Author Topic: Medical field or second degree in computer science?  (Read 5557 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« on: June 25, 2015, 09:15:57 PM »
Hey fellow mustachians!

We are a family of 5 on the road to financial independence. We are currently doing some strategic planning in the career/life move area and would like some advice from some badassiters. Here's the deal:

I (Alex) am 27 and have a BA in Latin American studies from BYU. I made some bad decisions in my undergrad career (changed majors a few times, failed some classes, etc.) and my GPA is lower
than I would like, this is important as you will see below. The plan has been to go into the medical field-physicians assistant or nurse practitioner. I still have to complete some pre requisite course
work (about 1-2 years at the local CC) to either go the RN then NP route (5 years minimum, 60-80k debt) or the PA (2 years, 100k debt) route. Unfortunately I can't get into a direct entry nurse
practitioner program because of my GPA, and that also makes me less competitive for PA school.

Basically we are looking at a solid 3-6 years of school until we can make enough to start building a stache. I have always been relatively tech savvy and enjoy working with technology (I use linux as my os and know how to get around a terminal window). I have done a little bit of programming but nothing substantial. Since I am looking at a solid chunk of time before I get into the medical field I am contemplating pursuing a BS in computer science since this would, theoretically, allow me to have a more location independent skill set and also make a good amount per year. Location independent is important to us since we would love to be able to live in Latin America (I am a fluent Spanish speaker) on less than we could in the US and therefore save more faster=faster financial independence. I am eyeing OSU's online program since I could complete it in 1-2 years.

My question to you fellow FIentists is: do you think the computer science B.S./career in tech would be a better bet for me? I am not too familiar with the marketplace or wages but from what I have read online it seems that working in the tech industry can be pretty lucrative (80-100k+??). However as a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant I can make 80-100k right out of school and probably around 150-200k after a few years. This seems like the safe bet-get a license to practice medicine and work in the medical field. However I really want to have the skills to create businesses that can give me passive income, something that I think a career in the tech industry would allow me to do.

Thanks for the read! Let me know if you have any questions.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2015, 04:58:16 AM »
Are you sure you can't get an "IT guy" job now and not go into debt? Going further into debt with 3 little ones already is a big hole.

I'm guessing from context clues here that you're a practicing Mormon. My understanding is that that comes with a very active church community. Would it be appropriate to ask around, explain your skills, and see if anybody needs somebody in their office with Linux skills?


  • Bristles
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2015, 05:39:15 AM »
I would look around for post-baccalaureate programs in computer science before going for a full BS. They are supposed to be roughly equivalent to a minor in computer science, and some of them are well-regarded by employers, and should cost a lot less. Off the top of my head, I know that Tufts and University of Washington offer them, but I'm sure other schools do as well.

Another thing I know that many people have done is to work for a school; they usually let you take 1 or 2 classes free per semester. The pay is usually a bit below market rate, but it beats going into debt. There are always people in the physics department who need linux helpers, which would also let you grow your resume in that area.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2015, 05:41:07 AM by vhalros »


  • Bristles
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2015, 05:41:52 AM »
Hello, and welcome to MMM forum.

-from what you're saying, Computer Science is probably the way to go
-a CRNP or PA makes nowhere near 150K, more likely 60-100K max
-you can't transfer Advanced Practice degrees to Latin America, whereas Computer Science degrees not only transfer, but you can get a USA job with that degree, and work out of Latin America if you're lucky.
-in addition, a CS degree at a local Community College will cost far less than your 60K-100K estimate.

Best of luck in your decision making!


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2015, 05:55:40 AM »
I agree you are substantially overestimating what a NP or a PA makes.  They are both good careers, but they don't pay nearly that well.  Google the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

I would take a good look at the tech offerings from local community colleges.


  • Stubble
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2015, 09:03:24 AM »
I don't see anything that suggest what you actually prefer to do other than "I have always been relatively tech savvy and enjoy working with technology" and "want to have the skills to create businesses that can give me passive income". Sounds like a good match for CompSci! I'm not seeing where medical field comes into the equation. Sometimes that can be a hard sell to schools, especially with a weak GPA, since there's not a compelling reason to believe you want to be a PA other than money.

A 90% percentile PA in my city makes $113K, median around $95K.

Cost of PA program (everywhere I applied) was more around $50-70K ballpark. The most expensive schools in the country run $100K...but maybe those are the only ones you are looking at applying to? In-state or out of state?

Now that you know the salary expectations, do you still think you want to be a provider? Have you volunteered? Do you have healthcare experience/patient contact hours? Have you spent some time shadowing and/or talking with PAs? These are all ways to strengthen an application. Consider how they affect your timeline and when you can apply. Many schools will take an application with prereq courses in progress. I also suggest talking to the pre-professional adviser at BYU, if that's the route you decide to go! I am still using mine 2 years out of school. She has excellent knowledge of the PA programs in my state and what they look for. If you're in the area, you could even drop in on the Pre-PA association meetings. If you'd like more specific info, I'd be happy to chat about what I know thus far and direct you to some great blogs - just shoot me a PM. Nice to meet someone else with interest in the career :)

Also, consider that not all countries use the PA system yet. If you're looking to maximize earnings with the degree and set on living in Latin America, this is definitely something to think about. CompSci/tech careers seem more easily transferable. IMO, this is also an advantage for NPs, since the nursing system seems much more widely used. I'm not sure how it works if you are licensed in the USA and then move. I imagine it depends on the country, whether you have to re-cert or similar.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2015, 09:56:08 AM »
In the market I am in (inland northwest) a nurse working evenings with shift differential and picking up the occasional extra shift can make 75k. THis is what my mom makes working FT on a peds oncology floor. New grad PAs in this area start out at 70-80k and I know a PA that works two urgent care jobs and makes well over 150k/year, at least in this market. I have about 4 years FT experience as a nurses aid and about 3 months experience as an EMT so I am familiar with the medical field and have also shadowed PAs and MDs.

The program I am looking into is a well known and well regarded program that costs 80k in tuition, and since it is an intense program you can't work during those two years. So looking at 20k or so of additional loans to live on, maybe less if we can move into parents basement.

I really like the suggestion of working for a college and taking classes for free. The local CC has a two year program in compsci that I could probably do that way. I even have a year left of financial aid that would pay for some of it. Even if I paid for the program out of pocket it would still only be around 10-15k total to complete. I would have to work hard at projects or find an internship to bolster my resume in order to get a good compsci job, I imagine...? I am also very interested in entrepreneurial ventures and would rather work for myself anyways, so compsci would teach me (tell me if Im wrong) programming and web dev skills that I could take and build something with or do contract work with.

My wife and family are totally behind us moving to Latin America, so if we could get away with it we could possibly earn a US wage while living in a low cost of living country.

We are LDS (Mormon) and I am currently asking around at church. I have the opportunity to go into business with my uncle who does house inspections and that would potentially double our income (15-20k/yr to 40+). I am just waiting on him to see if he will offer the job to someone with more experience.



  • Stubble
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2015, 10:00:21 AM »
Look into Speech Pathology.  It's a 2 year Master's degree with high earning potential in certain areas.  You may also want to look into Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy as well. 


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2015, 10:28:02 AM »
What is the end goal? Is it FIRE asap, or just fi and work in a career you love? Something you did not mention is accelerated NP programs, they are for people with a bachelors already and are 3 year program. First year you get your RN, then the next 2 year you earn your masters/np. If you are looking for the quickest path to fire, I think we can get more creative then going back to school.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Medical field or second degree in computer science?
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2015, 11:07:03 AM »
Since you already have a degree (in anything!), you don't need to go for another bachelors. If you want to go CS, do Georgia Tech's online MSCS. Georgia Tech is ranked in the top 10 for CS, and their online program is cheap.