doctor vs lawyer
Photo: Pexels

Choosing a career path can be a daunting decision, especially when it comes to highly respected professions like being a doctor or a lawyer. Both careers require a high level of commitment and dedication, but they differ in terms of education, job outlook, and earning potential. In this article, we will delve into the steps to become a doctor, the process of becoming a lawyer, and the differences between the two fields.

What are the steps to become a doctor?

1. Completing Medical School

The journey to becoming a doctor starts with completing a rigorous undergraduate education that includes courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, aspiring doctors must then attend medical school, which typically lasts four years. During this time, students gain in-depth knowledge of the human body, learn clinical skills, and participate in classroom lectures and practical rotations.

2. Residency and Specialization

Once medical school is completed, doctors must complete a residency program in their chosen specialty. Residency programs typically last for three to seven years, depending on the field of medicine. During this period, doctors receive hands-on training under the supervision of experienced physicians to further enhance their clinical skills and knowledge. After completing their residency, some doctors may choose to pursue a fellowship to further specialize in a specific area.

3. Obtaining Medical License

After completing the required education and training, doctors must obtain a medical license to legally practice medicine. This process typically involves passing a standardized exam, such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in the United States. Once licensed, doctors can choose to work in hospitals, private practices, or research institutions, depending on their interests and career goals.

How to become a lawyer?

1. Completing Undergraduate Education

Similar to aspiring doctors, individuals who want to become lawyers must first complete an undergraduate education. While there is no specific major requirement, it is common for students to pursue a degree in pre-law or a related field such as political science or criminal justice. During their undergraduate studies, students gain a foundational understanding of the legal system and develop critical thinking and analytical skills, which are essential for a career in law.

2. Attending Law School

After completing their undergraduate education, aspiring lawyers must attend law school. Law school typically takes three years to complete, during which students study various aspects of law. They learn legal research and writing, civil procedure, constitutional law, and other core subjects. Law students also have the opportunity to specialize in specific areas of law, such as family law, criminal defense, or corporate law, through elective courses and internships.

3. Passing the Bar Exam

Once law school is completed, aspiring lawyers must pass the bar exam in the state where they intend to practice law. The bar exam is a comprehensive examination that tests knowledge of various areas of law. It typically consists of both multiple-choice questions and essay questions. Upon passing the bar exam, individuals are qualified to practice law in their respective jurisdiction and can choose to work in law firms, government agencies, or establish their own practice.

What are the differences in the profession?

1. Nature of Work

The nature of work differs significantly between doctors and lawyers. Doctors, also known as medical doctors (MDs), diagnose and treat medical conditions, perform surgeries, and provide overall patient care. They work closely with patients, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to ensure optimum health outcomes. On the other hand, lawyers are legal professionals who provide advice and represent clients in legal matters. Their work involves research, drafting legal documents, and representing clients in court.

2. Educational Path

The educational path for doctors and lawyers also varies. As discussed earlier, doctors must complete medical school, followed by a residency program in their chosen specialty. In contrast, lawyers complete law school after their undergraduate studies, followed by passing the bar exam. Both professions require extensive education and training, but the specific courses and duration differ.

3. Job Outlook and Salary

The job outlook and salary potential also differ between doctors and lawyers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. In terms of salary, the median annual wage for physicians and surgeons was $206,500 in May 2020. On the other hand, the BLS projects a 4% growth for lawyers from 2019 to 2029, which is also as fast as the average for all occupations. The average annual wage for lawyers was $126,930 in May 2020.

Which is easier to become, a doctor or a lawyer?

1. Difficulty of Admission

The difficulty of admission to medical school and law school can vary. Medical school admission is highly competitive, with aspiring doctors needing to demonstrate exceptional academic performance, strong letters of recommendation, and high scores on the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). Law school admission is also competitive, but the specific criteria may vary between schools. Generally, aspiring lawyers need strong undergraduate grades, a competitive LSAT (Law School Admission Test) score, and compelling personal statements.

2. Length of Education

The length of education is another factor to consider when comparing the two professions. Becoming a doctor usually takes a longer time due to the combination of undergraduate education, medical school, and residency. On average, it takes around 10-14 years to become a practicing physician, depending on the chosen specialty. In contrast, becoming a lawyer typically takes around seven years (four years of undergraduate education plus three years of law school).

3. Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance can vary between doctors and lawyers. Doctors often have demanding schedules, especially during residency and early in their careers. They may work long hours, including nights and weekends, to ensure patient care. Lawyers also have demanding work schedules, especially when handling high-profile cases or working at prestigious law firms. However, lawyers may have more flexibility in managing their schedules once they establish their own practice or gain sufficient experience.

What are the average salaries for doctors and lawyers?

1. Median Salary for Doctors

The median salary for doctors can vary depending on the specialty they choose. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for physicians and surgeons was $206,500 in May 2020. However, salaries can range significantly based on factors such as experience, geographic location, and the specific field of medicine. Specialties like orthopedics, cardiology, and dermatology tend to have higher earning potentials compared to primary care fields.

2. Average Salary for Lawyers

Similar to doctors, the average salary for lawyers can also vary depending on various factors. The BLS reports that the average annual wage for lawyers was $126,930 in May 2020. However, salaries can differ based on experience, location, and the type of legal practice. Lawyers working in large law firms or specializing in lucrative areas like corporate law or intellectual property law often earn higher salaries compared to those working in public service or smaller firms.

3. Factors Affecting Salary

Several factors can influence the salaries of doctors and lawyers. For doctors, factors such as years of experience, location, specialization, and the healthcare system in which they work can impact their earning potential. Similarly, for lawyers, factors like years of experience, location, the size of the law firm, and the type of clients they represent can influence their salaries. Additionally, lawyers who take on high-stakes cases or work on a contingency fee basis may have the opportunity to earn significant income.

In conclusion, becoming a doctor or a lawyer both require a significant investment of time, effort, and dedication. In terms of educational path, doctors undergo rigorous medical training, while lawyers specialize in legal studies. Job outlooks and salaries for each profession vary, with doctors typically earning higher median salaries. Ultimately, the decision between becoming a doctor or a lawyer depends on an individual’s interests, strengths, and career goals.