In a nutshell, my advice is: don't do it. If one of your primary motivations are to make more money, it simply may not pay off. As a half-time employed pediatrician, I do not make any more than the high end salary you quote above. Of course, I only work half time BUT I do round, take call, and work evenings, weekends and holidays which all adds up to far more than half-time! And no break at all during the summer months. You may be better off finding a job in industry as a phD or in another setting if you want more income and a new challenge. You are right to be concerned about the training and debt burden involved in the path to the MD degree.
I am really curious about the MDs you know and the hours that they keep. A lot of people think they know the hours doctors keep based off of clinic hours, etc., but there is still call, rounding, weekends, charting, following up labs, etc. And working part time in medicine is still more hours than part time in any other field. I graduated from med school 8 years ago and still have 6 digit loans to pay- I pay a $1000/mos and still not putting a dent in it. Also, it will be ~10 years until you get the income that you are looking for in medicine. I would encourage you to do it if it is your passion or if you feel a calling or always wanted to be a physician, but if it is for the income -- I personally think that the cost of medicine is not worth the endpoint income. I agree with kpzr that you should consider using your PhD in a different setting - academic institutions are notorious for paying people peanuts and the more highly regarded they are, the less they will pay you because they feel that you should be honored to be associated with them. Good luck to you!
I second the above post. DO NOT DO IT FOR THE MONEY. Only do it if you plan to work full time (plus) as a physician and plan to make tremendous monetary and personal sacrifices to even get there in the first place. Also, do not do it for the prestige factor.
Quick post because I have to get to work this am - but my interest is not solely based on money. Money is absolutely a consideration, but not the only consideration. My current job is great for my family life (school holidays, summers relatively "off" save a bit of writing, which I enjoy), but the teaching is very demanding in terms of time, and it prevents me from engaging in research or clinical work (I have a Phd in Clinical Psychology and Biological/Health Psychology). SO - the teaching takes up most of my time (and then some) and it's already getting boring. I mean, it's my third year of teaching and if I'm already getting bored with it I don't think that's a good sign!
So, I appreciate the feedback re:money. The med school here is about 34-35K/year. That would be about 140k of debt from school, plus no retirement contribution during that time (good point). I do think that over the long haul I would make the money back [working as a full time family practice physician at about 150K/year, starting at about age 45 (research for this area shows median fam prac pay to be between 150-200K)]. So, while I would not be doing it for the money, it seems to me that getting the MD would eventually pay off financially. It actually would not take all that long -
That aside, I contacted a colleague at the med school yesterday to get more information about the faculty position there, to look into the balance between teaching, research, and clinical work. It may be a more dynamic career and a better fit for me. I would lose summers off, and I don't know what the salary range is but I know it's more than I get now. And, if I manage to get a successful research program going, the salary would be in the same range as that of a family practice doc (i.e. grants supplement the income). SO - I'll keep you posted. I still wish I would have just gotten the MD a long time ago, but I'm most afraid that my family would bear too much of the burden if I go back to school. I have not ruled it out yet, but I'm thinking about it........
The median income for a family practice doc you quote above ($150-200 k) does not hold true for every part of the country. In the South and Midwest (areas of the country with lower HMO penetration) the incomes are higher. In California and the Northeast, a lot lower. An associate physician at my pediatric practice in Massachusetts makes $126 full time. A practice owner makes more, of course. So think about whether you want to own and run a business as well as practice medicine. There are other options, of course, many specialties pay a lot better than peds/family practice, and even if you want to go into primary care there are other options (hospitalist medicine, hospital-owned practices, etc) if you choose not to be a business owner. Lots to consider! I had no idea about any of this when I was applying to medical school. Good luck making your decision! The new opportunity you describe above sounds really interesting however... Keep us posted!