In the past, career choices in medicine, law or engineering have been favoured and encouraged for every student either by family or loved ones because ultimately these are seen as some of the most prestigious careers in the world. The problem however is that while these careers are often branded as the ultimate choice for every soon-to-be professional, people fail to negate the facts that the world no longer exists in black-and-white. With the rising advancement of the human capabilities and the vast expanse of our intellect, choices now exist and careers now have derivates upon derivates. The problem we now face is that some people choose not to accept these choices but rather would prefer to stick with the old belief system that a person either becomes a medical doctor, lawyer or engineer to be considered successful.

Since I am a science kid, and I am more experienced in the field of medicine and the career choices relating to this field, my article will seriously focus on medical school career choices but it can definitely be applied to any other career path.

medical school students

As an immigrant into Canadian culture, I know for a fact that going back to my hometown in Nigeria with the title of MD in front of my name comes with several perks that I can only imagine non-medical doctors only dream to enjoy. Even with the science and medicine field expanding, thus creating several career choices in the process, some people still fail to acknowledge that the burden being placed on recent undergraduates to follow a more “prestigious” career path is unnecessary.

I write this article also as a science kid who grew up in a third world country and thought that I could save my country by becoming a medical doctor. In fact I had this very simple solution to my country’s problems all on my own, or so I thought. But then there is that pesky notion of nature vs nurture. It soon came to light that I was merely groomed innocently by my family to believe that “becoming a medical doctor would save my country”. I sang this mantra to myself everyday and in every mock medical school letter of intent I wrote for myself. But the truth is that this is a myth fostered by generations upon generations, where certain careers are regaled over others, thus placing a heavy burden on children to go in the direction their families want for them and not in the direction they ultimately choose for themselves.

snap it oga
Photograph by Devesh Uba of “Snap It Oga”

I was gifted toys with medical innuendos at every birthday celebration. In fact, the very first toy I remember owning was that of Barbie as a veterinary (vet) nurse, complete with a stethoscope and a first aid kit. I soon became real life Barbie as a “vet nurse” all through my middle school years, by re-enacting hospital scenes with my friends during play time as me “saving” the lives of my “sick” patients. Our medical supplies include pencils as syringes, short rulers as tongue depressors and my little barbie kit stethoscope to listen to internal body sounds…no one could tell me anything else, I was soon to be known as doctor Zainab when I “grew up”.

So, when time came in high school to make that life changing decision of choosing either science, business or arts subjects, it was a no-brainer, I chose the sciences.

However, it wasn’t until my 4th year of undergraduate studies after excelling in every science course I could think of that would place me in the forefront of the race to medical school, and writing the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) that I soon realized that medical school just wasn’t for me. Mind you, my extracurriculars involved volunteering at 3 different hospitals, volunteering for two charity organizations that focused on global health, and working in a science research lab for about 3 years. But the truth was, I was bored and exhausted, and I felt mechanic. I felt as though I was doing all these things on autopilot without an ounce of enthusiasm or passion. It felt like my life decisions were made only to impress a round table of people that would interview me and decide whether I made the cut into medical school or not. These people held my fate in only a few hours, and then it would be unto the next person after me. All of my life’s worth and achievements were simplified into mere hours and placed in front of a panel made up of people like me. They are humans. I am a human too.

choosing the right career

This realization hit me in 4th year and it was as though a fog had cleared in my head. It felt like I was done racing and yes, medical school just wasn’t for me. How many people feel this way? How many people believe it is okay to feel this way? How many people soon find this out only after they had been accepted into medical school? How many people soon feel this way only after countless rejections into medical school? How many people breathe a wave of fresh air after this realization?

You know what?…it is okay to feel this way. In fact you are only human to feel this way and you could not be anything than.

The truth is that there are options, if you have been groomed to believe as a science student that going to medical school is your only option to getting into the field of medicine and acquiring a successful career…that is completely untrue. Because once again, the thing that makes our species unique is our undying thirst to challenge, evolve, and grow. Even more so, the best thing about this undying thirst is that in its wake, choices arise, and so do new career paths.

If you are a science student heading down the path of medical school but unsure of your choice and are looking for other options, some other careers to think about include being a healthcare consultant, a pharmacist, a nurse, a surgical technologist, a radiographer, a researcher, a recreational therapist, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a respiratory therapy technician, a midwife, a cardiovascular technician, a nutritionist, a histotechnologist, a dental hygienist, an orthoptist, a grade school teacher, a professor, a lab technician, and so much more.

choose a career

You shouldn’t feel stuck in a box. If you also feel that medicine or careers in the science field just aren’t for you, it’s okay to switch gears completely. We are at a vital stage in human existence where becoming an entrepreneur is regaled, we no longer need to follow career paths designed for us but can begin to create one for ourselves. You can now create a successful career for yourself by being a leader in the arts scene and that is something that used to be devalued a long time ago. Being creative was considered a hobby and as nothing profitable enough to become a career. What if that’s all you are good at?…that’s okay. Check out this really great TED talk video by Sir Ken Robinson, titled, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

Nonetheless, you are not alone, so choose, create, and evolve, there is no box. That box that once existed is only a myth.