Medicine Vs Dentistry: Which Career Is Best For You?

Before picking a career to pursue, you must do a lot of research. Especially if you are looking into healthcare professions like becoming a doctor or dentist. 

There are a ton of factors that determine which career path is right for you. In this article, we will do a deep dive into both professions so that you can make an educated decision! 

Pros and Cons: Medicine Vs Dentistry

Every job is going to have its pros and cons, nothing is perfect. Below we outline the pros and cons of both medicine and dentistry.

Pros of Medicine:

  • Ability to specialize: There are many different areas of medicine you can specialize in, like general practice, cardiology, and neurology. This allows you to pick a field that interests you and become an expert in it.
  • Job opportunities: There are many job opportunities for doctors, and the demand for them is expected to keep growing. This means you have a good chance of finding a job in private practice, at a hospital, or as a researcher.
  • Salary: Doctors usually make a lot of money, and the more specialized and experienced you are, the more you can earn. 
  • Fulfilling: With the right attitude, medicine can be a very fulfilling career. Doctors can positively improve the lives of others in many ways. 

Cons of Medicine:

  • Long process: Becoming a doctor takes a long time, usually at least 11 years after high school. It can also be expensive, with high costs for tuition, books, and living expenses. Many students have a lot of debt after finishing their studies.
  • Stressful: The work of a doctor can be demanding and stressful since they have to make important decisions that can affect people’s lives. 
  • Expensive: Becoming a doctor is very expensive and almost always requires taking on large sums of debt. 
  • Hectic Schedule: A career as a physician oftentimes requires a hectic schedule. Staying late, being on call, and overall being available for your patients. Not to mention all the electronic charting that physicians have to do. Although some doctors manage to set up very flexible practices that are easy on their schedules. 

Pros of Dentistry:

  • Independence: Dentists tend to work more independently by running their practice and have less reliance on a medical facility. 
  • Length of education: It takes less time to become a dentist than a doctor, usually around 8 years after high school.
  • Rewarding: Dentistry is about preventing oral diseases and keeping people’s teeth and gums healthy, which can be rewarding for those who want to help others.
  • Job Opportunities: Much like medicine, there are plenty of job opportunities for dentists, and the demand for them is expected to keep growing (Currently at a greater rate than a physician). 

Cons of Dentistry:

  • Cost of education: Dental school is also expensive, with high costs for tuition, books, and living expenses. 
  • Less Specializing: Dentistry is a more specialized field, which means there are fewer career options available.
  • Demanding work: The work of a dentist can be physically demanding and repetitive motions can lead to injuries if not done correctly.
  • Working with mouths: Dentistry often involves working near patients’ mouths, which can be uncomfortable for some people and limit the amount of interaction with patients.

Medical School Vs Dental School: Admission Requirements

Both medical and dental schools have requirements. These can be different depending on the school, but some general things are usually needed. Keep in mind that competition is also a factor. 

Although these are the requirements, actually getting in means competing with smart students who are over-achieving in all of these categories. 

For medical school:

  • You’ll need a college degree
  • You’ll have to take a standardized test called the MCAT which tests your knowledge of science, reading, and writing.
  • You’ll need to have good grades, usually a GPA of 3.5 or higher (Although students with lower grades can get in, check out our guide for getting into med school with a low GPA)
  • You’ll have to have some experience in a medical setting, like volunteering in a hospital or shadowing a doctor.
  • You’ll need to provide letters of recommendation from teachers and health care professionals.
  • You will have to do an interview

For dental school:

  • You also need a college degree
  • You’ll have to take the DAT which tests your knowledge of science and your ability to understand and interpret information.
  • You’ll need to have good grades. A GPA of 3.5 or higher is usually considered competitive. 
  • You’ll need some experience in a dental setting, like volunteering in a clinic or shadowing a dentist.
  • You’ll need letters of recommendation from teachers or other professionals.
  • You’ll have to do an interview.

Medical School Vs Dental School: Acceptance Rates

According to the AAMC’s official records for the 2021-2022 med school applications cycle, 36% of premed students matriculated into med school. Some med schools are more competitive while others are less. But regardless, less than half the students that apply to med school get in. 

This data does not differentiate between first-time applicants and reapplicants. But we do know that about 25% of applicants are applying to med school for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time. 

It should also be noted that most students apply to a significant amount of med schools. It’s not uncommon to see premed students applying to 10+ med schools. 

Dental schools are also very competitive to get into. The average acceptance rates among dental schools historically have been around 50%.

Although this may seem higher than the acceptance rates of med schools, keep in mind that there are a lot more applicants for med school than dental school. 

Medical School Vs Dental School: Length and Difficulty 

Both medical school and dental school require a significant investment of time and effort when we compare to professions across the board. However, med school is considered longer and more difficult. 

Both of these types of schools have a similar curriculum, 2 years of classes and 2 years of clinical rotations. However, med school rotations are known to be more intense with longer hours. 

After med school, residency can take anywhere from 2 to 9+ years! Dental school, on the other hand, takes 6 months to 2 years with some specialties going up to 4 years. 

Average Salary Of A Physician Vs Dentist

The average salary of a physician and a dentist can vary depending on several factors, such as location, specialty, and years of experience. However, in general, physicians tend to earn higher salaries than dentists.


The average salary for a physician in the United States is around $220,000 per year, but it can vary widely depending on the specialty. For example, surgeons and anesthesiologists tend to earn the highest salaries, while family physicians and pediatricians tend to earn lower salaries.

Physicians in specialties such as orthopedics, cardiology, and neurology tend to have the highest earning potential.


The average salary for a dentist in the United States is around $150,000 per year, but it can also vary widely depending on the specialty and location.

Dentists who own their practices tend to earn higher salaries than those who work for someone else.

Both physicians and dentists have the potential to earn more through bonuses, profit sharing, and other forms of compensation. 

So Do Doctors Make More Money Than Dentists?

Generally speaking, physicians make more money, but that’s not always the case. Many dentists end up focusing more on the practice-building phase of their career and slowly phase out of actually treating patients. Essentially they become business owners and the income ceiling is non-existent. 

Physicians can also start similar businesses. For example, some ER docs might start or buy into a freestanding ER. Although for physicians, this is less common than with dentists. 

Quality Of Life: Physician Vs Dentist

Quality of life is an important factor to consider when deciding between a career as a physician or a dentist. Both careers can be rewarding, but they also come with their own set of challenges and demands.


The work schedule for physicians can be demanding and unpredictable, with long hours and on-call responsibilities. This can make it difficult to maintain a good work-life balance.

A career as a doctor can also be emotionally taxing. Physicians are often required to make difficult decisions and deal with patients in critical or end-of-life situations.

On the other hand, many physicians find their work to be highly rewarding and fulfilling. The ability to make a difference in people’s lives is a major benefit of the profession.

Physicians also have a wide range of specializations to choose from, which can allow them to find a niche that aligns with their interests and passions.


Dentists also have a demanding schedule, with long hours and the need to work with precision and focus for extended periods. Dentists also have to work close to patients’ mouths, which can be uncomfortable for some people.

On the other hand, dentistry is centered on preventing oral diseases and promoting oral health, which can be very rewarding for those who want to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Dentistry also allows more flexibility and autonomy, as many dentists own their practices and can set their schedules.

It’s important to keep in mind that quality of life can vary depending on individual circumstances and personal preferences. A career in medicine or dentistry can be highly rewarding and fulfilling, but it’s important to be aware of the demands and challenges of the profession and to consider how they align with your goals and priorities.

How to Make The Decision When Picking Between Becoming A Physician Vs Dentist

Picking between careers is going to affect the rest of your life and the decision should be taken seriously. If you are in high school or college, you have plenty of time to make an informed decision. 

Factors to consider

  • Personal interests: It’s important to consider your interests and passions when deciding between medicine and dentistry. Consider which field aligns more with your values.
  • Lifestyle: It’s important to think about the type of work you want to do and the type of patients you want to work with. Both medicine and dentistry offer different types of specializations, so research which one aligns with your interests.
  • Financial: Consider the cost of education and the earning potential of each field when making your decision. It’s important to think about the long-term financial implications of your decision.

Do research

  • Shadowing: One of the best ways to get a sense of what it’s like to work in either medicine or dentistry is to shadow both professions. This can give you insight into the day-to-day work and help you make a more informed decision.
  • Attending open houses: Many medical and dental schools host open houses, which are a great opportunity to learn more about the programs and meet current students and faculty.
  • Talking to current students and professionals: Reach out to current students and professionals in the field you’re interested in and ask them about their experiences. They can provide valuable insights and answer any questions you may have.

Lastly, don’t get caught up in tunnel vision. Both pre-med and pre-dental students have rigorous schedules. Part of getting through these classes relies on tunnel vision. An unrelenting drive towards the end goal: medical school or dental school.

My advice to you is don’t get caught up in tunnel vision. Be honest with yourself and change directions if needed. It is much better to find out you don’t like medicine or dentistry sooner than later. 

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