The Career Doctor™

by Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez

Looking for a first job? Thinking of changing careers? Facing a lay-off? The Career Doctor™ is a Larchmont psychologist specializing in career counseling. If you'd like to ask a question of your own, use our anonymous form, and she might answer you here. Read more about the Career Doctor here. Contact information is here.

M.D. OR SHORTER DEGREE?

Dear Career Doctor:

I am twenty eight years old and I am about to begin a Physical Therapy program in July. It is a three year degree -- two years of coursework and one of clinical rotations. However, I am feeling that I may actually want to go for an M.D./PhD combination - degree instead.

Physical Therapy is a wonderful career, but I feel that earning a combination degree will afford me greater opportunities to make ground breaking contributions to the medical field. I want to travel to other countries where medical care is insufficient and make a difference. I want to not only have patient contact but also to conduct research. I want to be in Bangladesh performing surgery on children's cleft palates one week and the next week complete routine physicals in an outpatient clinic in America. I LOVE LEARNING and plan to be in school for the rest of my life. I am well aware of what it would take to get into and complete med school, and the financial burden.

I just don't want to go to Physical Therapy school because I am older. When I have the Physical Therapy degree, I will go right into a research oriented Ph.D. anyway. I could just graduate, make my $100,000 and help people, but will I be upset at myself later?

Robert

Dear Robert:

The big difference between the work life of someone with an M.D. versus a degree in Physical Therapy is the responsibility -- people with lower level degrees usually have to work under the direction or guidance of those with higher degrees, and their range of training/ability is usually more narrow. You seem to want to be in charge and have a broad range of experiences, so it sounds like medical school is the best choice for you. However, since it will take awhile for you to apply to medical school, why not see how you like Physical Therapy? If you do well, it will probably improve your chances of getting into medical school.

You seem concerned about the financial burden of medical school, so research the fact that some of the joint M.D./Ph.D. programs offer free tuition. Since you seem interested in working with the poor, also research government programs that pay for medical school for physicians who are willing to join the armed services or work in rural or impoverished areas.

Most doctors find it impossible to do what you want: "globe hop", conduct significant research and make $100,000 a year. But some high energy, altruistic physicians do all those things, especially those who volunteer time with organizations like Doctors Without Borders.

The Career Doctor

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The Career Doctor™ is Larchmont psychologist and career counselor, Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez.

Her office is at 90 Beechtree Drive in Larchmont, 914-834-1982.