Friday, May 31, 2013

Physician versus chemist: no contest

UK chemist Jess wrote a worthwhile post, with her own twin study with an n of 1:
The odds of becoming an identical twin are around three in one thousand and I am one of those lucky three. Throughout the twenty eight years of mine and my twin sister’s life we have constantly been compared to each other in looks, personality and brain power. Abigail is a trainee general practitioner (GP) which means that she has completed her medicine degree (5 years) and subsequent foundation training (2 years). I am an organic chemistry postdoc, having completed my MChem. undergraduate degree (4 years) and PhD (3.5 years) in chemistry. Considering that the training for our respective roles has been a very similar amount of time, you may or may not be surprised to find that our lives and career prospects are very different.
Naturally, the post goes where you think it does. It is worth noting that the difference between physician salaries in the UK and the US is quite significant, with US physicians basically making the most money globally. Read the whole thing. 


  1. There's also a significant different in the # of years it takes to get a PhD in the US vs. the UK.. the lucky ones in my lab would get out in 7.5 years...

  2. Some might argue that the reason why the MD makes more because she does have the "life/death decisions" to make that the PhD twin does not, which will be reflected in the amount of liability insurance she will require. I think the salary difference, for this reason, may be fair.

    I think a major difference though is that with an MD you are virtually guaranteed a good well paying balanced job, while with a PhD its a gamble--some will get it, some will not (like me!). For that reason the training for a PhD is not worth it. It would be if you certainly got a reasonably good job that you could keep the rest of your life.

  3. "It would be if you certainly got a reasonably good job that you could keep the rest of your life."

    Outside of MD, tax accountant, or funeral director does such a position exist?

    On minus side for MD, you have to spend your whole life having people coming to you complaining they're sick. Blech. Plus you have to touch ugly people and other gross stuff.

  4. "Plus you have to touch ugly people and other gross stuff."

    I can barely look at obese people at Wal-mart. I guess I'm not meant to be an MD.

  5. @bboooooya

    > "Plus you have to touch ugly people and other gross stuff."

    Try being a paramedic or EMT, where you have to deal with these people in their native habitat and paid next to nothing (or have to pay $25 dues every year - I was a volunteer). Generally, MDs don't have to worry about having a building collapse on them, getting cooked in a fire or treat a patient while standing in a pool of gasoline.

    The motivation is certainly not the money to be sure.

  6. Many PhD chemists have the ability to get an MD, or they at least did when it was time to make that decision. But, it seems to me that MDs and PhDs are wired a bit different. It would be interesting to see how many would be happy in the opposite job, long-term. I know the MD salary is much higher than the average PhD chemist, but I would have never considered going that route just for the money. You might say thats easy for me to say since I have a good job, but still. I think I'd go crazy dealing with that many sick/injured people all day.

  7. I know a couple of people who did science undergrads and are retraining with a medicine degree. When I said I couldn't fathom how a scientist could think like a doctor, both of them said "I never really thought like a scientist".

    (FYI in the UK then medicine is an undergraduate degree taking something 6-7 years, or a graduate entry course taking about 4.)


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