In choosing a career, the deliberation between passion and money is never far behind. On the one hand, some will still do what they love regardless of how much it pays. On the other hand, others have to make a living, as passion alone won’t help pay bills.
The argument extends to the medical field, where the promise of high salaries is too enticing not to consider. According to this list of salaries for doctors, its data derived from several sources, they generally enjoy a six-figure income annually, whether in private practice or employed by a healthcare network. That said, doctors in private practice earn more than others.
Given the numbers, it’s safe to say that a medical career is profitable. Perhaps the more pressing matter is whether that is worth the effort put into pursuing a medical career.
The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might believe.
How Does One Become A Doctor?
The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 3% growth in the number of jobs for physicians and surgeons within the current decade. Although the rate is slower than the average, the profession is expected to generate more than 20,000 jobs yearly.
Many medical professionals will say that being a doctor can be satisfying, though it’s hard to say why. Several possible reasons include the satisfaction of saving lives and job security. Whatever the case, the road to becoming one is long and winding, as can be seen here:
- Complete an undergraduate course (or premed, if available).
- Pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
- Choose between Medical Doctor and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degrees.
- Pass Step 1 of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE Step 1).
- Start earning clinical experience through hospital or clinic rotations.
- Pass USMLE Step 2.
- Apply for and finish a residency program.
- Pass USMLE Step 3.
- Complete a fellowship program (optional but recommended).
- Complete a specialization program for board certification.
- Obtain a license in the state where you’ll be practicing medicine.
- Practice medicine and never stop learning something new.
This list is a slight generalization, but some of these steps require substantial investment in time and capital. Over a decade will have passed between undergraduate and specialization, which is enough time for many trends in medicine to change.
Cost is another matter. The Education Data Initiative reported that medical school costs have risen since 2015. From USD$230,296 last year, the nationwide average is forecasted to increase by approximately USD$15,000 in four years.
Out-of-state residents pay roughly 16% more than the average, while their in-state counterparts pay about 6% less.
Lastly, the culture can catch many aspiring medical professionals unaware. Many graduates will vouch for the adage that medical school is ‘drinking from a fire hose,’ being bombarded with so much information in the first year alone for so little time to learn as much as possible. Keeping a delicate balance between medical school and social life, albeit difficult, is necessary.
Do The Benefits Outweigh The Downsides?
Income and satisfaction aside, career experts point out that the medical profession is mediocre in terms of expected impact, advancement, and competition. A report by 80,000 Hours, a career research nonprofit, indicates the following:
- The impact is modest at best because of factors such as the skewed distribution of medical resources among countries and social determinants such as wealth and education taking greater priority for most societies.
- The academic bar for entering medical schools can be notoriously high. The latest data shows that the average acceptance rate for medical schools is 5.5%, generally based on an applicant’s MCAT score, GPA, and whether they’re out-of-state or in-state.
- Healthcare professionals are often underrepresented in the sphere of public policy. While the government employs such individuals, most focus on general health. As a result, they don’t wield as much influence in inspiring change.
Despite these downsides, people already practicing medicine are discouraged from leaving due to the sunk-cost fallacy. Imagine sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into medical school, only to retire from it a few years after graduation. Instead, they try advancing their careers in more specific areas, such as biomedical research and health service management.
Is A Medical Profession Still Lucrative?
As dissuasive as this piece may appear, it’s essential to acknowledge the difficulties of a chosen career—medicine included.
Medical school is undoubtedly costly, especially when you’ve decided to pursue another career halfway. After graduation, you’ll face an uphill battle in contributing to the betterment of society to the point of asking yourself if all this has been worth it.
That said, the satisfaction healthcare professionals derive from their work is a game changer. If not for the high wage, they do it for the fulfillment of helping people live healthier, happier lives. It’s one of the few occupations that allow people to utilize their strengths to the fullest.
Is medicine a lucrative profession? The answer depends on whether money is a primary reason for entering the field. While it pays a lot, experts argue that other careers, such as law or business management, pay much more. Otherwise, the lucrative part comes from the joy of seeing people live out their lives.