A common question that aspiring medical students ask is whether they should combine their medical degree with another degree, such as arts or music.
It is important to think carefully about this. You will be spending additional 3–4 years of your life and as well as a lot of money if you pursue a double degree. Will a degree such as English, history, philosophy, music or literature actually benefit you?
Some argue that these degrees are worthwhile, may point to all the things you can learn, and perhaps even point out a few successful people that achieved a lot with such degrees. But there are many flaws with that argument:
1: Just because a handful of people launched a good career with that degree does not mean the actual degree was responsible. They were probably motivated, high performing individuals regardless. This is an example of the correlation vs causation fallacy. When you look at the majority of people who have completed such a degree, you will find that many are struggling to find employment.
2: While you may gain satisfaction from such an education and career path, it is important to note that life is getting harder nowadays. Earning a moderate salary is becoming difficult – unfortunately that’s the reality of the situation. Majoring in philosophy might not have been so bad 40 years ago when general university degrees were less of a commodity, it was easier to find good jobs, and a median salary provided a reasonable living standard. A lot has changed since then and unfortunately it is important to pay more attention to earning power.
3: Degrees are expensive and most students are deferring the debt. When you are making a financial decision such as this, it is vital to consider the benefit the degree achieves. Will it lead to a particular career path? If you choose to pursue a degree with good job prospects (such as medicine), the debt is an investment into a lifetime of high earnings. This is not so with degrees that lack a career path. It is terrible advice nowadays to say, “do a degree in whatever you enjoy”. Unfortunately, it’s harming a lot of people.
4: Nowadays, you can learn all of these subjects for free. Why would you waste time and excessive money on a university curriculum? If you love subjects like history for example, read books, go to free lectures, download podcasts or seek free online courses through Massive Open Online Courses offered by world's top universities. There are plenty of options.
5: Consider the alternative to pursuing a double degree. If you finish your medical degree in the shortest time possible, you will have a guaranteed job and can start working and earning immediately. You will minimise your debt and maximise your chances of entering your chosen specialty. Once you have your medical practitioner license and are earning a steady salary, you have the luxury of taking time out to learn about other subjects you might be interested in. At least then you will have minimal debt and a reliable profession to fall back on.