• Question: How long does it take if you want to become a doctor? Is scientists better than doctors?

    Asked by lovelalic to Jemma, Steve, Julian, Eoin, Charlie on 16 Mar 2011.
    • Photo: Jemma Ransom

      Jemma Ransom answered on 14 Mar 2011:

      I presume you mean a medical doctor, like the ones you see on casualty?! It takes 5 years to train through medical school to become a hospital doctor. However to be a scientist the traditional career path is to take an undergraduate degree at University in a science subject and then complete a PhD which is like a 3 year work placement in a lab.

      As for whether being a scientist is better than being a doctor, I guess the more PC answer is they are two very different professions and one is not better than the other. For instance many doctors also have PhDs and so complete scientific research as well as their clinical work.

      However if I’m being honest, of course being a scientist is better! In fact, Steve, Julian, Eoin, and Charlie are the real doctors as they have completed a doctorate (PhD) whereas your GP has only got an undergraduate degree (his/her title is an honorary one). Also, we get to work out how the human body works without having to deal with grumpy patients.

    • Photo: Eoin Lettice

      Eoin Lettice answered on 16 Mar 2011:

      Lots of scientists are doctors too ( they have a PhD) they are just not Medical Doctors, which I guess you are referring to?
      No, scientists aren’t better than doctors – we just specialise in different things. The doctor you see in a hospital has specialised in human medicine and diseases and the scientist may specialise in anything from space to zoology to chemistry.
      Lots of medical doctors are also scientists – they do lots of research into certain human illnesses. Also, lots of scientists help doctors to discover cures for human disease.
      Scientists and doctors work together to save lives!


    • Photo: Stephen Moss

      Stephen Moss answered on 16 Mar 2011:

      Hi Lovelalic

      The University training to become a doctor is usually five years, and then you can continue training after University perhaps in a hospital as you develop your speciality, or maybe become a GP. Scientists, on the other hand, usually do a three year degree course, but then often do a further four years of training to get a PhD, after which they can also call themselves ‘doctor’. Either way there’s a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun, and like most things, if you really enjoy what you’re doing it doesn’t actually seem like work at all. It was Noel Coward who said ‘work is more fun than fun’, and I think I know what he meant.

      Are scientists better than doctors? You bet they are.

    • Photo: Julian Rayner

      Julian Rayner answered on 16 Mar 2011:

      Tough question, lovelalic, because there isn’t a right answer. Doctors and scientists are very different jobs, even though both involve some level of scientific knowledge. Both are great careers, but they suit different people. Doctors spend a lot of time with patients, so people skills are really crucial, whereas us scientists can be a bit mad and it doesn’t matter so much. Scientists are trying to discover new things, things that noone knew before and might make the world better. Doctors apply a list of things that we already know to try and make individual people better. Doctors usually make more money (after a while), but scientists usually have a whole lot more flexibility and freedom to follow the questions that they are most passionate about. The length of time taken to get there is probably similar, although to be honest, I don’t know the ins and outs of medical country in the UK.

      If you think you might want to be one or the other, the best thing to do is spend some time with both professions. Try to get a few weeks in a lab one summer, learning what we actually do each day. Volunteer at your local hospital, see what being around patients is actually like. Then choose whichever inspires you most, and work like crazy…

    • Photo: Charlie Ryan

      Charlie Ryan answered on 16 Mar 2011:

      Hi i think it takes about 7-8 years to become a doctor (i guess you mean medicine – to become a doctor of philosophy (i.e. study for a PhD, like i have down) it’s about 4 years).
      Are scientists better? Of course they are!! Altho maybe doctors think differently…