A six-figure income is part and parcel with being a physician. Whether you are talking a primary care doctor, surgeon, or even a physician working from one contract to the next, earning $250,000 or more is routine. But there is a big reason for that. Becoming a doctor requires a tremendous investment of time and money.
A young person could go to school for 2 to 4 years before getting an exceptionally good job as an IT professional. Fire fighters, law enforcement, and even teachers can embark on their careers after 3 to 5 years of education. Not so for doctors. A typical doctor puts in anywhere between 10 and 15 years of study. That’s why it’s not unusual for brand-new clinicians to be in their early 30s when they are just starting out.
Prior to even being granted admission to medical school, students have to go through a pre-med program that is typically four years long. A good pre-med program offers English, biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, and some level of mathematics.
The point of pre-med is to prepare the student for the rigors of medical school. Medical schools are highly competitive to begin with, so they are reluctant to accept students who have not already proven themselves in a solid pre-med program.
Admission to medical school means another 4 to 6 years studying medicine itself. The first two years are typically spent in the classroom and lab learning about all things medicine. Students are studying advanced biology, anatomy, and so forth. The next two years are devoted to additional classroom studies as well as clinical rotations.
Rotations put medical school students through a variety of environments to expose them to what it’s like to actually be a doctor. You might have a family practice rotation, a hospital rotation, a surgical rotation, and so forth. Rotations are dependent on the kind of program a student is involved in.
Off to Residency
Graduating from med school generally occurs 8 to 12 years from the start of pre-med. But doctors still aren’t ready to practice on their own. Next they need to go through a residency that could last anywhere from 3 to 8 years. The point of residency is to give new doctors experience in the real world while still under the supervision of an experienced clinician.
Clinicians can begin embarking on their careers once residency is complete. Some elect to take training one step further by applying for fellowship. A fellowship program can add another 3 to 5 years depending on its purpose. For example, a cardiologist hoping to become a member of the ACC would need a three-year fellowship program to be accredited.
Let’s add up all the time from pre-med to completing a fellowship. The minimum time of study would be 14 years assuming four years of medical school and only three years of residency. Add two more years for medical school and another five for residency and you’re looking at 21 years.
Spending A Lot Of Money
Becoming a doctor certainly requires a huge investment of time. But all that time spent learning is also time spent racking up debt. It’s not unheard of for new doctors to begin their practices hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole. Some spend a lifetime paying off student loans.
As you can see, it’s not easy becoming a doctor. That’s one of the reasons physicians earn six figures. They have earned their salaries by virtue of putting in all that time and money. And now you know.