If you’re like many doctors, your paycheck doesn’t have quite as many zeros on it as you’d hoped when you started med school. According to Medical Economics, average physician salaries are declining. It’s a trend that will likely continue.
And yet, doctors aren’t going to get a lot of sympathy from the average American. Doctors still account for the majority of six-figure positions in the U.S.
The chart below shows the average pay for family physicians, including bonuses and profit sharing:
Average pay for family physicians (Source)
But what those figures don’t show is that for many of you, especially young physicians, your minimum student loan payments are so high that even with a higher-than-average salary, you’re still barely breaking even.
But enough with the generalities. Exactly how much do doctors make?
10 surprising stats about how much doctors make
Let’s break it down. First, I want to share some stats that may surprise you:
Now let’s explore the trends impacting doctor take-home pay.
Trend 1: Medical school is getting more expensive
No one needs to tell you medical school is expensive. Tuition and fees for the 2016-2017 school year ranged from $19,650 (Baylor University) to $87,152 (Michigan State University) per year for schools in the U.S. News and World Report 2018 Best Medical Schools research and primary care rankings.
The average medical school graduate carried $183,000 in debt across the stage with them in 2015 according to The Association of American Medical Colleges. Add that burden to their average undergraduate debt ($24,000) and the total average student loan balance for a doctor is $207,000.
That number is no doubt higher today as undergraduate tuition rate increases vastly outpace inflation every year.
Tuition costs (Source)
In recent years it’s become more and more expensive to become a doctor. Assuming it takes you 30 years to repay your student debt at a 7.5% interest rate, in the end that credential will actually cost you $419,738.
CBS News points out that it also takes at least 11 years (and for some specialties 14 years) to become a physician. So while the typical doctor earns six figures, they don’t earn anything close to a full-time salary until after the typical college graduate has been making money for a decade.
Assuming just a $50,000 annual salary, doctors forego half a million dollars by going to graduate school and doing their residency.
Trend 2: Increasing demand for physicians
As the U.S. population ages and demand for healthcare increases, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for physicians and surgeons is only going up.
The U.S. population is aging (Source)
The BLS projects that between 2016 and 2026, the number of new jobs for physicians and surgeons will increase by 15%, which is much faster than the average growth rate for new jobs in other fields.
Trend 3: Salaries are getting cut
Primary care physicians earn only slightly more than their debt. Annual median pay for physicians and surgeons is around $187,000.
One study found that physicians who go into internal medicine are the least satisfied with their jobs. Internists work an average of 54 hours per week, see two patients every hour, and spend 23% of their work day completing paperwork. One-fifth of internists have seen their pay decrease since they began practicing. When asked if they would choose the same specialty if they had to do it over again, only 19% said yes. Two-thirds said they wouldn’t go into medicine at all.
One more thing to consider: Specialty matters
Your choice of specialty has a big impact both on your salary and your job satisfaction.
How much do physicians earn overall? (Source)
The best-paid doctors are orthopedic surgeons, who take home an average of $443,000 annually.
Despite their lower pay, neurologists are the most satisfied—66% say they’d choose the same specialty, and 53% say they’d go into medicine again. They earn an average of $241,000, while working an average of 55 hours per week.
Radiologists are the most likely to have had a pay cut, with almost half reporting a decline in salary in the past six years. However, radiologists are still among the best-paid doctors, earning an average of $375,000. More than half would choose to be a doctor and choose the same specialty again.
Emergency doctors are least likely to have had their salary slashed, with just 19% having suffered a cut within the last six years. They earn an average of $322,000. However, only 41% of emergency doctors say they would go into medicine or emergency medical care again.
So, how does your salary stack up?
Are you earning the average for your specialty? Have you seen your pay go down in recent years? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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