Theoretical Physicist vs. Neurosurgeon...what's better?Watch
I have a little conundrum that could decide how I live life after university that i need a bit of help with. First things first, I'm in Year 12 and doing 5 A levels; Physics, Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Further Maths (will be hoping to get 5 A*s). Now considering that at the end of Year 12/ start of Year 13 I will be making choices for university courses (potentially looking at Oxbridge etc./ don't worry I have good grades), I'm rather stuck at either going the Physicist route (theoretical probably) or the Neurosurgeon route (only thing I'm interested in Medicine/ Biology). Personally, physics has been a childhood passion while Neurology/ Neuroscience is a recent interest mainly due to a) better job security (what I've been told) and b) much, much, much higher salaries than a physicist (also what I've been told). So, I need y'all to help me out decide which one's better for me. Oh, and please no answers saying "do what YOU want to do", I can't decide what I want to do, which is why I'm here. Both physics and the study/ surgery of the brain are very close to my heart, so going either route would mean sacrificing the other, so I'd rather pick one that's worth the sacrifice (can I do both somehow, is it viable?) in terms of long term life prospects, salaries, job security, opportunities and of course study/ career routes in terms of university and post university (please enlighten me on both).
Thanks for taking the time to read this, please help me out here.
You say you're interested in physics. If this is true, do it. But I am concerned that you're falling for the prestige trap. Theoretical physics is indeed a subject with a lot of status. But do you actually like it beyond what any curious 16-19 year old does?
I think you need to take a serious look at what you actually find interesting and engaging. What are you studying beyond your curriculum? What subjects excite you? This is probably where you need to be. You're studying 5 A Levels and are expected to get very good grades so I don't doubt your work ethic or intelligence, nor do I see any subjects stemming from your A Level choices being a huge hindrance to you in the future - maths and sciences are pretty good going in that respect, but if biology and chemistry doesn't interest you, you're not already going through the medicine Khan Academy series, etc., then I doubt your reasoning in thinking about that career.
Hope you find what makes you happy. I plead with you not to get caught up in what sounds good on paper.
Both physics and the study/ surgery of the brain are very close to my heart, so going either route would mean sacrificing the other, so I'd rather pick one that's worth the sacrifice (can I do both somehow, is it viable?) in terms of long term life prospects, salaries, job security, opportunities and of course study/ career routes in terms of university and post university (please enlighten me on both).
Overall, you have to keep in mind that for someone to do well in physics, they have to love maths (for friends who went into physics, it was a year of maths for a year of physics).
In terms of job security and salary... Obviously a doctor will have decent job security (although it will always depend on the local medical associations) and decent to good pay throughout their entire life. The earlier stages of a medical career aren't all too pleasant either due to rotations, and competition can be stiff for certain fields. There's also the training, and a neurosurgery operation can take a long time to complete. I have some friends who decided to go the medical route and are currently hating their medical rotations and taking vacations whenever they can to get away. The lifestyle does get easier the more senior a person gets. However, if you go into neurosurgery, keep in mind that you probably will be permanently attached to a hospital, and won't be running a private clinic somewhere. Then there's the patients you'll be seeing...
I'm not too clear on the job prospects for people remaining in theoretical physics. However, most people who do a degree in physics, then leave the field have a plethora of open doors for them (financial institutions, drug companies, tech companies, think tanks). Remaining in theoretical physics (with a PhD) can net around 32-35k GBP a year as a post-doc at the beginning, whilst industry can offer double that. A B.Sc physics probably nets around the same salary as a post-doc. I'm not entirely sure about the job security aspects for people remaining in the field (I have some friends who completed a degree in physics but left for jobs outside of physics).
As for your no "do what you want to do"...It is your decision to make. All we can do is provide some details on the path you might end up walking. We can point out some pitfalls that might happen along the way, but we can't make the decision for you. For all we know, you could end up hating the program you end up in an leave for another field.
Physics will give you a lot of options, however to work in physics itself you need to do very well at university achieving a first (which isn't guaranteed from even great A level results), and you'll need research experience or maybe an internship if you can get one at the right place. If you do a masters in engineering or CompSci that might give you an advantage.
For neurosurgery you need to start with medicine first, if you're not happy with all of medicine you're going to find it difficult, and bear in mind that during your 5 year degree you're going to spend maybe 6 months on neuro and psych. Then you've got foundation years and then you've got to get into a neurosurgery program. So maybe neuroscience, or biomedical science specialising in neuro is a better option.
Or you could try Medical Physics or Radiography, best of both worlds. Actually it could also be worth looking at degrees in AI and robotics, that would involve neuro/psych stuff alongside physics (although more the engineering side of things than quantum physics), and it pays quite well.
-Regarding what Mathstatician said, my interest in Physics and Maths most certainly goes far beyond the average teenager's curiosity, however, you're right in thinking that my interest for medicine is not exactly holistic. I have minimal interest in studying pharmaceuticals and all the rest that goes with becoming a doctor. It is only the brain (in terms of it's anatomy, physiology and computational properties) that I am really interested in.
-Regarding what both Mathstatician and zombiejon said, it looks as if becoming a Neurosurgeon really is quite a grueling process if I'm not happy with all of medicine.
-Regarding what Helloworld_95 has said about AI and robotics; Cambridge university offers a program where a student can do Computer Science for the first year of their undergraduate (I'm not doing computer science A levels and my GCSE ICT results are sub-par, so I don't know how much that matters) and then do Natural Sciences for the second and third (fourth in some subjects?) years. Depending on what subjects I pick (within Natural Sciences), I can end up with a Masters in an interdisciplinary field that could potentially combine my interest in Physics with the brain and it's computational properties (linking in with human machine interfaces etc.). I feel that this is a good balance, however the opportunities (PhD?) and career options that entail this, in contrast with a purely physics based or a purely medicine based career (as mentioned in my first post), is something that I am not too sure on (please enlighten).
I know that me going so far into the future in terms of what I want to do may seem counter intuitive (probably is) but I need some sort of a basic road plan in what I want to do, because as you have already mentioned, I gather that going the Neurosurgery/ Medicine route without being 100% sure about it would be a huge waste of time.
Oh, and on another note, I'm applying for work experience in a neuroscience related lab and have already been accepted for a Physics course at Oxford UNIQ, which should hopefully give me a taste of both of them.
On a different note, I apologize if my somewhat confused thinking appear to be the ramblings of an indecisive teenager.
It is only the brain (in terms of it's anatomy, physiology and computational properties) that I am really interested in.
You should study an academic degree in neuroscience or similar.