Overrated Career: Physician

Being a physician is becoming less appealing.

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The Appeal: You get to help keep people healthy and cure them when they're sick. Prestige is high as is the pay.

The Reality: Fewer and fewer patients see their physicians as godlike, especially those whose first instinct is to go online for medical information. Doctors are spending less time than ever with patients and more on paperwork. Insurers keep hacking away at physician costs. And if a Democrat is elected president, some form of national health insurance may be enacted. That could reduce physicians' pay and increase their workloads as the nearly 50 million uninsured people in the United States will need to be cared for by the existing cadre of physicians.

And those are just the new problems. This career has long had other liabilities. The training spans more than a decade, including four years of science-heavy college coursework, four demanding, expensive (often $200,000) years of medical school, followed by an internship year of 90-plus hours a week, and capped by a few years of residency. After completing all that, there's usually the ongoing stress of managing your office, trying to care for noncompliant patients, giving unsuspecting patients bad news, and seeing some get sicker and die.

An Alternative: Physician Assistant