Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor? (With Examples)

By Amanda Covaleski - Jun. 29, 2021
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Have you ever asked a doctor why they chose their career path? You’ll get a million different answers, but chances are all of them will have a great reason behind their decision to become a doctor.

With all of the steps it takes to be a doctor, nobody just happens to become on. Doctors make the important choice to enter into a medical profession, and if you’re considering becoming a doctor, you should think about your motivation too.

Unlike most other professions, doctors spend a lot of time in school and training before they can actually claim the title. It takes years to become a certified MD,
and the road can be stressful and difficult at times. That’s why it’s so crucial to make sure that the goal is worth the effort for you.

We’re going to take a look at common reasons doctors list for choosing their field, as well as some tips for you to reflect on as you think about a career in the medical field. This is just a starting point if you’re thinking about becoming a doctor, and we encourage you to do as much research as possible before making this momentous career decision.

How to Become a Doctor

To become a doctor, you’ll need to spend about 11 years in school. First, you’ll spend four years getting a bachelor’s degree in a related field (like science, math, or even liberal arts), then another four years at medical school for a medical degree.

After you graduate, you’ll have to complete a residency, fellowship, or internship to get firsthand experience as a doctor. You’ll get to shadow doctors with different specialties for three to eight years; then, you can become a licensed doctor.

Despite the hefty requirements to become a doctor, the rewards once you land the job are pretty great. Not only will you get to help people and contribute to advances in medicine, but doctors are also usually paid very well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that physicians and surgeons have some of the highest salaries in the country. They estimated that in 2019, the median annual wage was $208,000.

Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor?

Asking yourself why you want to be a doctor is the first thing you should do as you start thinking about a medical career. There are all sorts of reasons for becoming a doctor, and all of them are valid. What’s important when asking yourself this question is how your answer aligns with the demands of the job and the work it takes to get there.

There’s no right or wrong answer, but make sure your response fits with the skills, experience, and education necessary to become a doctor.

For example, maybe you’re not the biggest “people person” out there, and you don’t love meeting new people and having conversations all day. If that’s the case, maybe being a primary care physician who interacts with patients all day isn’t the right job for you, but being a physician-scientist doing research could be a better fit.

If you know people in the medical field, asking them what made them want to become a doctor is a great way to learn more about the profession and evaluate your own answer. You’ll hear a vast range of responses, but think about how their answer fits their current position. It might inspire you to find a meaningful reason to be a doctor.

There are a few common responses to “why do you want to be a doctor?” and we’ll list a few here. Think about whether or not any of these popular reasons resonate with you.

  • Helping others. One of the primary roles of being a doctor is to help people. With the wide variety of medical positions out there, you can choose how you help people, but at the end of the day, you’re going to be there to save someone’s life or improve their health.

    It can be a very rewarding job, and many doctors enter the field to help others, or it’s one of their top motivations.

  • Interest in medicine. Many doctors want to be involved in cutting-edge research and making advancements in the field. This goes along with ultimately helping people, but these doctors tend to be more interested in medical research and are motivated by learning more about the human body and the world we live in.

  • Sharing their knowledge. Doctors hold a lot of knowledge that everyone should know, like how to stay healthy, but because of the involved education requirements, not everyone can. Doctors act as a link between all of this knowledge and its everyday implementation. Some doctors want to share their knowledge and empower their patients to take control of their health.

  • Job outlook. We will always need doctors to take care of us, so there’s a lot of stability in the medical profession. That can be appealing to some people since there will always be a need for doctors, and they’re doing meaningful and necessary work.

  • Prestige. Because of their immense education and training, doctors are respected for their background and their work to help people. While being a doctor isn’t all about glory, there is some worthy respect that comes along with the title. Beyond prestige, doctors are well-known community members who have an integral role in serving that community.

  • Salary. As we mentioned before, doctors can be paid quite a lot of money. This is even more true for extremely specialized doctors who practice in difficult fields like anesthesiology.

  • Mental challenge. There are no repetitive days as a doctor. Many people enter the profession because they want the mental stimulation and constant challenges that the life of a doctor offers.

    Since there’s always something happening in medical fields, whether it be a complicated case, new technology or practice, or a major surgery, doctors need to be adaptable and critical thinkers. The challenge of being a doctor is a draw for a lot of people.

How to Figure Out the Answer for Yourself

While there’s no surefire way to figure out if being a doctor is the right job for you, spending time and reflecting on the career is a good start. There are many things to think about when it comes to being a doctor, so really think through all aspects before coming to your answer. Here are a few of the most significant factors to consider when it comes to becoming a doctor:

  • Time commitment. It takes a long time to become a doctor, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re okay with dedicating years to training for your job. You won’t be able to jump into the practice that you pick immediately, so patience and dedication are key to becoming a good doctor.

  • Financial situation. Since becoming a doctor takes years, you need to think about your financial situation and if you can pay for years of schooling. There’s a lot of support available for people who want to become doctors, but taking finances into account is essential. Doctors eventually make a lot of money, but you’ll need to spend a decent amount to reach that point.

  • Medical specialization. There are many fields doctors can practice in, and you should give some thought to what you want to do before starting. Think about what you’re passionate about and how you can align that with a specific medical field. For example, if you care about women’s issues, gynecology is a good option, or if you care about educating people, preventative medicine could be your future career.

  • Job location. Sometimes you have to live in a certain state or city to practice your specialty.

    This is especially true for very niche specializations like hematology or oncology, where there are only a few big centers for those fields. It’s a consideration for the future, but it’s important to consider it now before starting your journey.

  • Other opportunities. Becoming a doctor is not the only way to be involved with cutting-edge medical advancements or caring for people. There are plenty of other roles in health professions that allow you to fulfill many of the same duties as a doctor, but with fewer education requirements, less time commitment, and fewer big responsibilities.

    Think about roles like nurses or physical therapists or fields like alternative medicine that will allow you to help people in different ways.

How to Prepare Your Answer to “Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor?

Everyone comes to their answer in their own way and in their own time. You just need to sit with yourself and consider all of the factors that go into studying medicine and being a doctor to find your answer. You can take a few helpful extra steps to ensure that becoming a doctor is right for you. Here are a few ways to make an informed career choice:

  • Talk to people in the field. If you know anyone who’s a doctor or in a medical profession, you should talk to them about their experience. Even if they’re not in a field that you’re interested in, you can still learn a lot about the process of becoming a doctor and the lifestyle that comes with it.

  • Get experience. Often, medical practices and doctor’s offices offer internships or opportunities to shadow a doctor. No matter what step of the process you’re in, try to get as much hands-on experience as possible. Even just shadowing a doctor will give you an idea of their daily tasks and whether you’ll like the job.

  • Do your research. If you can’t get hands-on experience, look for ways to educate yourself about being a doctor. Many doctors have written autobiographies, and there are documentaries about medical procedures, so there are plenty of chances to learn more about medicine.

  • Think about your end goal. What’s your ideal role as a doctor? Think about what you want to achieve and how you can get there before taking steps to become a doctor. Does your ideal job exist?

  • Consider other opportunities. You should also think about what you would want to study if you don’t become a doctor. Think about your other interests and what you might want to do more than being a doctor. What other career opportunities interest you? How do they rank compared to being a doctor?

Why Interviewers Ask “Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor?”

Applications and interviews for medical school often feature this common question. Your MCAT scores certainly matter, but people on admissions panels sift through thousands of stellar candidates every day — your passion matters.

Interviewers know that becoming a doctor is an incredibly long and challenging path and that without real determination founded on solid motivations, you won’t be cut out for the field. Plus, the motivations you provide will give insight into who you are and what elements of the medical profession you value most.

How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor?”

Follow these steps for a good written or verbal answer to “why do you want to be a doctor?”

  1. Give some background. Think back to mentors, impactful childhood experiences with doctors, or any other root cause of your interest in the field. This is compelling from a personal standpoint and allows the interviewer to understand how you came to your decision.

  2. Provide a few reasons. Now that you’ve set the stage, you can provide some of the reasons we listed above, or others that come to mind. You can describe how your initial experiences or interests matured into one specialization or how much satisfaction you get from helping pepole.

  3. Describe your experiences. To really impress your interviewer or the reader of your application essay, make sure to highlight some of your relevant experiences while you’re outlining your motivations.

    Any projects, pursuits, or work experiences that relate to the medical field are valuable for showing that you’ve already committed some time to working in medicine, and that time has only increased your interest in medicine.

  4. Finish with goals. Now that you’ve described how your past led you to this decision and your present activities show that you’re on the proper course for medicine, it’s time to discuss your future. The more detail you can provide for how you see your career playing out and what communities you hope to serve, the stronger your answer will be.

Bad Reasons to Become a Doctor

Here are some reasons you should never state when asked why you want to be a doctor:

  • Wealth. There’s no doubt that doctors typically earn a lot of money, but it’s a cringey thing to hear as someone’s motivation. Plus, if a life of glamor is what you need to be happy, then the decade it takes to become a doctor will be extra challenging for you, as you’re unlikely to be rich during the process itself.

  • Power. Prestige or esteem are better-sounding variations of just plain “power,” but all of these answers skew toward egotistical. Instead, opt for something more palatable, like being an important part of the community.

  • Family. While it’s fine to have mentors who are family members in medicine, indicating that you’re only interested in the field because your family always produces doctors might raise some red flags for admissions boards.

Note that these aren’t just bad answers to say in an interview or write in an application essay. They’re also unhealthy sources of intrinsic motivation, and you should examine them closely before pursuing a medical career.

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Amanda Covaleski

Amanda is a writer with experience in various industries, including travel, real estate, and career advice. After taking on internships and entry-level jobs, she is familiar with the job search process and landing that crucial first job. Included in her experience is work at an employer/intern matching startup where she marketed an intern database to employers and supported college interns looking for work experience.

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