

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