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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: jeep69 on August 19, 2016, 10:30:27 PM

Title: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: jeep69 on August 19, 2016, 10:30:27 PM
This site is awesome, I am going to tear thru it asap as there seem to be lots of people with great financial tips and that's what I need.   I'm gona try and not turn this into a book.... but I need some solid financial advice on what I am looking at.

I am currently in dental school and absolutely hate it.  The schooling is very similar to med school in how grueling it is and I am absolutely miserable.  I initially thought dentistry would provide me with a good income and flex lifestyle and I knew I did not have a "passion" for it when I started but thought I could be one of those people that worked to live and not live to work, I am rethinking this as I might be a person that actually needs to enjoy their job.  thinking back I remember a lot of the signs my inner voice was telling me thins might not be my when I was actually relieved when I was not accepted the first time I applied,  there were lots of other times my inner voice said this wasn't for you but I did not listen to for some reason and I do not know why I so easily brushed it off/// I was around a lot of people pushing me towards this.
 I currently spend all day zoned out in my classes and tend to go to my "happy place" and run on autopilot for 8 hours, then come home and zone out and usually sleep.  I have lost interest in the basic things that make me happy and basically am just miserable, I feel like just sitting on the couch and staring at the TV after classes every day (which is impossible to do as you are expected to learn COPIOUS amounts of scientific data and information in a very limited time).  I have found that while I am artistic I am not really super skilled with working with my hands, nor do I enjoy it.  I really enjoy the science aspect of treatment but there is never anytime to learn about what interests you, its "memorize so you can pass this test then move on"i have probably forgotten 50% of my stuff from last year.

Basically its a shit show.....

I am a nontraditional student and am in my early 30s so my next moves are important.  I have spent  5 years getting to the point I am at now and am tired of complaining and feeling like shit so I need to make some moves.  I started observing at some Physical therapy clinics and really loved what was going on, My B.S. is in fitness and I was in the fitness industry for 7 years until I switched.  I am definatly more passionate about the field of PT and would enjoy the schooling process ALOT more than where I am currently, and I would be very good at it (I'm not sure I would be a very good dentist).  The payscale is lower for PT (80-100K) and it takes a few years to get there after graduation.  If money were no option that is what I would do (easier on your body/less stress/) however that is not the case.

I am currently $200K in loans total, Dental salary ranges from 160-220K so I am not worried about my loans if I practice dentistry/howver I very much am if I change and do something else.  What does it make financial sense to do in this situation?

At this point I am so miserable I cannot even think of doing this as a career.  I don't regret exploring this avenue as 80% of my classmates I have spoken with are not passionate about it, they are doing it for a paycheck and not many have a passion for this.  plus I would have always wondered "what if" if I didn't take the leap.

Secondly, how should I handle the mindfuck of the process of feeling like you mentally/physically cannot do something you've spent 6+ years working towards, and which the majority of your identity is founded upon?

I have already gotten approval to take a leave of absence and am in good standing with the university however I have never quit anything in my life and feel like I am letting ALOT of faculty whom I respect as well as my family and myself down if I do that. 

My goals are to travel and see the world and basically I want to do things that cost money, which is why I tried to pick a field that I thought would provide that.  I really enjoy talking to people/sales and bullshittign in general/moving around and being active (I HATE this is such a sedentary profession) exercise/ reading and anything anatomy or kinesiology based.

Do I simply try to do whatever is necessary to finish the next few years and get out with the degree then TRY to work for a few years and pay off my loans and then basically start over?  there is a possibility I could teach and the schools usually pay off your loans after your have been there 10 years....However the thought of the next 13 years of my life just being automatically decided for me makes me nauseaus.....

I am sinlge no kids and would also like to actually start a life soon.....

Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: tomorrowsomewherenew on August 20, 2016, 10:34:28 AM
I think you need to take a moment and chill. It sounds like you are very stressed out, and that may be impacting your perception of reality.

My husband thought he wanted to go to medical school. Luckily, that did not work out, and he ended up getting a PhD in the biomedical sciences. A lot of the classes were shared by dental and md students, so I understand where you are coming from. It is stressful, but it is temporary, and now that he has a full time professor position, life is pretty easy. If you are at all interested in the sciences, you may want to investigate going that route, as you will not add to your student loans. Tuition will be covered, and you would receive a stipend of about $25,000 per year.

On a different note, perhaps you should go ahead and finish dental school. How far along are you? Being a dentist is not the same as being in dental school. (At least it doesn't have to be--you can probably find some high stress positions).

After grad school, my husband got a great job offer, but we didn't feel content to settle down. He joined the Army (seriously). We moved 4 times in 3 years. He left the Army because he didn't want to stay for 20 years, and needed to get back to his field if he was going to stay relevant. We also had a baby and weren't willing to subject a child to that. As a single person, you could volunteer to go on 1 year "hardship" tours (married people leave their families behind), but the locations are a more exotic than say, Ft. Benning, Georgia or Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.

As a single person with no kids, I think you may want to investigate this option. It would get your loans paid off, you make a fairly good salary, you will move around a lot, and it is not just straight up dentistry. It's an adventure for sure, but I admit it is not for everyone.

My husband's new academic (civilian) position is in a physical therapy program, and I don't think quite its as different from dental school as you seem to think. It's not quite as intense, but a lot of the classes are similar or even the same.

Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: Midwest on August 20, 2016, 10:45:14 AM
Dentists have the ability to make a lot more than the salaries you listed if they own the practice.  PT's tend to work for hospitals and top out much lower. 

My dentist friends seem to enjoy their work and have a flexible schedule but have told me that school was hard.
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: BCpuppy on August 20, 2016, 10:57:34 AM
My husband graduated last year from dental school, and it was absolute hell for him those 4 years.  Our original deal when dental school was really getting to him is that as soon as he pays off his loans, he can drop to part-time or even change careers.  Now that he is out in practice at a community health center, he likes it significantly more and is MUCH more relaxed.   In addition, he just qualified for loan repayment for working in a rural environment! $90,000!!

My advise would be try to stick it out and not make any drastic decisions.  It will be very hard to pay off your loans with a PT salary compared to what even a new graduate dentist makes.  Look at different states rural loan repayments;  we will be done with his loans within the 3 year commitment required with just a little extra effort on our part.  On the flip side, loan repayment for a PT degree is much much hard to find.
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: jeep69 on August 20, 2016, 01:11:42 PM
So I should do something I don't like and try to stick it out for the money?

these are all great replies so far, thank you so much.

FYI I am 1/3 way into my 2nd year.
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: BCpuppy on August 20, 2016, 02:45:37 PM
2nd year was also when my husband almost quit.  Seriously 2nd year was hell, and I had to quit school just to be able to support him better.  Like you, he didn't LOVE dentistry; he was more into it has a stable career that he could then spend the rest of his time climbing/mountaineering.  Truthfully, the main reason he stayed in school was because of the student loans.  3rd year and 4th were MUCH better.  (not nearly so much copious memorization, more experiences with patients and clinical skills)

Of course, this is just my husband's and I's experience with the hell that is dental school.  Take everything I say with a grain of salt:D
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: Driko on August 20, 2016, 09:45:03 PM
I work in the medical field and I have seen this a lot. Most medical degrees are pretty grueling and take a lot of mental fortitude to endure. Most of my friends took Adderall to get through the "zone out" mode that is so easily to get stuck in. I have friends who are residents with similar loans to you and that totally hate their job, but they are riding it out because the other option of digging yourself out of that kind of debt with a mediocre salary is just as stressful. I also have a friend who works as a PT and he's making 70k a year starting out his first year. If I were you, I would buckle down try to get through school pay off the loans as fast as possible, work for a few years and then decide what you want to do. With a high salary you can rapidly save enough to switch careers at a later time. I have often thought of doing that as well. Either way good luck and hang in there :)
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: tomorrowsomewherenew on August 21, 2016, 06:50:13 AM
So I should do something I don't like and try to stick it out for the money?

these are all great replies so far, thank you so much.

FYI I am 1/3 way into my 2nd year.

I would stick it out. You don't know if you actually like being a dentist or not, because you haven't tried it yet. Dental school is not the same as being a dentist.
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: jeep69 on August 27, 2016, 11:36:36 AM
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: use2betrix on August 27, 2016, 11:41:53 AM
You are already 200k in student load debt, with more to go if you go PT as well.

You'd end up where, 250-300k in debt going PT and probably make half of what you would as a dentist.

I say tough it out, finish, make as much as you can for 5-10 years, get way ahead, and then explore options.
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: TheSimpleLife on August 27, 2016, 09:19:28 PM
Outside of a few dentists chiming in, I think I can offer some decent feedback.

First of all, I have an accounting practice and serve quite a few dentists as clients.  Secondly, my best friend/younger brother went to dental school, hated it, dropped out, and is living a happy, successful life.

I would strongly urge you to go meet with local dentists (local to your dental school) and ask them how they like their job, how they like running a practice, what type of lifestyle it provides, and how many hours they work each week. Like any profession, you are probably going to get a wide range of replies. As a few of the above posters mentioned, being a dentist (practicing dentistry) is FAR different from dental school. I am friends with some of my clients and have some dentists that are friends but not clients. Most absolutely HATED dental school and most aren't all that passionate about being a dentist. They don't hate it, but they don't go to bed dreaming about the endo treatment plan on the schedule tomorrow.

Unfortunately our society has sold everyone on the "Do What You Love!" mantra. That isn't really based on facts or reality. MOST people don't love their jobs. MOST people have things about their job they don't like. There is nothing wrong with being a competent professional (regardless of field) and not being head over heals excited about work everyday. That might not be sexy advice, but it is reality.

You can find things about any profession that are enjoyable. Maybe it is the interaction with patients. Maybe the ability to improve employee's lives by offering them steady, well paying employment. Maybe it is the fact that you could only work 4 days a week (many dental practices still close on Friday). Or maybe you hate everything and work towards FIRE as fast as possible (many on these boards fit that description).

You are in a unique position. With 200K of loans, if you quit, you would have trouble finding employment to pay those things off while still being able to travel and one day FIRE. Unfortunately, PT doesn't pay that well compared to dentistry. It doesn't pay near as well as private practice dentistry (if you have any head for business).

With PT, I'm guessing that would be more loans as well. So you are probably looking at 300K minimum unless you quit and don't do any more schooling.

Back to my brother... He knew from about the 2nd week of the first semester of dental school that he didn't want to practice dentistry. Yes, school was stressful, but he finished the first year with the top marks in his entire class, so it wasn't as if he couldn't hack it. He is now finishing a PhD in finance and simultaneously runs a very successful online business. So he is somewhat of an anomaly. I'm not sure his path would be realistic for you (he only had around $18K in dental school debt when he left and is the most frugal person I've ever met in my life).

With $200K and growing, you unfortunately can't really do whatever you want. I guess you could drop out, move out of the country, and default on your loans. But if you want to stay in the US, you're probably going to need to create a plan to pay those off.

So to summarize, here would be my advice:
-Talk to actual dentists to get an idea of what the work life is like.
-Only you know if you truly hate dentistry and couldn't stand to do it a day in your life.
-PT pays much less than dentistry, and with your loan situation you have to consider pay at this point.
-Private practice dentistry can pay well more than the numbers you posted, but working for a chain or another dentist could pay even less.
-If you have no desire for owning a practice, I'm not sure dentistry would be all that much better of a choice than PT.
-If you want an above average lifestyle, you have to work in a profession with above average pay. Sounds pretty simple, but you can't have your cake and eat it too sometimes. With your loans plus desires to live the high life, you're probably going to have to do some "not fun" years in order to come out ok in the next decade.

Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: jeep69 on August 28, 2016, 11:17:26 AM
Thank you for the very detailed reply simple life!!!

What is FIRE? I have seen references to it thought the board but cannot find a definition.

If I wanted to talk more about my money situation with a professional in my area would I simply try to find a financial advisor? Call my bank? Any tips on finding a good money man as a student?
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: CBG_DMD on August 28, 2016, 12:26:04 PM
I have been a long time lurker of this site but my wife and I are both dentists so I thought I would offer my 2 cents.

Dental school is completely miserable. Anyone who says they actually enjoyed it is either lying or has a mental illness so the fact that you are miserable is, in my opinion, pretty normal and healthy.

I totally get you about the "passion" part of it though. I definitely do not have it, it is just a job to me. My wife enjoys it more than me but I also would not call it a "passion" of hers either. In fact, other dentists I know who have a legitimate passion for it tend to be a bit strange and let it consume their lives (I know one who actually stays at his office after closing and pores and trims his own crown impressions as opposed to just dropping them in a plastic bag for the lab). That's not to say I hate going to work everyday, I just prefer days I don't have to work and I look forward to 5 oclock on the days I do.

You have to realize that a lot of the thing that make dental school so miserable will disappear the moment you get you diploma. No more studying. You will have a receptionist to schedule and call patients, hygienists to clean teeth, assistants to set up and clean up your operatory, a lab tech to make your dentures and crowns, and so on.  As funny as it sounds, dental school and actually being a dentist are 2 completely different things.

You have to try to remove all the bullshit that comes with dental school and evaluate the job for what it is because once you are done a lot of that bullshit goes away (though new bullshit arises, namely that associated with running a business but it is not nearly as bad). Not sure what dental school you go to but if I had to guess you probably have very little actual clinical experience if you just starting your second year so it may be difficult for you to evaluate the profession for what it actually is. You need to remember, most people neither truly love or actually hate their career, it is just a job for most people and being a dentist could provide such financial freedom that it is acceptable, in my eyes at least, to not necessarily be in love with it to do it.

Considering your age and debt I think you just need to stick it out. What you do after will be important though. Those salary figures you cited are accurate for a dentist who is just a dentist, not a business owner. You can only do so much with 2 hands and that is what those salaries reflect. A dentist who produces for 30-40 hours a week and also owns a practice can make significantly more than that.  My wife and I own our own practice and make between $600-700K per year between the two of us, while working about 30 hours a week each. That is net, not gross. We were fortunate enough to find a group practice where the 2 owners were looking to sell so we took over an established practice. That is really the key.

If your are mobile and willing to search out a similar situation it is shockingly easy to make that kind of money once you have your degree.  More and more millennials, especially those with advanced degrees, gravitate to cities and there are a ton of old dentists out there in the suburbs and blue collarish towns who have great practices and want to retire but have no one to sell them to. With patience and a willingness to get out of big cities and high income suburbs you should able to find one of these established practices and get it for a great price. Do not fall for bells and whistles (ie overhead). We do not do anything "fancy" at ours, mainly just restorative, crown and bridge, easy endo, easy extractions, and restore implants. We refer out all implant placements and anything else difficult (ie stressful) to our tusted specialists.  If you constantly have 5 hygienists cleaning teeth, you can stick to doing basic bread and butter dentistry and still make a ton.  Ironically, we do much better financially than a lot of my colleagues that I am close with who are in high income suburbs and doing advanced procedures. They just added a lot of overhead and a lot of stress to their lives while they are unable to keep even 2 hygienists busy because there are 10 other dentists in a 3 block radius.

Again, you didn't say what school you are at but if you are $200K into it while just starting your 2nd year I assume you are at a private school and are going to end up with a ton of debt and due to your age you will be behind the ball a bit. We are both in our early 30s as well though so even though you are maybe 10 years older than your peers you can catch up quite quickly.

If I were you, I would stick it out, really develop your clinical skills (whether you do basic dentistry or more fancy stuff, you want it to be top notch), and after graduation be patient (work as an associate if you need to) and try to find an established practice in a great (ie low-dentist) location.  You may even find you don't dislike it as much when you are making $350K a year working 30 hours a week. I sure as hell did.
Title: Re: switching from dental to PT professional program
Post by: letired on August 28, 2016, 12:54:20 PM
What is FIRE? I have seen references to it thought the board but cannot find a definition.

Financially Independent, Retired Early. Meaning you have enough money saved/invested to live off of and no longer need to work.

If I wanted to talk more about my money situation with a professional in my area would I simply try to find a financial advisor? Call my bank? Any tips on finding a good money man as a student?

Most folks on this forum would probably not recommend a financial advisor. If you do want a financial advisor, look for key words like 'fiduciary duty' meaning they have to place your financial well-being above their commission schedule or 'fee-only' meaning you are paying for their financial advice instead of them getting paid by commission to sell you possibly crummy financial products. Banks are not typically great sources of financial planning advice, as far as I know.

Check out for more details about the different flavors of financial advisors.

If you do a full case study ('case-study'-topic/), you will get a fuck ton of advice for free. It's probably a good first step anyway since it'll force you to pull together all the info you would need for a financial advisor as well.