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Career advice: Medicine vs. Tech (data science)


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I am lucky to have strong credentials for a career either in data science or medicine. None of my passions are realistic career options, so I just want a career that pays off the most in terms of work-life balance and salary, and gives me time for family and hobbies outside of work. I think I have the skills for either job, so I would appreciate your thoughts on deciding between data science vs. becoming a family doctor.

Data science

I know that the starting salary is around 50-65k and within 2-3 years will be at 120-130k. I'm not sure how it changes from there with more experience. My colleagues in data science are working around 40 hours per week and seem to not be that stressed. But again, they're all early in their careers, and I wonder how that changes once you enter higher-level positions, such as management. So, I worry about job stability and the fact that I could be fired at any time, plus having a boss who demands a lot of me and asks me to move up in the company to management. Being a family doctor is more of a certainty for an upper middle-class income and comes with a lot of autonomy, but with much greater upfront sacrifice.

Medicine

I don't have any particular passion for medicine. I like talking to people about their problems and am indifferent about the subject matter (but, the idea of death really bothers me). I would aim to be a family doctor in Ontario, where it seems they make about 200-250k for 40-50 hours a week. But I also hear about walk-in family doctors making 500k+, which is a salary I'd never hit in data science in Ontario. So that's enticing. I've saved up 120k and could pay off all of med school, so I have no worries about debt burden (I'm a very frugal person). I also like the job flexibility with being a family doctor, where I could work in any location and, if I really get lazy, switch to part-time :). But, I hear about the high degree of stress and misery in medicine, so I wonder whether it's not all positive.

Assuming I could get into medicine or a data science job next year, which do you think is a better career path? Thanks in advance.

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3 minutes ago, offmychestplease said:

I won't comment on anything other than drawing comparisons between $.

1. You won't be tripling your income as a data scientist after 2-3 years...

2. Despite what some "low-ballers" will say on here, FM is more like $300,000 after overhead as a 50th percentile median...$450,000+ after overhead is possible for those in the 75th percentile (which sounds hard to reach but you have to consider that MANY FM's work part-time, aren't interesting/don't know how to maximize income, close to retirement etc). There is someone on this board making 450K after overhead in Ontario 1 year out of residency working 6 days a week. $1,000,000+ after overhead is the 99th percentile for FM and obviously very hard to get..but there are some FM's who make that every year .

3. Job security, portability, prestige are not comparable but also consider if you applied to medical school next summer, got in, did medical school and residency that would be 1 + 1 + 4 + 2 = 8 years from now...until you actually earn that income as opposed to working in data science which I would assume you could start within the year.   

Thanks a lot for your reply. My thoughts:

1. I have friends in data science. They all started at ~60k and within 2-3 years hit 120-130k. They also get benefits, vacation, sick days, etc., so it's a nice gig. I just don't know if/how it changes as their career progresses. Some people warn me that data science, and tech in general, is a very volatile field and that the bubble could burst at any time.

2. I don't see myself working a ridiculous amount to make these numbers. I'm guessing some of those people are rural, doing pain clinics, very high volume walk-ins, etc. I'm not interested in having no life for extra money, but it's nice to know that the option is there. I'm just assuming that I'll be average and make average numbers (which in Ontario, is closer to 200-250k).

3. Yeah, that's the big question: Could I do reasonably well as a data scientist in the years it would take to finally become a family doctor? I guess I could aim for a 3-year program to make it a little quicker.

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22 minutes ago, offmychestplease said:

2. Despite what some "low-ballers" will say on here, FM is more like $300,000 after overhead as a 50th percentile median...$450,000+ after overhead is possible for those in the 75th percentile (which sounds hard to reach but you have to consider that MANY FM's work part-time, aren't interested in/don't know how to maximize income, close to retirement etc). There is someone on this board making $420,000 after overhead in Ontario straight out of residency working 50h a week. $1,000,000+ after overhead is the 99th percentile for FM and obviously very hard to get..but there are some FM's who make that every year .

Extremely province dependent and model of care/payment model.   300k after overhead, is hustling hard if you're doing full scope - clinic only FM in most provinces that are FFS.  If walk-in focused FFS, slightly easier for sure. 

420k after overhead working 50hrs a week all-in, is impressive for right out of residency, and would be curious on what billing model that is and type of care.

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Something to remember, is that many FM billers that are well above average, are often providing admittedly poor quality walk-in style medicine (in the context of full scope medicine), and are subject to having their style of medicine abruptly altered if the provincial bodies/powers to be start to clamp down on it etc.  Ontario is pretty notorious for their walk-in style medicine, with no caps etc, and <5minute visit appointments (refills, quick URTI scripts etc etc).     

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34 minutes ago, Butterfly_ said:

If you have no passion for medicine and don’t like the idea of death, I’d say don’t do medicine. 

 

3 minutes ago, Arztin said:

If you have no passion for medicine, don't do it.

Why endure so many years of gruesome training if you hate what you are doing? 

Thanks for the advice. Is everyone passionate about medicine? I thought a lot of people go into medicine simply because it's a good career (stable, high-paying). It has a lot of perks that other careers don't have. In general, I don't know many people who are passionate about their jobs. Do you know people who did medicine without any passion for it? What happened to them? None of my passions could lead to a career, so I'm trying to pick a career for more practical reasons and see my job as a means to an end.

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1 hour ago, techormed said:

 

Thanks for the advice. Is everyone passionate about medicine? I thought a lot of people go into medicine simply because it's a good career (stable, high-paying). It has a lot of perks that other careers don't have. In general, I don't know many people who are passionate about their jobs. Do you know people who did medicine without any passion for it? What happened to them? None of my passions could lead to a career, so I'm trying to pick a career for more practical reasons and see my job as a means to an end.

Plenty of people go into medicine because of the "Good career" aspects, and do just fine. I have multiple colleagues who treat it as a job, and are excellent clinicians.  None of them actively hate it though. They at worst tolerate it, and have carved practices to optimize parts they like enough.

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17 hours ago, techormed said:

 

Thanks for the advice. Is everyone passionate about medicine? I thought a lot of people go into medicine simply because it's a good career (stable, high-paying). It has a lot of perks that other careers don't have. In general, I don't know many people who are passionate about their jobs. Do you know people who did medicine without any passion for it? What happened to them? None of my passions could lead to a career, so I'm trying to pick a career for more practical reasons and see my job as a means to an end.

I am passionate about medicine and I surround myself with other classmates who are also passionate about medicine. I’m enjoying medical school and am motivated to study.

I definitely see people in my class who are in medicine for the money and prestige. These classmates still do very well because they are intelligent, but I also find some of them are already burning out because they hate the studying, intense schedule, the paper work, and dealing with difficult patients.

I think it depends on you as a person and what you’re willing to put up with. 

You mentioned that your passions won’t end up well career wise, what are those passions? 

When I first graduated many years ago, I went into a career just for the money (Investment banking). I made a lot of money but was burnt out and super unhappy. I ended up quitting.

I’m glad I switched out and did something I was passionate about. I’m happy now.


I wish you the best.

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21 hours ago, techormed said:

I am lucky to have strong credentials for a career either in data science or medicine. None of my passions are realistic career options, so I just want a career that pays off the most in terms of work-life balance and salary, and gives me time for family and hobbies outside of work. I think I have the skills for either job, so I would appreciate your thoughts on deciding between data science vs. becoming a family doctor.

Data science

I know that the starting salary is around 50-65k and within 2-3 years will be at 120-130k. I'm not sure how it changes from there with more experience. My colleagues in data science are working around 40 hours per week and seem to not be that stressed. But again, they're all early in their careers, and I wonder how that changes once you enter higher-level positions, such as management. So, I worry about job stability and the fact that I could be fired at any time, plus having a boss who demands a lot of me and asks me to move up in the company to management. Being a family doctor is more of a certainty for an upper middle-class income and comes with a lot of autonomy, but with much greater upfront sacrifice.

Medicine

I don't have any particular passion for medicine. I like talking to people about their problems and am indifferent about the subject matter (but, the idea of death really bothers me). I would aim to be a family doctor in Ontario, where it seems they make about 200-250k for 40-50 hours a week. But I also hear about walk-in family doctors making 500k+, which is a salary I'd never hit in data science in Ontario. So that's enticing. I've saved up 120k and could pay off all of med school, so I have no worries about debt burden (I'm a very frugal person). I also like the job flexibility with being a family doctor, where I could work in any location and, if I really get lazy, switch to part-time :). But, I hear about the high degree of stress and misery in medicine, so I wonder whether it's not all positive.

Assuming I could get into medicine or a data science job next year, which do you think is a better career path? Thanks in advance.

IMO it's personality dependent. I would lean towards not doing medicine because of the heavy upfront investment needed (aside from financials, you need 4 years of medical school and 2 years of residency training, during which you may have to relocate and may want to relocate again as an attending). Plus it sounds like you want to avoid stress, death, and responsibility, which are to some extent unavoidable with medicine.

You hear very split opinions on family medicine because there are very varied experiences. Some people get hired right away in a good practice where they did residency and are able to be efficient, making good money as others are alluding to here. Most move around, locum for a while, or maybe even take a bit of time off for kids (reducing their income).

A few have horrible experiences where got sued in residency/as a junior attending or just hate their job. There was a recent poster who seemed to really dislike it (quoted below). While I don't think the quote below is representative of the average family physician (or even a good argument against doing FM since other specialties have higher rates of being sued), it does show that some people end up disliking what they do because of the anxiety/stress that comes with working with patients.
 

Quote

I am a practicing family physician, so take my opinion for what its worth. 
 

I will recommend you to stay away from family medicine as it stands right now. 
 

Under a massive propaganda in cahoots with the provincial governments, med schools sell you family medicine as this great speciality. On every step you are shown how great and diverse FM is. 
 

But no one tells you the practical implications. No one tells you the medico-legal implications of being a FM physician. No one tells you the financial implications of being a FP. 

If you practice full family medicine, your income will depend on volume of patients you see, unless you are in a FHO (you cant create new FHOs anymore in big cities). So for all intents and purposes, the more patients you see, the more $ you will make and secure to keep your business running and your own family fed. You ask what is the problem with that? Well the more patients you see, the more chance of making errors in 5-10 min consultation for a patient who might need a full 30 min evaluation (including the time for your brain to process the diagnostic algorithms and ddx). And trust me, as a FD you CANNOT spend 30 mins, heck even 20 mins, with every patient that you see in one day or your business will go bankrupt, pts in waiting room will leave you extremely negative comments (they dont and wont give a damn how thorough and accurate and great care you were providing to the patient you were in exam room with...and they could also file complaint to your college, probably nothing will come of it but the headache and stress you will go through from getting a letter from your regulatortycollege)
 

On any given day, a neonate might come to your clinic who is really sick but does not look sick enough to YOU (who is not an expert in pediatric care) to direct them to ER at that point in time. So you decide to send him home and he dies, guess who will be held responsible? You as a primary care FP (you are not a ped, keep in mind, and hence are not an expert in pediatric care). You will be held responsible for missing a critically ill child in a 5 -10 minute visit for which you were being paid only $33-40. The same patient when goes to ER, the ER physician will make at least $77 for the same presentation with the ADDED advantage of being able to do stat xrays/cbc to further hone his/her ddx.... Now you tell me, are you willing to take that risk of making critical decisions in light of the Limited time you can spend and limited $ you earn from making those hard and tough diagnostic decisions? 
 

yes this doesnt happen daily. Maybe it will happen 5 times in your life time that you see a critically ill neonate. But you just need one error to have your livelihood ruined and your face plastered on the news and your reputation destroyed. And that also makes it even more tricky. The less presentations you see, the rustier your clinical acumen and diagnosis. Hence even greater risk of not recognizing a catastrophe happening in front of you. 

i can go on and on. 
 

 

Dont ever do FM. find something you like and focus on that specialized care you can be and dream to be an expert in.

 

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20 hours ago, techormed said:

 

Thanks for the advice. Is everyone passionate about medicine? I thought a lot of people go into medicine simply because it's a good career (stable, high-paying). It has a lot of perks that other careers don't have. In general, I don't know many people who are passionate about their jobs. Do you know people who did medicine without any passion for it? What happened to them? None of my passions could lead to a career, so I'm trying to pick a career for more practical reasons and see my job as a means to an end.

I think that the training path is long and grueling enough that if you don't somewhat enjoy or are passionate about the field you are at risk for burnout and disillusionment. I honestly think it's probably to do tech or data science and treat that as "a job". I think medicine for better or for worse becomes a integral part of your identity and many people don't have as much time or energy for other pursuits.

The thing I counsel students on is to choose a path that they are passionate about as there's enough nonsense in medicine to grind you down without something intangible to keep you going.

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20 hours ago, techormed said:

 

Thanks for the advice. Is everyone passionate about medicine? I thought a lot of people go into medicine simply because it's a good career (stable, high-paying). It has a lot of perks that other careers don't have. In general, I don't know many people who are passionate about their jobs. Do you know people who did medicine without any passion for it? What happened to them? None of my passions could lead to a career, so I'm trying to pick a career for more practical reasons and see my job as a means to an end.

Yes, there are people who did it just because they had the grades and weren't really passionate about it.

Among those people, some people who left at some point during their training. I saw some really unhappy people, both trainees and attendings. There was a story of an attending who hated his job, but kept doing it because of the money. 

Sure there are perks, but don't ignore the drawbacks.

Keep in mind that the training is pretty intense. You need to drink from a fire hose during preclerkship, and the hours aren't always great during clinical training afterwards.

It's also a huge time investment. Many people do 5 yrs of residency + 2 years of training as a fellow afterwards. IMO, it's pretty long. All that to potentially not be able to work where you want.

I've seen multiple people break up with their partner during training.

I think I've seen all my close friends at some point burn out during their training.

Then there are the odd things that you wouldn't do or see in most other fields unless if you are a cop or a firefighter. For example, last week I had to tell a patient and her son that she was going to die within a few hours and there wasn't anything we could do to cure her disease. She wasn't ready to die. Unfortuately, she indeed died 2 hours later. Those aren't easy discussions. At this point, I totally lost count of the number of patients I've seen die. Then there are things that you hear or see that are quite traumatizing, for example, children getting abused etc...

I'm personally happy about my choice. I've worked really hard the last few years, and I'm lucky to have a position where I want, with the type of practice that I wanted. Fortunately I'm still passionate about medicine and I love what I do.

All that to say: you better be passionate about medicine if you want to pursue this field. If not, do something else.

 

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