Should I study medicine vs. engineering? Which has the better career prospects for a science student?
This is perhaps the greatest rivalry in the history of degrees and careers. Medicine and engineering have been at the top of the chosen courses of science-inclined students. This is partly due to the immense opportunities on offer after graduation. Many students are often stuck in a dilemma on which to choose between the two. This is a crucial decision that can make or break a professional life. Aspirants must introspect, listen to their inner voice, and analyze both streams carefully to make the right decision.
In this article, we look at these two important courses and explain why one may suit you better than the other.
Table of Contents
Your Passion and Interest
Above all, the primary reason to choose between studying medicine and studying engineering is your passion and interest. If you naturally have a passion for taking care of sick patients, by all means, you’ll want to ignore every other indicator and go with medicine. The same goes for having an interest in a particular engineering field. This comparison is for people who are open to both options but need a side-by-side analysis to make a better decision.
Let me share a personal story to that effect. At first, I wanted to study medicine and surgery. My first attempt at gaining admission into the university had medicine and surgery as my first choice. But by my next attempt, I had changed my mind and decided to study engineering after I learned about the long years required to become a medical doctor. And I had to choose the highest-paying engineering degree. So for me, it wasn’t about interest or passion but about objective preference. If you are not particularly attached to any of both fields, here are more objective indicators to consider.
Ease of Getting Admission
Applying to engineering school is an essential first step on the path to becoming an engineer, no matter what specialty the student plans to pursue. The application process for both undergraduate and graduate students can be nerve-wracking since the results can have such a big impact on the trajectory of one’s career. Engineering applicants should expect to be able to demonstrate a solid background in mathematics and science subjects like Chemistry and Physics. So the more courses high school students can take in these subjects, the better. Some engineering schools may demand high school CGPA while others simply ask students to write exams to test their proficiency in math. If you are good at math getting admitted to study engineering should be easier.
The medical school, however, is in a league of its own when it comes to admission. Medicine is one of the most difficult courses to get admitted into and with good reason. Doctors who graduate from medical school will be responsible for millions of human lives. For this reason, medicine seeks only the best, both academically and personality-wise. Medical schools, which are already hard to get into, are getting harder each year. U.S. News did its annual survey of the 118 ranked medical schools that reported their acceptance rates. It found that the average was only 6.8% in 2018. However, the average acceptance rate of the most competitive medical schools was just 2.4% in 2019.
Going by the ease of getting admission engineering easily wins. There is however more to choosing a course than the ease of getting admission.
Cost and Length of Study
How much you pay to study engineering pretty much depends on where you choose to study. In the USA, where over 20% of international students study engineering, costs are around $170,000 on average for four years. The US has some of the most prestigious engineering schools in the world, so the cost is much higher. Tuition fees are cheaper in Asia and Africa however. On average it takes 5 years to get an engineering degree.
Also, read Top Countries to Study Engineering for Free
Medical schools, in the US, require pre-medical training for a medical degree. The four years of medical school consist of pre-clinical and clinical courses. The final degree is MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). On average getting a medical degree can take between 6 to 9 years with the inclusion of residency. Getting a medical degree in the USA will cost an average of $198,000. Medical degrees are however cheaper in countries like Russia, Ukraine, China, and Nigeria. Going by the cost of study, Engineering appears cheaper and even has a shorter time frame to get the degree.
Training After Graduation
Most graduate engineers go straight into the job market after they acquire their first degrees. There is almost no compulsory training before they become engineers. However, some countries like the USA and Canada require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public.
Engineers who are licensed are called Professional Engineers (PE). Also, in Nigeria for instance, you will need to register with COREN; that is the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, to practice as a professional engineer. Civil, mechanical, structural, industrial, and environmental engineers are more likely to seek licenses than Computer engineers.
For medicine, only the first four years are spent in the classroom. Three years are spent in the hospital for intensive medical training after which a residency exam is written. In many jurisdictions, successful completion of such training is a requirement to obtain an unrestricted license to practice medicine – and in particular, a license to practice a chosen specialty.
Whereas medical school teaches physicians a broad range of medical knowledge, basic clinical skills, and supervised experience practicing medicine in a variety of fields, medical residency gives in-depth training within a specific branch of medicine. Doctors no doubt get better training given the sensitive nature of their work. Engineers on the other hand simply learn on the job.
This is perhaps the biggest factor for most that choose to study either course; which has better job opportunities? Well for starters both have high job opportunities but in the case of engineering, that depends on the field. While petroleum, software engineering, and robotics are the most lucrative branches of engineering. Agricultural engineers have fewer job opportunities.
Doctors on the other hand, perhaps have the most secure jobs in the world. People will always fall sick; which means doctors will always be in demand. While engineering jobs are dependent on infrastructural development and innovation, medicine jobs simply depend on human beings staying alive. In the UK, for example, medicine and dentistry had an employment rate of 99% after graduation while engineering was further down at 85%. It’s little wonder why a lot of medical doctors in Africa and Asia immigrate to Europe for job opportunities. Think about it, when was the last time you saw an unemployed medical doctor? The complaint is often rather about underpayment.
Career Earning Potential
In the US on average, the starting salary of an engineer is around $91,000. This can be higher or lower depending on the field of engineering. Doctors, on the other hand, earn a starting salary of around $200,000 and this is for primary care doctors. Specialists earn way more than that, over $300,000. Now engineers can earn more or less depending on their expertise and experience. But on average, they earn less than doctors. In most other parts of the world, medical doctors averagely earn more than engineers.
Also, read Highest Paying Jobs in Healthcare
On the ease of getting admission and cost and length of study, Engineering comes out on top. On the training, job prospects, and earning potential, Medicine wins. The choice of which is better ultimately lies with you as you alone know what you seek to get from a course. Engineering and Medicine are two great courses and have contributed to making life better for humans in enormous ways.
How do you go about your admission processing into schools in the US and Canada? Don’t worry! We’ve got your back! Enrolling in the top universities in the world can increase your chances with employers. Unfortunately, studying abroad can be expensive due to the current economic crisis. But this shouldn’t limit you as there are other options you can explore to enhance your career.
MPower Finance and Prodigy Finance are some of the best student loan providers for international students. They also do not require any cosigner or collateral before application. At EdXtra Associates, we can help you with your loan application process. We also provide educational consultancy services for international students to help make your journey easier and faster. You can reach out to us, as we’d love to guide you through this journey.