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Tuesday, June 5th 2007

Wanna Make Money? Still Go Into Health Care

Optimism is good for the soul most of the time.

Take a look: Forbes’ survey of the Top 25 highest earning jobs.

The survey is a gross generalization, true. Grouping all surgeons together, having categories like Physicians – NOS shows how “for the public” the survey is. I’m sure other professions on the list are likewise generalized. Physicians and surgeons obviously have a wide range of incomes. Take a look at this average physician salary survey to get a feel for the disparities.

That aside, the Forbes piece is still a reminder of how lucky I will be.

I love it when people say if you want to make money don’t go into medicine. While true in a way…


No One Aspires To Bill Gates-esque Wealth As A Physician

…I think it still grossly fails to appreciate the lifestyle most physicians enjoy. There is a real debate about the undervaluing of physicians. Merely looking at income levels fails to weigh things like years in training or education and business debt. And the reimbursement pressures are very real and I imagine very stressful.

But that isn’t what you hear out here as a physician-in-training or potential physician-in-training. I hear over and over, “If you want to make money go into business or become a lawyer or whatever.”

But really? The implication is there are guaranteed greener pastures elsewhere. It certainly doesn’t seem like that is the case when you step back and take a look.

Sure, there are some personal injury attorneys who earn millions and do better than the docs they’re suing. There are personal injury attorneys who can’t pay the rent on their office space.

Sure there are your friends with the bachelor degrees in finance who are pulling in the dough working their way up in some I-Banking job. There are your college friends trying to figure out how to earn with an English degree as well.

Anecdotes.

In reality even by the hourly pay (also see here), many if not most specialties (my apologies to PCPs), do really, really well. And yet I hear advice to stay away from medicine from ophthalmologists and ortho spine docs. That doesn’t seem right.

Being a doctor may not mean the relative wealth it did at its peak, but my God, for a profession that offers so much else, the earning potential is still pretty remarkable.

That said, by no means are physicians overpaid. Not here and not elsewhere. Far, far from it.

There’s a reasonable argument that physicians should be amongst society’s highest paid individuals. I think most of the public, realizing the relative value of health, buy that argument.

But whether physicians earn their true weight, it is worth stepping back and realizing how comparatively blessed this profession is. Even as students accumulate debt, even as payments fall and practice costs rise. Because while I could be earning more in some other profession, it is much more likely that my lifetime earning power would be less.

Plus, it’s just good for the soul to see the glass as half full.

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