5 Things Medical Students Should Keep in Mind About Physician Compensation

Job & Careerby Mashum Mollah26 September 2020

Physician Compensation

Most doctors would agree that while money isn’t their main reason for becoming a physician, it certainly is a nice bonus.

Especially since medical school loans are so hefty, securing a well-paying position to pay down that debt as quickly as possible is not an uncommon goal.

There are a few factors to consider when you are thinking about your future compensation as a medical student. These five are among the top things to keep in mind.

5 Things Medical Students Should Keep in Mind About Physician Compensation:

1. Residents are Paid the Same Regardless of Specialty

Your compensation as a resident is determined by your institution and all residents in that institution will be paid the same, depending on which year of residency you are in.

So, even if you are a third-year resident as a cardiologist, which will earn you one of the highest physician compensations, you will earn the same as a third-year resident family physician.

You can’t expect to make good money out of the gate. It takes years to reach your full income potential.

2. More Money=More Training=More Student Loans

While many physicians want to earn as much as they can, choosing a specialty simply because it has a higher earning potential isn’t always wise.

The specialties with a higher earning potential, such as surgical specialties, require more years in training to learn this in-depth skill. The longer you spend in medical school, the more student loan debt you are accumulating.

This debt can take years to pay off, even with higher compensation. If you choose a specialty that requires less time in medical school, you can pay off your debt faster and have more spending money.

For more info on how to choose the right specialty and what is involved, check out AMA’s career planning resource.

3. Consider Risk vs. Reward

As with any career, owning your own business comes with its own set of risks. It also has the potential for a much higher reward, if it’s done right.

The same is true of becoming a physician. There may come a time when you have the choice to become a partner in a group practice or open your own solo practice.

When this time comes, it is imperative that you weigh the rewards, as well as the risks involved. Yes, the average self-employed physician earns more than an employed physician, but that’s only one side of a multifaceted gem.

The same is true of deciding between being an independent contractor or a direct employee of a practice. These two types of positions vary greatly in benefits and responsibilities.

4. Take Current Demands into Consideration

There are two fluctuating factors that can determine the pay of a certain specialty; location, and demand, and the two can intermingle.

There may be more of a demand in a certain location, which will result in higher pay for that specialty in that state.

It’s important as a medical student to be aware of the trends in the medical field. You can follow the trends in physician compensation by getting a yearly copy of the Medscape Physician Compensation Report.

5. Higher Pay Doesn’t Always Translate to a Happier Life

We can spend hours daydreaming about the life that we want for our future. For most of us, worrying about how to pay the bills isn’t in that picture.

We want to earn the most money that we can but it’s important to remember that we need to consider all the other factors of our career before jumping in because it makes plenty of money.

According to research, people are happiest when they make $75,000, and with $95,000 can reach long-term goals, but beyond that, you are no happier with more money.

In fact, the opposite was proven true. People who are high earners generally have to give up time with family, friends, and leisure to maintain their high-income career, which detracts from their overall happiness.

When deciding where to take your medical career, look more intently on your interest in the specialty, how demanding the job will be, and what a typical day will look like.


It’s all too easy to try to attain the highest paying position when you’re in medical school, however, as these five points proved, there is much more to take into consideration than just a dollar amount.

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Mashum Mollah

Mashum Mollah is the man behind TheDailyNotes. He loves sharing his experiences on popular sites- Mashum Mollah, Blogstellar.com etc.

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