Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Money, Money, Money, Money . . . MONEEYYY!

note: the title of this post was to belted out a la the apprentice theme song (if you need a little refresher click here)

There is no sense in denying the fact that one factor that often pulls people towards a career in medicine is the financial compensation.  For some reason it feels like a taboo topic, to admit out loud that the of course you have  passion for helping people and a strong desire to serve and it doesn't hurt that you're going to be making a fairly comfortable living.  Nobody gets upset at lawyers for being money grubbers (but then again, aren't we all just looking for an excuse to hate them) or accountants (although being such a personality less number-cruncher should have some kind of upside) for pursuing opportunities that pay the highest.  Its a very strange phenomenon that I think we somehow hold ourselves to a higher standard as well, when I consider my future I feel bad weighing the options because of how much pull salaries can have.

All that being said the more important point I wanted to bring up was that if you intention is to become very rich, very fast I implore you to explore other career options.  Although the compensation is likely in the 6 figure range even for those pursuing primary care positions the fact remains that compared to other career paths this one pays out far too slowly to be a viable option for those looking for quick monetary gains.  Let me explain a little bit of why I find this to be the case with a look at some numbers as well as some anecdotal experience.  Once again I have to emphasize this is how I have come to see the world, at the end of the day its my opinion and please take it as just that.

So lets look at a timeline of education and earning.  According to the AAMC the average age of matriculation to medical school for women is 24 and for men is 25 so lets put that at 24.5 years old (source).  Medical school across the board is always going to be four years and theses years have to be billed as negative income especially because as of this year all loan money is UNsubsidized which means every cent that you borrow will collect interest from the day you start to borrow it, this is a serious bummer for graduate students (source).  In any case if you bill each year at about 40,000 a year (this figure is debatable but just for argument's sake I picked a round number that comes close for many people) x four years according to the AMA the average medical student graduates with $157,944 because lets not forget the interest that will be accruing at about 7% which will be compounded at the end and you will be charged interest on the interest once you graduate (source).  So you finish medical school at 28.5 and finally start making money and residency is anywhere between 3 - 5 years during which according to the AAMC you will make an average of $48,4600 (increasing incrementally each year) (source)  So at this point you're between 31 - 33 and are about to plunge back in for some more training i.e. fellowship or you're out into the real work making some real monies.

If for example you decided to become an accountant at about 23 and start making $50,000 a year and lets say a very modest 3% raise per year, in the ten years your buddy was in medical school you've made about $570,000 assuming no bonuses or proper pay increases.

My point here was not to frighten you away from you dream of being a physician but rather to deter those who pursue this career path for reasons based in financial success.  Yes you are rewarded handsomely  eventually, but the road there is a long, long one.  If you don't do this because you absolutely love it you will without question be miserable.  Once you become a doctor paying back these loans is a matter of budgeting and financial savvy, nbd.  But the path there can be absolutely miserable.  I try to bring this back whenever I can but the best way to make it through medical school is to understand as a student (which you arguably will be for at least 7 years and longer when fellowship is considered, and don't even get me started on those MD/PhDs but most of them don't pay very much so thats a different story) your life doesn't end.

Medical education and training is a journey meant to run parallel to your life story, not completely take it over.  With that attitude you will be able to enjoy all of what your life experiences bring you instead of constantly looking to the end and making promises of what your life will be when you are finally a doctor.  I think what i'm trying to say is carpe diem (I refuse to say YOLO although it seems pretty appropriate here).

Oh yeah, with the average internist being offered $205,000 without bonuses and incentives x however may years you work for the rest of your life, I think at some point you will be able to recoup any and all  losses you have incurred.  Maybe you can even take your accountant friend out for lunch.

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