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Going Into Healthcare for the Paycheck? Skip Med School


There are plenty of reasons to become a doctor. It might be a part of your family’s history, or you may have a personal vendetta against a certain disease. You may be passionate about helping sick people, and maybe you just want a steady, fat paycheck. If you fall into the latter category, you may want to slightly alter your path.

Two rows of five half-yellow half-black pills encased in plastic covering

(Photo Credit: Martin Vorel/

By all means, you’re more than welcome to continue down the road of medicine, but that MD really isn’t necessary if you’re in it for the big bucks. That’s because the people making the most money in the world of doctors aren’t the doctors: they’re the executives running insurance companies and hospitals, and sometimes even simply the administrators.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

According to The New York Times, CEOs like that of the insurance company Aetna can pull in salaries to the tune of $977,000 – with total compensation totaling well into the $30,000,000 range. Who wants to get blood all over their hands when you can be making money like that?

For those of us that get bored after buying our fifteenth Bugatti Veyron, there are still some pretty high paying jobs for doctors – so don’t feel too sorry for them either. In fact, there are few if any doctor gigs for MDs that present a poor ROI.

According to data from Payscale, the average physician is pulling in anywhere from $170,000-$280,000 annually. Med school, if you were to find yourself among the cream of the crop at Harvard Medical, might run you anywhere from $170K-$574K. That certainly seems to follow the old rule that you shouldn’t borrow more than double what you’ll make in your first year.

But then, what happens if you want to be in debt for, well, a shorter amount of time? Which doctors are pulling in the best money? Here are two that are doing just fine for themselves…

The Obvious Choice: Neurosurgeon

Surgeons have a reputation for getting a pretty penny for their work – but that doesn’t come without its own price. Malpractice insurance for surgeons is disproportionately high – though you can never be too safe in the litigious climate we live in today.

That said, a neurosurgeon is sitting pretty at a median pay of $398,823 annually, which is pretty close to what cardiothoracic surgeons make – though it’s worth noting that the above article from 2010 states that they can pay up to $100K/year for insurance. With almost $300K left over in the bank, it’s safe to say the premiums are well worth it.

The Sleeper: Gastroenterologist

Holiday who-be-whatee? Tell all the med students to plug their ears: for the layman, Gastroenterology is the specialty within internal medicine that deals with all the tubes – from your esophagus to stomach, colon, bile ducts, and more.

In exchange for having the keen ability to spot and diagnose problems associated with those areas (and some fun work with tiny video cameras), and you’re on your way to a median salary of $297,549 – going all the way up to $490,000 a year.

It doesn’t take an attending physician to tell you where the money is at in medicine, but if you’re passionate about really helping people then you shouldn’t feel compelled to focus on the numbers anyway. In any profession, it’s important to be mindful of how the cost of your degree relates to your field of work – but it’s hard to put a price tag on a good doctor who cares about his or her patients.

Tell Us What You Think!

How do you feel about the money in medicine? Do doctors deserve more than the hospital CEO? Tell us what you think in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter

Peter Swanson
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MD is not worth it
MD is not worth it

Get into med school for helping patients and not the paycheck. You will be worse off in life if you are chasing money for med. And especially do not get into a PhD program if you don’t get into med school. PhD should NOT be a plan B. Take a risk and start a business whatever that business may be. Can be as simple as your own restaurant or construction company to something even greater. Education is not the only… Read more »

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