You were Pre-Med, but now you’re not so sure if it’s the right path for you. What’s Next?
Is this a thought you’ve experienced at any point while on your Pre-med journey? If you have, don’t worry you are not alone! Many students wonder if the medical path is right for them while going through their undergraduate careers, or even when they take time off from college. At some point, the thought of another career path, or whether you really want to go to medical school may come into mind. While this may make you feel disoriented, with just a few easy tips, this overbearing decision will be easier for you to manage.
First and foremost, if you ever question whether being Pre-med is the right option for you, you might want to explore medicine and all that it entails to see if you really do enjoy the field and would really like to be a future doctor. A few ways you can explore the medical field are by shadowing doctors, interning, volunteering, doing research, or speaking to students in medical school as well as current doctors about their experiences. Now, you don’t have to do all these things at once; they are simply ways you can immerse yourself into the field of medicine to see if it is the right path for you. There are tons of opportunities for you to get involved, your job is to seek out these opportunities to help you go through your career exploration process.
Charlotte, a recent UC Berkeley graduate, stated “I always wanted to go into medicine, but decided due to various reasons to explore what my university had to offer during my time as an upperclassman. I really got into clinical research, and the classes I took built on my budding interest, so for a while I began debating if maybe clinical research or a position in the public health sector was right for me. After exploring, I found my way back to the pre-med track.” As you can see through Charlotte’s story, exploring other options may help you realize whether pursuing a medical degree is the right option for you.
However, don’t feel alarmed if you decide on a different healthcare path, or different career path all together, after exploring other options. Brent, a senior at UCLA, explored career options outside the field of medicine and found that dentistry was a better healthcare path for him to pursue. Brent mentioned that no matter what he did, he knew he wanted to have a very hands-on position, leading him to explore the options of either going through the Pre-med track and in hopes of becoming a surgeon, or switching to another healthcare path that involved lots of hands-on exposure. Brent came to the conclusion that he may also be interested in dentistry, since it is so hands-on, and decided to shadow a surgeon to help him get a sense of whether he should stay on the Pre-med track. “In shadowing the surgeon, I found that I would want to see quick results from my work if I were a doctor. In surgery, you do use your hands but results can take up to weeks or months. While I was premed, I had begun to expose myself in other fields such as dentisry. I was fascinated by the quickness of the results, the idea of using your hands with drilling instruments, being creative and paying attention to detail in a localized area, the high patient interaction, and the challenge to make your patient at ease when coming to the office. In addition, the lifestyle for dentists is a lot less draining in my opinion, both during and after school.” While Charlotte’s career exploration took her back to the medical field, Brent’s led him to find another area of interest in the healthcare field. Both options are valid options for students to take; you just have to take advantage of the opportunities available to you to help determine if you are really interested in medicine.
Now, for those of you who are interested in medicine, but either started to take your prerequisites late in your undergraduate career or did not receive grades you were pleased with, you have the option of entering a Postbaccalaureate program for a couple years to help satisfy the coursework and grades needed to apply to medical school. For those of you wondering what a Postbac program is, it is simply a program geared toward college graduates that helps students who want to apply to medical school complete the necessary prerequisite coursework. There are two types of postbac programs: the first is designed for “career changers,” which are those students that have not yet completed their science prerequisites as they were likely to decide on the medical field late in their educational careers. The second is for students who are looking to improve their science course grades by retaking the courses through a postbac program. In Charlotte’s case, she chose to pursue a postbac program before applying to medical school. “I didn’t find it worth it to squeeze in my final prerequisites into my time as an undergrad and decided to avoid overfilled courses by choosing a postbac path. There are various options and everyone’s sure to find a program or school to fit their needs. I’m still continuing to do research and will also be volunteering in a hospital during my studies,” she said. As you can see, there are options available to you, even if the sciences weren’t your topic of interest or strong point while in undergrad. A postbac program can help you build your medical school application, and improve your science prerequisites. A postbac program can be found at undergraduate universities all over the nation.
If you still aren’t sure if the Pre-med track is the right track for you after gaining experience and speaking to professionals in the field, you may want to consider some other healthcare professions that may still satisfy your desire to help others and work in a field related to medicine. Some common healthcare careers are: physician’s assistant, pharmacists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, genetic counselors, and veterinarians. These are all healthcare options for you to consider, and at the UCLA Career Center, we have a Career Library filled with books on healthcare career options that also provide you with information on the educational requirements, salary, and working environments for these professionals. Feel free to stop by at the Career Center to further your career exploration process.
Lastly, if you decide that a career in the healthcare field is no longer right for you, there are other options out there that you can explore. Vesta, a Peer Advisor at the UCLA Career Center, was once a pre-med student, but over time, she came to realize medicine, or a career in healthcare, was not for her. “I still found it all extremely interesting and important, but I didn’t wake up in the morning excited to go to class and learn science, or do healthcare for the rest of my life. And that got me thinking, is there something I could be learning about/doing in the future that would make me happier? And there was. So I decided to pursue that and it made all the difference,” Vesta said. She explored her options and decided to pursue a career in the film industry instead. If you are interested in getting a sense of what other career paths may be right for you, feel free to make an appointment to meet with a career counselor at the UCLA Career Center, or take one of several assessments we offer to help you gain a better sense of what career may work best for you.
Now that you’re aware of ways to determine if the Pre-med path is right for you, I wish you the best of luck in your career exploration process and in your future endeavors. And remember, there is nothing wrong with switching career paths. It’s important to find your passion, and to do what you love, as you’ll be the one in this field throughout your professional life. As Confucius said, “do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”