Is Software Engineering Harder Than Medicine? 5 Considerations

It is no secret that software engineering salaries are creeping ever closer to what a doctor gets paid. The rise in popularity of technology has seen a lot of people flood into the industry and we have seen many doctors make the transition to software engineering. But, which job is harder? Is success in software engineering harder than achieving success in medicine? That’s what we want to look at.

Judging how hard one job is compared to another is difficult because it is a highly subjective matter and everyone is different. It is important to note people get into industries for different reasons and whether software engineering is harder than medicine is unlikely to deter people from going into either field.

We do want to point out that we are going to be tackling things from a variety of different perspectives here. Not just in terms of what is the most difficult job, but the training that it takes to get there, as well as the skills that it takes to succeed.

Let’s explore 

Is Software Engineering Harder Than Medicine?

Laptop and a software engineer

The day-to-day of someone working in medicine is significantly harder than software engineering. You tend to work long hours and have to deal with significant trauma while continuing to work a shift. The long-term earning potential in medicine is far higher than in software development and your job is more secure, but these don’t make medicine easier than software engineering.

Many medical practitioners would never succeed in software engineering. The world of software engineering requires very logical thought patterns, creativity, etc. That’s not to say that doctors do not have these skills but doctors require a more caring and methodical approach to their work.

On the other hand, many software engineers would never succeed in medicine. Medicine requires serious skills in talking to people, and identifying issues when somebody isn’t exactly forthcoming with what they are saying. Doctors have to think less logically but have to read between the lines.

Software engineering and medicine are two completely different fields. Some people will find medicine easier, and others will find software engineering easier. It is up to you to determine where your skillset is. 

However, to help you determine whether software engineering is harder than medicine we will look at: 

  • Length of study
  • Skillset
  • Job availability 
  • Job security
  • Average workday

Length of study

If you are getting into the medical field, then you will have to complete at least 10 years of study. You will barely come into contact with patients before the 5-year mark. There is a lot to learn. Even when you do learn it, the position of a junior doctor isn’t going to lead to massive riches. You have a career ladder to climb, and it could easily take a decade or two before you are reasonably well-off as a doctor.

On the other hand, you don’t need any qualifications to be a software engineer. Some recruiters will prefer that you have a college degree in something related to computing. However, if you can display competence in your selected programming languages, a portfolio, and experience, then you could easily start to score yourself several jobs. Good software engineers are hard to come by, and it doesn’t take much effort (if you dedicate yourself) to be a good software engineer.

Remember, it is also much easier to make a transition between two jobs in software engineering. If you have a knack for programming, then you can easily pick up a new programming language in a couple of weeks. You may not be perfect, but it will be a start. You can’t say the same for a doctor. 

You can’t be a heart surgeon one week, and then a brain surgeon the next. It is something that takes years of study, and you will often be stuck in your selected role as soon as you enter the industry, so you best enjoy what you have chosen. 

So based on the length of study, medicine is more difficult than software engineering.


As we mentioned previously, software engineering and medicine require wholly different skills. Yes, there is a bit of an overlap between the two. However, if you are not good at interacting with people, then you stand no chance of succeeding in the world of medicine. Interacting with people is something that you will do daily.

One of the biggest challenges for doctors is regularly confronting the realities of death. This is something that almost every person in the medical industry will need to face (outside of pharmaceuticals), and it isn’t pleasant. It’s a skill that software engineers will never have to learn. 

So while software engineers are more creative and logical, it’s easier than medicine because of the lack of emotional involvement in the role.

Job availability

Both medical experts and software engineers are in high demand. This means neither should have that many issues securing jobs, as long as they are reasonably competent at what they do. However, some would still argue that being a software engineer is harder on this front.

On the other hand, most medical experts tend to stick with the same job for life. They may find themselves creeping up the career ladder. However, many medical experts stay working for the same company in the same field. Because medicine is big business, there is also the argument that most people should be fairly stable in their job, as long as they are good at it. Outside of a few areas, medicine isn’t project-based.

Of course, one could also argue that software engineers end up with much more varied jobs, while medical experts are just doing the same thing. Some people thrive on things being different, and others love the monotony of it all. It is up to you to decide which is the best fit for you. 

Job Security

While we are confident that doctors will stay in the same job for years and years, software development is often something that lends itself to completing a project and then moving on. Unless a software engineer is hired to maintain an application, or for a company that is constantly producing new products, then they may find themselves bouncing from job to job every few years, the average tenure is only around two years anyway.

They may fall into a job pretty quickly, but some software engineers do feel a sense of unease about where their next paycheck may be coming from, especially once they reach a certain age.

Based on job security, it would be fair to say that software engineers have it harder than those working in medicine.


Once you have completed your studies, acquired skills, and landed a job, the difficulty comes down to what you do every day. The average physician will work 51.4 hours a week but is expected to put in 80+ hour weeks when they are training. It isn’t uncommon for them to work more than 24 hours in a single shift.

Plus the workday is emotionally draining because they are having to constantly deal with other people’s trauma all day.

Software developers work fairly standard hours which usually work out at around 40-45 hours per week. On top of that, a developer doesn’t have to overcome the struggles of a doctor.

So, what is harder medicine or software engineering?

Overall, medicine is a much harder career than software engineering. Doctors have to study for longer, work more hours, and have a more difficult skill set to craft. Their job is more emotionally draining and has greater consequences. 

Software engineering is incredibly well paid considering the low barriers to entry. You can end up making lifesaving software but outside of that, the role doesn’t have as big an impact as a doctor. 

Both roles require different skills, and some people who thrive in software engineering would do awful in medicine. But you need actual qualifications to succeed in the medical field. If you are a software engineer, you don’t need any formal qualifications. If you are skilled in your selected programming languages, then you should have no issues finding a job.

Honestly, don’t think about which job is tougher to secure. Think more along the lines of which one appeals to you the most. Want medicine? Go with that. Want software engineering? Go with that. Want to combine the two? Go with medical tech.