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Medicine Or Computer Science?

I am really stuck on which career path I should choose. I am interested in both. At the moment, I am working on a STEM project which is related to medicine, as well as learning how to program games and I enjoy both activities.

For my 2023 GCSE results I received: Geography(8),Biology(9),Chemistry(9), Physics(9),German(9), English Language(6),English Literature(5),Computer Science(8), Mathematics (9)

I have done 3 weeks of hospital work experience in various specialities for medicine, but I am still not completely sure. I am worried I won't be able to get into a good university for computer science because I only get bronze on the yearly UKMTs.

I am registered to do maths, chemistry, biology, further maths A levels at my sixth form, however I could always swap chemistry and biology for physics and computer science.

Does anyone know which career path I should choose or which makes the most money?

Thank you!

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Original post by cutecat15
I am really stuck on which career path I should choose. I am interested in both. At the moment, I am working on a STEM project which is related to medicine, as well as learning how to program games and I enjoy both activities.

For my 2023 GCSE results I received: Geography(8),Biology(9),Chemistry(9), Physics(9),German(9), English Language(6),English Literature(5),Computer Science(8), Mathematics (9)

I have done 3 weeks of hospital work experience in various specialities for medicine, but I am still not completely sure. I am worried I won't be able to get into a good university for computer science because I only get bronze on the yearly UKMTs.

I am registered to do maths, chemistry, biology, further maths A levels at my sixth form, however I could always swap chemistry and biology for physics and computer science.

Does anyone know which career path I should choose or which makes the most money?

Thank you!

You don't need physics or CS to go into a CS degree. Maths and further maths is sufficient for pretty much all the major courses - there are a few that don't require maths but do require CS, but these are fewer and farther between, and if your A-level grades correlate with your GCSE grades probably not the ones you're likely to be targeting anyway.

That said, choosing medicine purely for money is probably not a great idea. While others may disagree with ethical reasons against it, a more practical reason is that relative to the challenges involved in getting into it, not to mention the job itself, there are far easier ways to make money. Not to mention, relative to those other options, medicine doesn't pay as well anyway. There's a reason all the non-consultant doctors are striking right now...

Equally, CS is not the best option if your interests are purely financial. The graduate prospects of CS grades in the UK were in fact so bad for so long the government commissioned two inquiries into it. While yes, FAANG and equivalent may pay software engineers very well, and creating a silicon valley startup that attracts a lot of venture capital will have you rolling in cash, the fact of the matter is that's probably less than 1% of the computing sector as a whole. It's like deciding to join the RAF because you want to become an astronaut. Technically possible but realistically - it's not going to be you. If you would be happy with the other 99% of roles then it's fine, but unless working as a sysadmin and making a comfortable but not outrageous salary is an acceptable alternative, you may find it not meeting your expectations at all.

Also the games sector is probably one of the worst paid of computing sectors with almost certainly the worst QoL, just due to how games studios run these days. Expect extensive, mandatory, unpaid crunch - which is increasingly not becoming "crunch" so much as just "always" - and few permanent positions with most of it being contract work for individual projects and games. If money (and perhaps implicitly assumed, stability) is your primary motivator, it's a horrible sector to be looking at.

In any event, bio/chem/maths/FM is fine for both medicine and CS. It's also fine for plenty of other degrees, in case you realise that actually the more straightforward route to your goal of wealth is investment banking and decide just to do sociology at Imperial or something.
Reply 2
Original post by artful_lounger
You don't need physics or CS to go into a CS degree. Maths and further maths is sufficient for pretty much all the major courses - there are a few that don't require maths but do require CS, but these are fewer and farther between, and if your A-level grades correlate with your GCSE grades probably not the ones you're likely to be targeting anyway.

That said, choosing medicine purely for money is probably not a great idea. While others may disagree with ethical reasons against it, a more practical reason is that relative to the challenges involved in getting into it, not to mention the job itself, there are far easier ways to make money. Not to mention, relative to those other options, medicine doesn't pay as well anyway. There's a reason all the non-consultant doctors are striking right now...

Equally, CS is not the best option if your interests are purely financial. The graduate prospects of CS grades in the UK were in fact so bad for so long the government commissioned two inquiries into it. While yes, FAANG and equivalent may pay software engineers very well, and creating a silicon valley startup that attracts a lot of venture capital will have you rolling in cash, the fact of the matter is that's probably less than 1% of the computing sector as a whole. It's like deciding to join the RAF because you want to become an astronaut. Technically possible but realistically - it's not going to be you. If you would be happy with the other 99% of roles then it's fine, but unless working as a sysadmin and making a comfortable but not outrageous salary is an acceptable alternative, you may find it not meeting your expectations at all.

Also the games sector is probably one of the worst paid of computing sectors with almost certainly the worst QoL, just due to how games studios run these days. Expect extensive, mandatory, unpaid crunch - which is increasingly not becoming "crunch" so much as just "always" - and few permanent positions with most of it being contract work for individual projects and games. If money (and perhaps implicitly assumed, stability) is your primary motivator, it's a horrible sector to be looking at.

In any event, bio/chem/maths/FM is fine for both medicine and CS. It's also fine for plenty of other degrees, in case you realise that actually the more straightforward route to your goal of wealth is investment banking and decide just to do sociology at Imperial or something.


Hello, Thank you for your reply.

From what I can see on Discover Uni, the average earnings 5 years after a computer science degree at Imperial College London is £75,000 and the average salary for a brain surgeon is £97,000 which are great salaries.

Do you know if it would be difficult to get into top universities such as Imperial to do computer science without a physics or computer science A level?
Original post by cutecat15
Hello, Thank you for your reply.

From what I can see on Discover Uni, the average earnings 5 years after a computer science degree at Imperial College London is £75,000 and the average salary for a brain surgeon is £97,000 which are great salaries.

Do you know if it would be difficult to get into top universities such as Imperial to do computer science without a physics or computer science A level?


Doctors in the UK earn the same amount regardless of specialty (the only difference is those in London have a supplement due to living in London, and specialties with more on-call work will end up with slightly higher take home because of the additional on-call pay from those -although those with minimal on-call work like pathology sometimes have supplements built in to even that out). The £97k value is for consultant level pay, which you won't achieve for at least ~5 years after graduating for the "fastest" route (GP, which is also paid in a different format anyway), and longer for many specialties (such as neurosurgery - which also has a bottleneck issue with not enough consultant posts for the CCTing neurosurgeons coming up, so they have to spend years working in much lower paid fellowship roles and getting extra PhDs and such to be competitive enough to get a consultant post. Just FYI, neurosurgery is a horrible example due to the major issues it faces professionally in the UK). F1 doctors are paid ~£14 an hour as I recall. Even at the upper end of specialty training salaries are around ~£50-60k, which are fairly good IF you hadn't been doing a 5-6 year degree to start with and started in with entry level wages at F1, plus for longer training programmes you can be sat at those levels for a number of years.

In terms of CS, Imperial accounts for maybe ~200-300 grads a year, compared to the tens of thousands of others. That is not a meaningful sample to draw conclusions on for making major life decisions. Also such averages can be easily skewed. Even for the Imperial example, if a small number go into extremely lucrative roles at investment banks and similar, while most go into more average income roles, that will skew things significantly. Worth bearing in mind a starting graduate salary of £40k would be considered "very good". The national average I think is around £20k for graduate incomes. So I also think you need to manage your expectations here.

Also worth noting in the long run, 10 years after graduating, research has shown STEM and non-STEM graduates have similar employment outcomes. So you can really study anything and make good money.
(edited 9 months ago)
Reply 4
Original post by artful_lounger
Doctors in the UK earn the same amount regardless of specialty (the only difference is those in London have a supplement due to living in London, and specialties with more on-call work will end up with slightly higher take home because of the additional on-call pay from those -although those with minimal on-call work like pathology sometimes have supplements built in to even that out). The £97k value is for consultant level pay, which you won't achieve for at least ~5 years after graduating for the "fastest" route (GP, which is also paid in a different format anyway), and longer for many specialties (such as neurosurgery - which also has a bottleneck issue with not enough consultant posts for the CCTing neurosurgeons coming up, so they have to spend years working in much lower paid fellowship roles and getting extra PhDs and such to be competitive enough to get a consultant post. Just FYI, neurosurgery is a horrible example due to the major issues it faces professionally in the UK). F1 doctors are paid ~£14 an hour as I recall. Even at the upper end of specialty training salaries are around ~£50-60k, which are fairly good IF you hadn't been doing a 5-6 year degree to start with and started in with entry level wages at F1, plus for longer training programmes you can be sat at those levels for a number of years.

In terms of CS, Imperial accounts for maybe ~200-300 grads a year, compared to the tens of thousands of others. That is not a meaningful sample to draw conclusions on for making major life decisions. Also such averages can be easily skewed. Even for the Imperial example, if a small number go into extremely lucrative roles at investment banks and similar, while most go into more average income roles, that will skew things significantly. Worth bearing in mind a starting graduate salary of £40k would be considered "very good". The national average I think is around £20k for graduate incomes. So I also think you need to manage your expectations here.

Also worth noting in the long run, 10 years after graduating, research has shown STEM and non-STEM graduates have similar employment outcomes. So you can really study anything and make good money.

I looked at average starting salaries for most non-STEM degree courses at specific universities and on average they are lower than STEM degrees. Therefore, I still think its best to find a job in STEM.

Whilst there may not be many jobs for neurosurgery, in the GP speciality apparently its much easier to gain a job. By the age of 29, I could become a GP, earning a salary of £93,666 to £126,281. I think I will go into medicine. Thank you for your advice.
Original post by cutecat15
I looked at average starting salaries for most non-STEM degree courses at specific universities and on average they are lower than STEM degrees. Therefore, I still think its best to find a job in STEM.

Whilst there may not be many jobs for neurosurgery, in the GP speciality apparently its much easier to gain a job. By the age of 29, I could become a GP, earning a salary of £93,666 to £126,281. I think I will go into medicine. Thank you for your advice.

Yes, but in the long term the salaries even out. See research here: https://figshare.le.ac.uk/articles/report/The_employment_trajectories_of_Science_Technology_Engineering_and_Mathematics_graduates/10234421
Reply 6
Haha interesting thread.. I had a very similar situation… I ended up choosing the comp sci route (I’m currently doing math+comp sci at imperial funnily enough).. for a-levels I chose to do maths,further maths, physics and chemistry.. so that left me open to be able to choose both medicine or comp sci.. your a-levels should be good too!… however I’ll be honest every now and then I still think about doing graduate medicine lmao. Mainly because I feel like I’ll have more of a positive impact in the world through helping others as a Doctor (and also I’ve always found medicine interesting).. however the thing that puts me off is the actual state of the NHS at the moment (it seems abysmal) and the pay amongst other things is certainly not great for grads.. whereas based on the internships I’ve done for tech I’ll be having a much more comfortable life/job that pays much higher right after graduating. Perhaps I’ll do a graduate medicine degree later on in life or after a few years of working in tech.

However, also note you can get into tech without necessarily having a comp sci background so if u end up doing a med degree and find you don’t really want to be a doctor you can always transition without having to do a comp sci degree (although it would be a lot of hard work and you would have wasted 5/6 years in med school). On the flip side, if you choose the comp sci path and find you don’t want to do tech anymore you can always do a 4 year grad med degree (and if you need to fund it you can always work in tech for a bit or do Summer tech internships to help pay the costs).

In terms of competitiveness, medicine is really competitive at all unis.. so just getting into medicine at any uni is very tough, for comp sci I would say probably only the very top unis (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL, maybe a very few others) would be more competitive and harder to get into than medicine. But you would most likely be able to get into a comp sci degree in at least some uni whereas medicine that may not be the case.

I wrote this in a hurry and quite late so there may be a bunch of mistakes.. sorry if there are lol
(edited 9 months ago)
Original post by cutecat15
I am really stuck on which career path I should choose. I am interested in both. At the moment, I am working on a STEM project which is related to medicine, as well as learning how to program games and I enjoy both activities.

For my 2023 GCSE results I received: Geography(8),Biology(9),Chemistry(9), Physics(9),German(9), English Language(6),English Literature(5),Computer Science(8), Mathematics (9)

I have done 3 weeks of hospital work experience in various specialities for medicine, but I am still not completely sure. I am worried I won't be able to get into a good university for computer science because I only get bronze on the yearly UKMTs.

I am registered to do maths, chemistry, biology, further maths A levels at my sixth form, however I could always swap chemistry and biology for physics and computer science.

Does anyone know which career path I should choose or which makes the most money?

Thank you!

I went through this exact problem last year, Did Bio, Chemistry, Maths and Computer science A-Levels last year as I thought I'd prob go into Medicine but wasn't sure - did WEX, started medical committee, got a bunch of super-curricular for medicine and then when going around Uni open days realised that i was more interested in Maths and CS than Medicine, and i realised that for medicine you need to be 100% in or it's not worth. So now I am taking As Further maths as-well and want to do Maths and CS at uni. So really I think that the fact that you are unsure already points towards computer science rather than medicine but you really don't want to be choosing a degree based solely on the money (Despite that you can get a sh*t ton in computer science). But have a think which you're more interested and if you're fully committed to medicine.
Reply 8
Original post by artful_lounger
Also the games sector is probably one of the worst paid of computing sectors with almost certainly the worst QoL, just due to how games studios run these days. Expect extensive, mandatory, unpaid crunch - which is increasingly not becoming "crunch" so much as just "always" - and few permanent positions with most of it being contract work for individual projects and games. If money (and perhaps implicitly assumed, stability) is your primary motivator, it's a horrible sector to be looking at.

There's a lot in your post but this stood out as rather outdated. Yes, this would certainly true even 5 years ago, although with tech salaries getting out of control in recent years this has changed a lot. But it really depends on the company, small companies generally don't pay that good and crunch will vary, the big three (EA, Activision, Ubisoft) are generally okay, nothing like the hellscape nightmares you heard about years ago. Crunch time also varies a lot depending on the role, game engine/central tech roles will generally never crunch because they aren't tied to releases, yearly/bi-yearly releases like CoD, FIFA, etc, have some crunch, although that has been under the microscope in recent years. Ultimately you need to be smart about where you work if you want this industry, but there is very few other roles out there like games that requires basically everything you learn in your CS degree, so that's a positive. These are hard roles and not for QoL reasons, if you can make it in games, you can make it anywhere.

Source: me, an ex-EA(Frostbite) engineer.
(edited 9 months ago)
Reply 9
OP, you should think very carefully about the career that is going to make you happy. Money is one aspect but if you hate the career or you have no passion for it, you'll never hit the numbers you think you will. You are much more likely to end up successful if you just did the thing you enjoy very well, as opposed to being mediocre at the the thing you only kinda like.
Reply 10
Original post by M_m_m03
Haha interesting thread.. I had a very similar situation… I ended up choosing the comp sci route (I’m currently doing math+comp sci at imperial funnily enough).. for a-levels I chose to do maths,further maths, physics and chemistry.. so that left me open to be able to choose both medicine or comp sci.. your a-levels should be good too!… however I’ll be honest every now and then I still think about doing graduate medicine lmao. Mainly because I feel like I’ll have more of a positive impact in the world through helping others as a Doctor (and also I’ve always found medicine interesting).. however the thing that puts me off is the actual state of the NHS at the moment (it seems abysmal) and the pay amongst other things is certainly not great for grads.. whereas based on the internships I’ve done for tech I’ll be having a much more comfortable life/job that pays much higher right after graduating. Perhaps I’ll do a graduate medicine degree later on in life or after a few years of working in tech.

However, also note you can get into tech without necessarily having a comp sci background so if u end up doing a med degree and find you don’t really want to be a doctor you can always transition without having to do a comp sci degree (although it would be a lot of hard work and you would have wasted 5/6 years in med school). On the flip side, if you choose the comp sci path and find you don’t want to do tech anymore you can always do a 4 year grad med degree (and if you need to fund it you can always work in tech for a bit or do Summer tech internships to help pay the costs).

In terms of competitiveness, medicine is really competitive at all unis.. so just getting into medicine at any uni is very tough, for comp sci I would say probably only the very top unis (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL, maybe a very few others) would be more competitive and harder to get into than medicine. But you would most likely be able to get into a comp sci degree in at least some uni whereas medicine that may not be the case.

I wrote this in a hurry and quite late so there may be a bunch of mistakes.. sorry if there are lol

Thank you for your reply! Do you think my GCSEs would be good enough for computer science at Imperial? I am concerned that I will find it very difficult to get into any top universities for computer science due to my 5 in English literature. What kind of GCSE grades did most people studying at Imperial for computer science have?
Reply 11
Original post by jimb0b
OP, you should think very carefully about the career that is going to make you happy. Money is one aspect but if you hate the career or you have no passion for it, you'll never hit the numbers you think you will. You are much more likely to end up successful if you just did the thing you enjoy very well, as opposed to being mediocre at the the thing you only kinda like.

Thank you for your reply!
Reply 12
Original post by cutecat15
Thank you for your reply! Do you think my GCSEs would be good enough for computer science at Imperial? I am concerned that I will find it very difficult to get into any top universities for computer science due to my 5 in English literature. What kind of GCSE grades did most people studying at Imperial for computer science have?

What makes you think that any cs course would care about your gcse grade in eng lit?
Reply 13
Original post by ajj2000
What makes you think that any cs course would care about your gcse grade in eng lit?


I've heard the course is really competitive and most people apply with A*s at A level and 9s at GCSE.
Reply 14
Original post by cutecat15
I've heard the course is really competitive and most people apply with A*s at A level and 9s at GCSE.

I don't think they are too bothered about your GCSEs other than as a sense check that A level estimates are not widely over-predicted. Getting 3 or 4 of A stars at A level matters.
(edited 9 months ago)
Reply 15
Original post by cutecat15
Thank you for your reply! Do you think my GCSEs would be good enough for computer science at Imperial? I am concerned that I will find it very difficult to get into any top universities for computer science due to my 5 in English literature. What kind of GCSE grades did most people studying at Imperial for computer science have?

Naturally pretty much all of the home students have a lot of 9s at GCSEs… the odd grade 5/6 in a subject like English won’t have much of an effect.. for example I actually applied with 9 grade 9s, 2 grade 8s, 1 grade 7 and a grade 4 in art (my school had art as a compulsory subject and so I simply did not attend most lessons lol)… they clearly did not care about art. So yeah you do have a bunch of 9s at gcse so you should be all good in that aspect… however I would definitely look to strengthen your ukmt stuff, the entrance exam you take before interview for imperial comp sci will have lots of problem solving questions which can be somewhat similar to the ukmt stuff. It’s important you do really good in that pre-interview exam if you want an interview.
Reply 16
Original post by ajj2000
I don't think they are too bothered about your GCSEs other than as a sense check that A level estimates are not widely over-predicted. Getting lots of A stars at A level matters.


Thank you for your reply!
Reply 17
Original post by M_m_m03
Naturally pretty much all of the home students have a lot of 9s at GCSEs… the odd grade 5/6 in a subject like English won’t have much of an effect.. for example I actually applied with 9 grade 9s, 2 grade 8s, 1 grade 7 and a grade 4 in art (my school had art as a compulsory subject and so I simply did not attend most lessons lol)… they clearly did not care about art. So yeah you do have a bunch of 9s at gcse so you should be all good in that aspect… however I would definitely look to strengthen your ukmt stuff, the entrance exam you take before interview for imperial comp sci will have lots of problem solving questions which can be somewhat similar to the ukmt stuff. It’s important you do really good in that pre-interview exam if you want an interview.


Thank you so much for your reply! Do you know if Imperial expects students to have done lots of programming projects in their spare time before applying?
Reply 18
Universities don't care about GCSEs.
Reply 19
Original post by cutecat15
Thank you so much for your reply! Do you know if Imperial expects students to have done lots of programming projects in their spare time before applying?

You don’t have to have prior programming experience, however having a bit of prior programming experience and some projects will definitely be useful to talk about in your application.

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