22 April 2013

The M.D./Ph.D.: why you almost certainly shouldn’t get one

In my roles as both grad program coordinator and participant in many undergraduate research programs, I’ve often heard students (particularly in program interviews) say, “I’m interested in doing an M.D./Ph.D.”

Stop. It sounds good to say that as a goal. It makes you seem all super ambitious. Students who want to do med school often say this when interviewing in undergrad research programs that are preparing students for grad school, because they know “med school” will count against them. But you probably don’t want that degree.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had two independent confirmations of what jobs require an M.D./Ph.D. Here, for your convenience, is that list:

  1. Medical school professor.
  2. Nope, nothing to see here. Go to point number 1.

Seriously, that is it. Unless you want that one specific job, there is no good reason to do that degree. The competition is intense (lots of students who express that idea would not qualify based on their GPA.). It takes a longer time than either of the other degrees.

Every other jjob can be fulfilled with one degree or the other. If you want to do research in a clinical setting, be a physician who works with with other scientists. If you want to do medical research outside of the clinic, get a doctorate.

Now, in fairness, this is not necessarily an easy thing to know. I am so uninvolved with the medical training, I didn’t know what the goal of an M.D./Ph.D. program was. I wasn’t aware of just how narrow and targeted the training was meant to be. A lot more students need to be told this.

No comments: