Can (Or Should) I Work During Medical School?

Session 23

Medical school is hard. You don’t have to be a genius, but you have to work a lot. Does it leave time to work? You shouldn’t work during medical school. In this episode, find out why.

[00:22] Worried About Finances

Rose from the Medical School HQ Facebook Hangout, asked a question about working while in medical school. Still a couple of years away from applying, she’s thinking about the long term financial consequences of being a medical student and leaving her current job as a nurse. So she’s trying to figure out how much money she needs to live on as a student.

Finance is a common worry among lots of medical students. I think this is even one of the biggest reasons we don’t see more lower income people or minorities applying to medical school. They look at that bill and the debts students have coming out of medical school. Then they decide it’s not for them. They find the tuition bill as too much.

And this is a huge disservice to our patient population and to the students who are giving up their dreams of becoming a physician.

You will come out with debt. But if you’ve heard, being a physician pays pretty well. Depending on what specialty you go in, it pays pretty well.

[02:10] You Have Help

There’s the public service loan forgiveness. There are some different scholarship programs like The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program. There are a bunch of things to help you pay up those loans.

Another way is if you go to a Academics and you’re getting grants. The NIH helps pay for a lot of the student loans.

[02:51] Working During Medical School

In my case, I worked before I was a medical student as a personal trainor at a gym. When I started medical school, I continued working as a personal trainor. I needed to work because I was not very responsible with money. I had a credit card debt and a big car payment. Loans didn’t cover that. In short, I was irresponsible with money.

While it was doable, I ultimately felt that it was one of the biggest things that hurt me in my quest to become an orthopedic surgeon. It was was the specialty that I wanted coming in and even when I graduated. It’s what I applied for in residency.

But  orthopedics is a competitive specialty along with dermatology, radiology, ophthalmology. Your Step 1 scores (USMLE or COMLEX Level 1). So your board scores is one of the biggest determining factors of your ability to get an interview for those residencies.

Take a listen to the Specialty Stories podcast where I cover the match data in some of the episodes. In that match data, there are Step scores and everything else.

Because I was spending ten hours a week working,my Step 1 score was much lower than what it could have been if I had dedicated my time to studying. It was my dream to be an orthopedic surgeon. And although I’m grateful for where I am now, it was devastating at that time to not be able to go into orthopedic surgery.

Working was the problem.

[05:50] Medical School Is Your Job

Don’t go to medical school thinking that you’re going to work or that you can work. You need to figure it out so that school is your job. Student loans will take care of that as long as everything else is set up.

It would be more challenging for nontraditional students. You have kids. And most loans don’t have child care built into the budget of the school. That’s how loans are determined. They’re typically given to you based on the budget the school sets. If child care is in there then you need to figure out how to get in there. It’s even harder if you have spouse who doesn’t work.

There are a lot of other things that go into it. But don’t plan on working while you’re a medical student. It will only hinder you in the future. Your goal here is not to survive medical school. You’re working towards something. Work towards that dream. Do the short term sacrifice of not working and pinching your pennies for your long term goal.

By the way, the episodes in this podcast are recordings of our Facebook Live that we do at 3pm Eastern on most weekdays. Check out our Facebook page and like the page to be notified. Also, listen to our other podcasts on MedEd Media. Follow us on Instagram at @medicalschoolhq.


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