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Is it worth it to switch to medicine from optometry?

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My fiancee has been trying to get into med school for the last 3 years, and she  has already finished  3 years of her optometry degree at Waterloo. She just received  a med school interview at U of A ( it's her first med school interview in 3 years) but she is now wondering if it would be worth it to switch to medicine ( if she gets accepted) , she feels that it is a huge opportunity cost although she still likes medicine more than optometry. She also feels that she is not getting younger, and both optometry and medicine are careers in healthcare and there is not much difference. She is considering declining her interview invitation, but my question is:  If she gets into medicine: are there any advantages of switching into medicine from optometry? Or is it not worth it at this point? 

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There is no harm to do the interview, and decide after if she even gets accepted. Getting an interview is just the first step.

There are many advantages and disadvantages to making the switch. Similiar to how people switch from Pharmacy to medicine.  It also depends on what fields of medicine she may be interested in.  

The obvious differences are that a multitude of fields in medicine pay significantly more than optometry, but with also equally obvious costs(long gruelling training time, potential for multiple moves, sometimes lack of job stability).

All in all, a HUGE amount of thinking to do - but none that necessarily needs to be done right now. She owes it to her self to attend the interview, and see what happens. She's been applying for 3 years clearly, so why would she not go to the interview?  Theres a good chance she will still not get in after the interview anyways, so its a moot point - and unnecessary to put too much stress on thinking about it right at this moment.

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I agree with JohnGrisham - she should absolutely still go to the interview but... as you can see in other threads, many of us in medicine are some mixture of unhappy/underemployed/not where we want to be geographically. She has some serious thinking to do, but after interviewing... do some research on the medicine job market, what specialty she wants, and realize that it's going to be a long and tough road unless she wants something like family medicine (and even that is a 6 year pursuit starting from scratch).

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I'd do the interview, but the opportunity cost of switching now is huge. Heck, the opportunity cost of medicine alone is huge, let alone if your older AND you've already got a 6 figure profession locked down.

The difficulty of course is if you think you'll be happier in the other profession. The vast majority of Premeds overestimate how happy medicine will make them. It's not what most people think it is. And if I was going to take such a large opportunity cost, I would invest considerable time into shadowing the profession (long term... enough to get bores, not just a half day here and there).

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9 minutes ago, PhD2MD said:

I'd do the interview, but the opportunity cost of switching now is huge. Heck, the opportunity cost of medicine alone is huge, let alone if your older AND you've already got a 6 figure profession locked down.

The difficulty of course is if you think you'll be happier in the other profession. The vast majority of Premeds overestimate how happy medicine will make them. It's not what most people think it is. And if I was going to take such a large opportunity cost, I would invest considerable time into shadowing the profession (long term... enough to get bores, not just a half day here and there).

Depending on the city, Optometry is more so high 5 digits (70-80k start with of course upward mobility into the 6 figures after a few years). Probably not a huge difference compared to Pharmacy - though you could argue the barrier to entry for setting up your own practice is much less in Optometry if that is your thing.

That said, if you value more variety, medicine and Family medicine could preserve some of that, while doubling your salary in similar cases of work conditions, though with the 6 years of training (2 of which are at least paid in residency).   

Also assuming she gets licensed prior to entering medicine, she could keep working during pre-clinical years for some nice tuition money on weekends. I know some with alternate careers(Nursing, Pharmacy) who worked a decent amount during pre-clinical and some still into clinical years.

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23 minutes ago, JohnGrisham said:

Depending on the city, Optometry is more so high 5 digits (70-80k start with of course upward mobility into the 6 figures after a few years). Probably not a huge difference compared to Pharmacy - though you could argue the barrier to entry for setting up your own practice is much less in Optometry if that is your thing.

That said, if you value more variety, medicine and Family medicine could preserve some of that, while doubling your salary in similar cases of work conditions, though with the 6 years of training (2 of which are at least paid in residency).   

Also assuming she gets licensed prior to entering medicine, she could keep working during pre-clinical years for some nice tuition money on weekends. I know some with alternate careers(Nursing, Pharmacy) who worked a decent amount during pre-clinical and some still into clinical years.

I have plenty of friends who are optometrists. a full time optometrist should not be making 70-80k. More around 120-140k, even more if you sell eyeglasses and hire an optician. One of my friends is making 250k doing just that, in what most people would call a "saturated" city.

In my opinion OP,  if it's only for financial reasons, I wouldn't do medicine, especially not family medicine. It's not worth 6 years of 6 figure salary lost only to get a slightly higher salary in family med. It'll take you well into your 40's to catch up on lost income. If you think he'd enjoy family med more, I would attend the interview and go from there. 

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1 minute ago, member_225 said:

I have plenty of friends who are optometrists. a full time optometrist should not be making 70-80k. More around 120-140k, even more if you sell eyeglasses and hire an optician. One of my friends is making 250k doing just that, in what most people would call a "saturated" city.

In my opinion OP,  if it's only for financial reasons, I wouldn't do medicine, especially not family medicine. It's not worth 6 years of 6 figure salary lost only to get a slightly higher salary in family med. It'll take you well into your 40's to catch up on lost income. If you think he'd enjoy family med more, I would attend the interview and go from there. 

Most optometrists have to work few years /establish their own business before they make 250K.

 

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5 minutes ago, member_225 said:

I have plenty of friends who are optometrists. a full time optometrist should not be making 70-80k. More around 120-140k, even more if you sell eyeglasses and hire an optician. One of my friends is making 250k doing just that, in what most people would call a "saturated" city.

In my opinion OP,  if it's only for financial reasons, I wouldn't do medicine, especially not family medicine. It's not worth 6 years of 6 figure salary lost only to get a slightly higher salary in family med. It'll take you well into your 40's to catch up on lost income. If you think he'd enjoy family med more, I would attend the interview and go from there. 

As i said, depends on city. I know two fresh grads who are making 80k base salary working for a chain, both 2018 waterloo grads.  

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Agree with the above, definitely do the interview. Decide on what to do when she gets accepted.

I personally went from being a full-time working professional (for 6 years) to a med student just last year. The change is huge and the sacrifices are immense. I had to delay my wedding, uproot my family and move across the country, and went from being debt-free and saving up for a mortgage to living on loans and LOC. The transition was overwhelming and stressful and I felt really bad for my fiance, who had to give up his job to move with me. Furthermore, we also had to delay our plans on having kids. So if your fiancee does get accepted to U of A, understand that you will also be affected tremendously as well. Be sure to take this into account when she makes her decision. Family and spousal support is crucial, particularly for older, non-trad students. I was lucky enough to have good family support and to have a partner who worked in an industry that was relatively mobile, so everything worked out for me.

Best of luck to you guys. 

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1 hour ago, End Poverty said:

Most optometrists have to work few years /establish their own business before they make 250K.

 

One of my friends is making around that, and he's supplementing his income from selling glasses which isn't even an optometrist's job.

I made it pretty clear that you're looking at around 120-140k for working full time only from optometry. 

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I must say I have to disagree with vast majority of people on here. Optometrists make much more than that. In fact, them making 70k doesn't even make sense mathematically. They get paid approximately 70 per patient for covered patients and they regularly charge 100 for an eye exam. Even seeing 15 patients per day and working 300 days a year is 250k after overhead. For some reason the salaries of optometry are grossly under exaggerated. I know many optometrists that make above 250k just working at an optical for someone else. The richest people that I personally know are optometrists -- they all clear over a mil per year. Opticals profit SIGNIFICANTLY more than family med clinics if you sell glasses. 

The only BIG downside of optometry is the future doesn't look too good with saturation (In fact, saturation is already an issue) and there is no room for mobility incase someone wants to switch to something else in the future. Additionally med has better prestige if you care about that sort of thing, but that depends on the person.  

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17 minutes ago, member_225 said:

One of my friends is making around that, and he's supplementing his income from selling glasses which isn't even an optometrist's job.

I made it pretty clear that you're looking at around 120-140k for working full time only from optometry. 

At a 120-140k income, it could make sense to do medicine if you're really, really passionate about a certain field and things work out well - you match to your city of choice, specialty of choice, and find a job that pays well. And each one of those is an "if," except maybe if you're talking family medicine then there's a little bit more certainty. But then financially it's hard to justify working that hard and putting up with all the stress of matching, residency, finding work... generally delaying life by a few years... just to make barely double the income (less than that if you factor in higher tax rates at higher incomes).

At a 250k income you are insane for thinking of switching to medicine. Maybe you have a passion for it... but at some point you have to be practical. You will not exceed that income for the most part unless you go into a specialty and you're looking at 9+ years of training for that. As an optometrist you can already call yourself "Dr." And I'm not sure that at the end of the day, medicine will actually be that much more satisfying. Optometrists also do very important, respectable work... primary care for the eyes... the window to the soul.

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51 minutes ago, Hyped_4_Med said:

I must say I have to disagree with vast majority of people on here. Optometrists make much more than that. In fact, them making 70k doesn't even make sense mathematically. They get paid approximately 70 per patient for covered patients and they regularly charge 100 for an eye exam. Even seeing 15 patients per day and working 300 days a year is 250k after overhead. For some reason the salaries of optometry are grossly under exaggerated. I know many optometrists that make above 250k just working at an optical for someone else. The richest people that I personally know are optometrists -- they all clear over a mil per year. Opticals profit SIGNIFICANTLY more than family med clinics if you sell glasses. 

The only BIG downside of optometry is the future doesn't look too good with saturation (In fact, saturation is already an issue) and there is no room for mobility incase someone wants to switch to something else in the future. Additionally med has better prestige if you care about that sort of thing, but that depends on the person.  

Lots of variance depending on where you live, saturation, and if you work for someone else or own your own business. 

You say you know people making 250k(gross, not net, and not before taxes) working for someone else,  that would be hard to do in some cities right off the bat without really hustling hard..your calculation of 300 days already is 6 days a week with 12 days of vacation.

 

 

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I would do the interview like people have said (can't hurt) but I would think long and hard about doing medicine. Don't believe the "everyone in medicine (medicine in general, not just medical school) is happy, caring and friendly" BS the universities try to foist on unsuspecting. Medicine is a long, hard slog and a significant number of physicians are miserable, burnt out and/or regret ever going into medicine. There is very little to gain, and a ton to lose, by switching imo. I personally wouldn't do it. 

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I know a handful of Optometrist who went into medical school to get into Ophthalmology after they realized Ophthalmology was really what they hoped Optometry would be.

If this is the case, she has a long road ahead and Ophtho is one of the competitive specialties. If she is only going in to get into Ophthalmology then it may be an uphill battle. If she enjoys all aspect of medicine it might be more worthwhile for her to make the jump.

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Salaries are varied in every single profession. I know a physician assistant in the US making 200k net, a physiotherapist making 250k net owning their clinics. Sure there are optometrists making 250k net (even more) but that's not going to be the vast majority. And even if you do make that much, it's no walk in the park. Running a business is tough, and there are unforeseen challenges along the way that impact your bottom line. In the end, you got to enjoy what you do. If family med is what you like and see yourself doing through good and bad days, go for it. If it's optometry, stick with it. Money will come in all these professions, and if you put your mind to it, you can make a lot of money through clinic ownership. Focus on your interests first OP but definitely attend the interview!

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Honestly shame on the posters here who are making 250k seem like something that can be reasonable obtained by an optometrist. 

I am a neurologist and regularly work with optometrists. 100k would be doing well. 250k—maybe if they OWN a business employing optometrists? In which case that’s an absurd thing to say, because in any field if you own a business you can make 250k. Why not suggest the OP drop out and become a janitor, because maybe she’ll own a janitor company and make 250k lol?

The issue is that young ppl will read this stuff and believe it and will factor it into their career choices.

 

To the OP—really depends on your interest in medicine IMO. If we assume you’re going into family med, from a financial perspective it may not be worth it to lose 6 years of income. Tbh I might not bother looking back at it. Medicine will likely give you more variety, but I have doubts you’ll be happier 10y from now.

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Before she goes on that interview, I would think long and hard about what she would do in any of the scenarios. Because once she gets accepted, it would be even more difficult to turn down the offer. 

Income is a big factor, but not the only one. Only she can decide what she is better for her in the long run. How does she want to see herself/live her life ten years from now?

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Personal opinion: I see the 20s as a time to explore and try different things. I value experiences quite highly.

Thoughts: Income is an important factor and posters above have alluded to the fact that there will be lost income and opportunity cost. However, if she does get that offer, and I think she should consider deferring it. I personally think she can ask for a deferral at that point because optometry is a professional degree and some medical schools would allow you to deferral your acceptance for one year to complete a graduate or professional degree. That extra year is good for her to do that additional soul-searching to make sure she knows what she is getting into. That extra year will also allow her to finish optometry. I don't think there is anything too pressing to consider at this point. 

Conclusion: Let her do that interview, and be supportive. Do let her know that deferral can be an option if she does ultimately get accepted so she can finish optometry. I do want to caveat that deferrals are on a case-by-case basis so this is not an absolute and it is also very school-dependent. I have seen people get deferrals for finishing PharmDs so it is possible.

 

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20 hours ago, Hyped_4_Med said:

I must say I have to disagree with vast majority of people on here. Optometrists make much more than that. In fact, them making 70k doesn't even make sense mathematically. They get paid approximately 70 per patient for covered patients and they regularly charge 100 for an eye exam. Even seeing 15 patients per day and working 300 days a year is 250k after overhead. For some reason the salaries of optometry are grossly under exaggerated. I know many optometrists that make above 250k just working at an optical for someone else. The richest people that I personally know are optometrists -- they all clear over a mil per year. Opticals profit SIGNIFICANTLY more than family med clinics if you sell glasses. 

Sorry Hyped -  your figures are very far from the norm.   

An associate OD (employee) could start with a base of $80-$90K moving up to about $120K-$140K after a few years.  A principle with a successful business might pull $200K from the business.  Consider a typical OD practice net is about 34%.  

No Optometrist is pulling +$1M a year.

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11 hours ago, goleafsgochris said:

Honestly shame on the posters here who are making 250k seem like something that can be reasonable obtained by an optometrist. 

I am a neurologist and regularly work with optometrists. 100k would be doing well. 250k—maybe if they OWN a business employing optometrists? In which case that’s an absurd thing to say, because in any field if you own a business you can make 250k. Why not suggest the OP drop out and become a janitor, because maybe she’ll own a janitor company and make 250k lol?

The issue is that young ppl will read this stuff and believe it and will factor it into their career choices.

 

To the OP—really depends on your interest in medicine IMO. If we assume you’re going into family med, from a financial perspective it may not be worth it to lose 6 years of income. Tbh I might not bother looking back at it. Medicine will likely give you more variety, but I have doubts you’ll be happier 10y from now.

Shame on us for what? I'm simply stating what I know, which is that many of my friends are making 120-140k as full time optometrists. I never said OP's fiancée will make 250k, I said it's possible so take that into account. I'm sure you can work your way up to 250k in 6 years as an optometrist, instead of studying family medicine only to make less, not even accounting for lost years of income. 

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11 minutes ago, member_225 said:

Shame on us for what? I'm simply stating what I know, which is that many of my friends are making 120-140k as full time optometrists. I never said OP's fiancée will make 250k, I said it's possible so take that into account. I'm sure you can work your way up to 250k in 6 years as an optometrist, instead of studying family medicine only to make less, not even accounting for lost years of income. 

Finances is definitely something we will take into account. I don't think 250K is common after 6 years of practice in optometry. We have family members who have been practicing optometry for 20+ years, and none of them are making 250K.

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1 hour ago, medicine2019 said:

Finances is definitely something we will take into account. I don't think 250K is common after 6 years of practice in optometry. We have family members who have been practicing optometry for 20+ years, and none of them are making 250K.

Assuming your fiancée got into optometry school after 3 years of undergrad, she would be 24 right now.

Scenario 1:  6 years of optometry income, with an average of 130k per year across all 6 years (if  you think even this isn't doable, then you're just trolling at this point), will be 780k of a head start in income. 

Scenario 2: your fiancée goes to medical school and ends up doing family medicine. With an average of 210k per year, it would take her 10 years to catch up to the lost income. 

So at 40 you'd break even as a family doc should she choose not to continue with optometry. 

Do what you want with this information. I'm not here to convince anyone to do optometry, I couldn't care less. 

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7 hours ago, member_225 said:

Assuming your fiancée got into optometry school after 3 years of undergrad, she would be 24 right now.

Scenario 1:  6 years of optometry income, with an average of 130k per year across all 6 years (if  you think even this isn't doable, then you're just trolling at this point), will be 780k of a head start in income. 

Scenario 2: your fiancée goes to medical school and ends up doing family medicine. With an average of 210k per year, it would take her 10 years to catch up to the lost income. 

So at 40 you'd break even as a family doc should she choose not to continue with optometry. 

Do what you want with this information. I'm not here to convince anyone to do optometry, I couldn't care less. 

And don't expect family medicine's salary to keep up with inflation.

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