Income plays leading role for pre-law students
Earning power may factor considerably into the equation when choosing a career in professions like medicine and law, which typically yield high-income potential.
But a recent Kaplan survey of 461 MCAT students and 453 LSAT students exposed a large gap between the two groups, suggesting pre-law students weigh earning power more heavily in their career choice than medical school hopefuls.
Nearly 71 percent of pre-law students reported that earning power was "very much" or "somewhat" a reason in their decision to pursue a career in law, compared to 49 percent of pre-med students in regard to pursuing medicine.
Mark Fidler, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions Pre-Health director, said one reason for the wide difference between the groups could be because some pre-med students may have known what they wanted to do at a young age.
"People that want to be doctors have known since middle school or high school," Fidler said.
It may take other students longer to find a profession that would be their career of choice, he said.
"[Pre-med students] do it because they want to help out and for the greater good," he said.
The statistics showed that Fidler may be onto something
Forty-nine percent of pre-med students reported their primary reason for wanting to pursue medicine as the "desire to help others and make a difference." "An interest in and/or affinity for the sciences" was the second most prominent reason at 23 percent, and "personal experience with medical issues" came in third at 17 percent.
Rutgers College senior Michael Hayoun said he agreed with the survey's findings, since he thought the amount of work one has to put in is simply not worth it just for financial gain alone.
"Think about it - four years of undergraduate, four years of medical school, then anywhere from three to seven years of residency and then a fellowship after that if they choose," he said. "Only then can a physician really start making some serious money."
But even then, with malpractice insurance, student debt and HMOs, physicians are not making what they did in years past, said Hayoun, co-president of the University chapter of the American Medical Student Association.
"With these problems, most of the students who do stick it out do so because they love the art and science of medicine," he said.
Director of pre-law programs for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions Glen Stohr said although pre-med students may go after a career in medicine because they know what they want their profession to be, pre-law students might go to law school because they have not chosen an occupation just yet.
In law, you really have such a divergence of career paths you can go into compared to medicine, but that is not to say doctors do not have options, said Stohr.
One thing that would prompt a lot of students to think about law school are the job choices you have after you earn your degree, most with high earning potential.
"When you get a [Juris Doctor], it is a powerful degree in business, in law itself, in the financial sector and in government," Stohr said.
Some students have not pinpointed an exact job they want to go into and a JD is a great degree for someone like that, he said. Law schools cover the law in a broad sense, and you do not have to specialize in any one area until you are employed.
Although earning power or diversity in career choice may be the determining factor in attending law school for some students, others, like student Sheba Raza, have additional reasons.
"Being that I am a pre-law student and was the president of the Rutgers Pre-Law Society for two years, I came to know quite a few pre-law and pre-med students," she said. "I have had numerous conversations with them, and I can definitely verify these statistics [from the Kaplan survey] to be quite accurate. Earning power seems to be the predominate drive for pre-law students."
But for Raza, that was never really the issue.
"I've always been interested in politics and have been involved with them in my town as well," said Raza. "I feel that the pay isn't bad and is definitely a helping factor."
Like Raza, Rutgers College junior Anthony Morgano is not going into law for financial reasons alone.
"I'm planning on becoming a litigator in part because I want to help people," said Morgano. "There's a lot of injustice out there, and if I can work to better the world, then that's a great personal reward to me."
Morgano said the possible high-income only adds to his interest in the profession.
"I would be kidding myself if I wasn't also in it for the earning potential," he said. "I'm planning to run for political office someday, and being a lawyer not only betters you intellectually and teaches you to be a good orator but also provides money necessary for running for office."