Premed or law…that’s today’s question…
When it comes down to it, these two career choices are distinctly different, and require a totally different undergrad path. Whether you choose premed or law, and how early you make the choice, will indeed matter in the long run. Here are some things you may want to consider….
Length of schooling
Going to law school is a much smoother and simpler path than medical school. If you’re in pre-med, you should be starting your pre-med classes in your freshman year in order to be prepared for the MCAT. On the other hand, there is no specified path for those planning on law school. Law school applicants can have a variety of majors, but in both cases, it will be an easier path if you’re a good student and have good grades. Law school requires four years of undergrad followed by three years of law school. Medical school requires four years of undergrad followed by four years of medical school and a residency of three to seven years. So the length of schooling for law (7 years total) and pre-med (11-15 years total) might be a deal breaker for you.
Difficulty of classes
If you don’t fancy classes like organic chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics, even molecular biology and genetics, you may want to nix the med school idea. When you are trying to decide on premed or law, remember that students with pre-med classes can apply for law school, but students with pre-law classes (any major at all!) can’t apply for medical school. Your classes in premed will push you to your academic limits for sure, even if you’re one of those egghead science nuts. If you don’t love science, premed will be excruciatingly painful!
Job market prospects
Everything out there about pre-med and pre-law seems to indicate that there are many more options and opportunities in the pre-med realm. In fact, jobs in the legal market are few and far between now. That doesn’t mean the market won’t recover somewhat in the eight years between now and when you graduate, but doctors will probably have an easier time of being employable from now until the end of time. In fact, a severe shortage of doctors is being forecast in the next few years due to structural changes in the healthcare market, so your prospects as a doctor will be much better if you’re willing to do what’s required!
Cost of schooling
A huge consideration has to be the cost of medical school vs. the cost of law school. If your two top choices are premed or prelaw, the indebtedness quotient is much higher in medicine than law. Not to say that either is a cheap way to go. The average indebtedness of med school grads is around $200,000, give or take a few $10’s of $1,000’s, while the average indebtedness for law school grads is more in the realm of $120,000 (though it could be substantially more at the top schools). That makes sense given that medical school is longer. By the time med school students graduate and begin residencies, they’re usually paid a “salary” of $50,000 or so, helping with their debt load. Check out our post here on how to pay for medical school.
If you’re one of those super-driven “Type A” students who really can’t decide whether to go premed or law, there’s an option for you: a dual degree. There are several schools that offer a MD/JD degree, and you can finish in around seven years, and likely more depending on your specialty. Don’t even think about this one unless you love, love, love going to school, and are passionate about both degrees!
Here are a few other posts that may help you decide which option is best for you: