While U.S. physicians' incomes vary based on their specialty and on their location, they still averaged about $160,000 a year in 2007.* Physician incomes/salaries remain among the highest of all professions.
However, if you are only interested in the money, you should look for another field. MBA's have a higher entry level salary and obtain their credentials much more easily. If money is your motivating factor, you probably won't get past the med school interview, and if you do, residency will probably wash you out.
As a physician you will enjoy not only monetary rewards, but humanistic rewards which are priceless. We can all imagine how painful it must be to tell a family that their loved one has just died, but can you imagine how amazing it must feel to repair the defective heart of a tiny baby? Or to remove a malignant tumor from the brain of a young mother? Or to help an injured man to walk again, thereby giving him the gift of dignity, the ability to support his family, and the freedom to play catch with his son.
Many people think of medicine as a "calling" much like priesthood. To some extent this may certainly be true. You must have a great desire to become a physician. A driving passion to help people, to be challenged, and to learn throughout your life. You will sacrifice your time and energy for the care of your patients, often forsaking your family and yourself. Most doctors will tell you they can't imagine doing anything else. Being a doctor is simply who they are, not just what they do. The desire to help others a need within them, like breathing, or hunger.
Once you have made the decision to become a doctor, you must pursue it whole-heartedly. Demystifying the process and the profession is only the first step. The rest is up to you.
"It concerns us to know the purposes we seek in life, for then, like archers aiming at a definite mark, we shall be more likely to attain what we desire." -- Aristotle
* Medical Group Management Association, (2008) Physician Compensation and Production Survey: 2008 Report Based on 2007 Data. Englewood, Colo.: MGMA.
Articles in this series:
- Becoming a Doctor Are you trying to decide whether becoming a doctor is right for you? Take a realistic look at what it takes to get there.
- Steps to Become a Doctor Premed Planning - The timeline and steps to become a doctor, including undergraduate studies, gaining experience in the medical industry and taking the MCAT.
- Applying to Medical School Ready to apply to medical school? Be prepared for the application process and for medical school interviews.
- How to Become a Doctor What to Expect in Medical School - Medical school curriculum, USMLE, and the cost of medical school.
- NRMP and Medical Residency What is residency for doctors? Medical Residency, ERAS, NRMP, the Residency Match and the Scramble - The process of getting matched with a medical residency position, and the medical resident's role.
- Being a Doctor What It's Like to be a Doctor.