The grass is always greener. Living in a more tech driven city, I can’t help but sit back and think about the opportunity cost of becoming a physician. Seeing a young tech patient who is making way more money that I am also occasionally has me questioning if medicine is “worth it.”
I constantly hear in my clinic about the young twenty something who is making well into 6 figures. I also hear about much paid time off or other benefits they get. This got me wondering, how financially do the two industries compare?
Average Earnings For A Physician
The Average salary of a non-procedural physician is around $250,000 per year.
The average salary of physicians including surgical specialties is $383,340.
Right away let talk about some limitations. Yes, I did not take into account taxes. I also did not take into account inflation, or many other factors that can affect pay. I am well aware that there are tech people making less than Facebook or Google wages. There are also doctors making way more or less than the average physician in non-surgical specialties. This is just a broad example for the “average” tech worker vs average non-surgical doctor.
I will be focusing on earnings for non-procedural physicians in this post. This is because while neurosurgery is extremely important, I doubt that the average neurosurgeon wants to consider sitting at a desk all day coding. Most surgeons I know LOVE being in the operating room and would spend all day in there if possible. We will see if medicine is financially worth it.
Average Earnings For Software Developer
This will depend highly on what source you read.
Fresh out of school, you might get an offer as low as $80,000 a year to start programing. This seems to be common if you did not attend one of the top tier schools. Maybe even those who went to a tech bootcamp.
The very large technology companies constitute the majority of very high salaries in tech.
For example, Facebook no longer uses certain terms like manager or entry level software engineer. They describe their levels of software engineer in E3 through E9.
Even an entry level software engineer at Facebook can expect a 6-figure salary with total compensation of around $184,000 per year. Most of the time you move up the ladder in technology to keep making more.
Medical School Debt
The average medical student now takes out about $200,000 in debt to become a physician. I was paying an interest rate of 6.8% per year on the debt that I was taking out to attend medical school.
While some software engineers do complete advanced degrees, it is by no means a requirement.
At the end of medical school and a 3 year residency, our doctor is on average $263,000 in debt including interest.
Tech Workers Earn While Doctors Go In Debt
The first 2 years I assumed that our tech worker made $80,000 a year. After that, I assumed that the tech worker shifted jobs. They then started to work at Facebook as the lowest paid software engineer.
The $1,000,000 Opportunity Cost Dilemma
At the end of the physicians training, the tech worker has brought in just over one million dollars in total compensation. Meanwhile the doctor is $263,000 in debt.
The exact difference between the two net income in my example is $1,343,185.
Factoring in going into debt, the opportunity cost of choosing medicine is a $1.3M dollar decision.
When Does The Doctor Come Out Ahead?
It takes 30 years once you start medical school to surpass the tech worker, and that is assuming you or the tech worker obtain no promotions (which is unlikely).
Don’t Go Into Medicine For The Money
It has been said one thousand times before but do not go any medicine for the money. It will take many years before you get any pay off. Working in other industries such as tech may be the better financial option for those of us who chose to not go into a procedural specialty.
There are a lot of ways to make money easier compared to medicine. I would even argue that going into medicine for some of the highly underpaid specialties is a huge financial drain.
Untold Benefits of Tech
Medicine is brutal for the lack of benefits. Financially, it sure does not on the surface seem like medicine is worth it. The only benefit is the free lunch if you are working in a hospital.
There is often no paid time off in medicine. Very little paid maternity leave. Not to mention, some doctors have to paid tail malpractice insurance.
In tech there are a lot of benefits that don’t come to those in healthcare.
- Paid maternity / paternity leave. Google offers 18 weeks paid leave.
- Many of the tech companies now offer flexibility of working from home
- Often times there is an onsite gym
- Many of the large tach companies have onsite services inconveniences such as laundromat, hairdressers, or even pods to sleep in and take a nap
Red Tape In Medicine
There are opportunities for lots of bonuses and technology companies. In healthcare, the bonuses are limited. It is based purely off of production. I cannot have a sandwich provided by a Pfizer rep without reporting it to the federal government as a benefit from a pharmaceutical company.
While I do agree that there should be many projections for patients, the amount of red tape that exists for physicians is huge.
Physicians cannot have any ownership in a hospital. However, somehow, my medical record can be owned by its payment processing company and have ownership in a clearing house for claims submitted.
I love medicine. However, financially medicine does not seem worth it for many if money is the primary goal. There are easier, less stressful ways to make a living.