Is Med School still a good financial investment?

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FordBiggs
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Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by FordBiggs » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:59 pm

Hi guys,

With the recent threads on Doctors/MDs earning very high salary with huge but also manageable student loans (as long as they live like a resident and focus paying off their debt), it got me to reconsider medical school again. I've always had this lingering feeling inside of me that I want to be a doctor but never really seriously considered it considering the amount of student loans I need to take. I'm only 24 years old and just need 1-2 years to finish some pre-req courses and take the MCAT if I pursue this so looking into getting into Med School at 26 years old.

I'm living in New York and looking at a good and reasonable State school SUNY Downstate which I can go to:

Tuition per year: $30,000
Cost of attendance: $2000 x 12 months = $24,000
Total loan per year: $54,000
Unsubsidized Stafford Loan at fixed 6.8% (Current interest rate)

I simulated the calculations as if we're really taking out the loans every year and deferring payment until you graduate in 4 years:
EDIT: I used this Interest Capitalization calculator from FinAid.org

1st year: $54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 48 months = $70,825.30
2nd year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 36 months = $66,181.98
3rd year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 24 months = $61,843.08
4th year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 12 months = $57,788.63
Total loans after 4 years: $256,638.99

After medical school though, you still need to do residency for several years earning only $50k per year while accruing interest on your loans. (6.8 rate is just crazy! But apparently, this is the rate nowadays) Then there's fellowship and then starting salary is probably only $150k?

There's also the "lost" potential earnings and savings. I'm working as a Laboratory Technician earning $45K right now (looking to get an increase to $55k soon) and throughout those 4-7 years, I could have been earning/saving that money while maxing out my Roth IRA etc.

For the MDs and Doctors here, how much were your salaries when you started out as an attending? Were you able to manage paying off your loans?

What do you guys think? Is Med School still a good financial investment?

bigspender
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by bigspender » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:09 pm

Salary depends on what you go into. I did one year internship and a 3 year anesthesia residency. I worked at a place that paid well and I worked every weekend for overtime my first two years plus we got a nice bonus depending on how many hours we put in. So I made around 600k my first 2 years, but I worked over 100 hours a week. I stopped working that hard after 2 years when I decided there was more to life.

I think if you do anesthesia these days in the new york area, full time working 50-60 hours a week gets you between 250k and 300k. Other specialities are less. I think internal medicine maybe 150k. pediatrics 75-125k.

At least with medicine you always have a job and you have health insurance. There is no number to put on that. I really don't know anyone who is doing financially better than me, so I don't feel too bad about my decision.

Rubiosa
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by Rubiosa » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:21 pm

If you still need a year or two of pre-requisites, that suggests you weren't very interested in science during your undergraduate work. That might be something to think about. Also, I'd talk to the SUNY pre-med adviser.

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kenyan
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by kenyan » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:25 pm

I have yet to see a reasonable, concrete example of medicine/med school not being worth it purely from a financial perspective. However, there are certainly quality-of-life tradeoffs (the degree of which depends upon your specialty) for hours worked, long shifts, etc.

Arguments I've seen claiming the financial hardship of doctors have been incomplete or "hand-wavy" and discussed potential future changes to reimbursement rates. They may also focus on base salary, when total pay can be far in excess of that level - I have a family member (internal medicine/hospitalist) who has a base salary around $150k but pulls down close to double that amount regularly, without hours that are too crazy. Again, there may be quality-of-life issues, but you asked if it was a good financial investment. If you are capable of doing the work, and want to do the work, I don't think there's a question that you'll be sitting pretty in the long run.
Retirement investing is a marathon.

wesleymouch
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by wesleymouch » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:30 pm

Laurence Kotlikoff has done the math and primary care MDs (pediatricians, family docs) have no higher career earnings than a teacher. This is because of the high debt and the fact that their income comes in a short time span where it is heavily taxed. With the ACA on the horizon, MDs are likely to get squeezed so that career earnings will be even lower. I imagine some specialities will continue to do well but it is hard to predict which these will be. In the healthcare field you will be better off in dentistry. The best bang for buck jobs are in the govt. Both police and fire make six figure salaries and can retire in their 40s with six figure lifetime pensions. This is for a job that is less dangerous than a truck driver (police) or about as dangerous as a cashier (fire). Plus you only need a high school diploma. The NY Times recently had an article about how those going to veterinary school will have difficulty just paying off their debt much less prosper.

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FordBiggs
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by FordBiggs » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:36 pm

bigspender wrote:Salary depends on what you go into. I did one year internship and a 3 year anesthesia residency. I worked at a place that paid well and I worked every weekend for overtime my first two years plus we got a nice bonus depending on how many hours we put in. So I made around 600k my first 2 years, but I worked over 100 hours a week. I stopped working that hard after 2 years when I decided there was more to life.

I think if you do anesthesia these days in the new york area, full time working 50-60 hours a week gets you between 250k and 300k. Other specialities are less. I think internal medicine maybe 150k. pediatrics 75-125k.

At least with medicine you always have a job and you have health insurance. There is no number to put on that. I really don't know anyone who is doing financially better than me, so I don't feel too bad about my decision.
Wow. Anesthesia is actually one of my options but it's also very competitive as far as I've heard since everybody wants to do it. (As well as Dermatology and Radiology) How was the competition though? Did you have to be top of your class and get to a good/reputable hospital where you did your residency?

I'm currently working in a Pathology lab and working directly with the pathologists and they have been very generous in showing me how they diagnose etc so Pathology is also one of my options.

I'm very focused and have very good work ethic and don't mind working my ass off the first couple of years as well but I'm concerned about the competition because I'm late to the game. I wasn't in the science field and didn't take pre-med during my undergraduate. I actually took Computer Science and I'm working in the Digital pathology department in our lab scanning slides and running computer tests on them. I'm currently continuing my studies in Medical Lab Technology but only in a community college. This concerns me on how this will translate to being a Doctor.
Rubiosa wrote:If you still need a year or two of pre-requisites, that suggests you weren't very interested in science during your undergraduate work. That might be something to think about. Also, I'd talk to the SUNY pre-med adviser.
Thanks and you are right. I was never interested to be a Doctor growing up. I took up Computer Science during my undergraduate (outside the US). When I immigrated here, I got employed in a Pathology lab working in the Digital Pathology department. With my exposure to the medical field, I've just started to get interested in it. I'm currently studying Medical Lab Technology but I think I can do "better" which is of course, to be a doctor.

I've actually spoken with some of my professors about it but I want to get perspective from "actual" physicians here that might have had the same experience or at least have experience going through Med School etc.

tj-longterm
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by tj-longterm » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:38 pm

Becoming a Dr is generally not worth it from a pure financial standpoint. When you add up tuition, lost wages during medical school and residency, and the total hours worked, you could definitely do better financially in another field (especially a financial one) if you're willing to work just as hard and put in just as many hours.

There are a couple fields in medicine that earn quite a bit more, but they are very hard to get into for residency, and they may not be fields you like. Some family doctors and pediatricians earn sub $100-K/year, and it may get worse with medicare squeezes and other issues.

All this being said, you will probably end up upper-middle class, if not better (if you manage your finances well, most Dr.s don't) after a decade or so. So it all depends what you consider a "good financial investment."

Ultimately, I think the decision *has* to boil down to: do you *want* to be a doctor and nothing else? If yes, it's probably worth it and you'll be fine financially. If no, then you're going to start to burn out anyway, either in medical school or when you're in the middle of an overnight 12 hour shirt during residency making minimum wage.

It is very hard to become a doctor and a large percentage of Doctors wouldn't become one if they could do it again, and wouldn't encourage their children to become one. Some, love it though.

Is being rich more important to you than being a doctor? Then don't become a doctor. There are better ways.

Jordana
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by Jordana » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:44 pm

If you crunch the #s, I would have to say no. There are the years at med school wherein you do not earn money and have loans. Applying to med school can cost $15000--easy--given all the fees, the tests and the travel to interviews. (I have a son in med school and a son who is pre-med so I know of what I speak.). You then have residency where you practically live in the hospital. You can moonlight but then see your family even less. And, now, my impression is that the powers that be want to use nurse practitioners and physician assistants to help bring down what the govt pays for doctors. I think being a nurse practitioner is the best bang for the buck in a career. HOWEVER, I am a doctor. My specialty is a low paying one but I make quite a bit. I think drs like to complain and I do think they are underpaid.
I was admitted to medical school, an an Ivy League law school and an Ivy League business school. The crux is...one (I) would always regret if one could be a doctor but chose not to. There are all sorts of careers for doctors wherein enough money can be made no matter the specialty....however, accumulating for retirement gets put off. It is not a boglehead type of career It is putting off for tomorrow without having much of anything for today.

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climber2020
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by climber2020 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:11 pm

FordBiggs wrote:For the MDs and Doctors here, how much were your salaries when you started out as an attending? Were you able to manage paying off your loans?

What do you guys think? Is Med School still a good financial investment?
It depends. Would you need to take loans out for the entire 4 years of school? For me, medical school was a great investment because I applied to about 80 different scholarships and got 2 really big ones in addition to need-based grants (I came from a very low income family), so I was lucky in that I did not have to take out as much in loans as many of my peers. The loans I did take, I was able to pay off completely in a little over 2 years. I'm not sure how I'd feel about my career decision if I was starting residency $200,000 in the hole.

Specialty choice is huge. I would still be paying off my loans for many more years if I had stuck with my initial plan to do primary care.

hdcd
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by hdcd » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:18 pm

When my mom was in the hospital for a month I got to talking to a number of the nurses. Many who had considered med school before going into nursing and quite a few who were married to dr's.. All of them said financially it didn't make sense to go to med school. It's going to be 300k-500k depending on the school when you are done. If you are married, it's a huge burden on the spouse and family and when the spouse is ready to practice, the pressure is off and they are to have some fun in life.

The other factor are doctors are trained for medicine - not running a business. Don't remember the #'s, but very high failure rates for new doctors and many close under 5 years of practice. Not only that but huge paperwork demands.

Nursing jobs are plentiful, there are quite a few specialties such as NP's, PA's, anesthesia nurses, wound nurses and such.

Erwin007
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by Erwin007 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:28 pm

Like all other similar threads on this topic, this is likely to get locked after devolving into an argument by those who've never done it (go through the rigors of becoming a practicing physician), nor had anyone they know do it, about why doctors are overpaid. To them I say, come walk in my shoes, and then you can offer your opinion. Until then, ferme ta bouche. I'll have been through the equivalent of 26 grades of school (12 through high school, 4 in college, 4 in medical school, 5 in residency, and 1 in fellowship) before I make a "real" paycheck.

Having said that, as a fifth year resident in orthopaedic surgery (and going into a fellowship next year for hand surgery), my honest opinion is that the only reason you should do it is if you love it so much and can't possibly see yourself doing anything else. My parents (neither one a physician--one actually an attorney of all things) always told me that if I did something that I loved, it wouldn't seem like work to me. I took that to heart and ended up doing something that I always thought that I'd love to do and I honestly couldn't see myself doing anything else. I enjoy what I do, but would honestly say that if I knew then what it took to get to the point where I'm at now, I'm not certain that I'd make the same choice all over again.

I was 26 when I started medical school, and we had our first child during my 3rd year. We've had 2 more since I started residency, and I've missed A LOT of family time already. I don't remember much from the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2011. You can't put a price on that.

If you want to do medicine because you love it and can't picture yourself doing anything else, then by all means go for it. People like that, in my opinion, end up being the best doctors. If you want to do it for the financial aspects or for any other reason, don't bother. There are a bunch of better ways to make (better) money.

From a purely financial perspective, it probably can pay off if you like and can match into one of the more well reimbursed specialties. Accruing $200+K of debt at 6.8% interest over 7-10 years of training, and then going into a low-paying specialty doesn't make a lot of financial sense. Especially while your friends are socking away money into their retirement accounts from age 25-35, and not having to make payments on staggering school loan debt.

dhodson
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by dhodson » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:51 pm

its worth it with financially being just one of the reasons.

carolinaman
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by carolinaman » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:11 pm

My primary doctor recently told me that a lot of doctors were leaving the field due to the paperwork, documentation and insurance regs they are subjected to. He said they were spending far more time on those matters than with their patients, which is why they practice medicine in the first place. Also salaries are not as lucrative as before. They was surprising to me and of concern to as we need more good doctors, not less.

It is kind of depressing to me to hear that some medical doctors actually make less than $100k. That seems ridiculous given the number of years of school and training that is required and their contributions to society. Their malpractice insurance probably puts a huge dent in that salary.

finley
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by finley » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:19 pm

Erwin007 wrote:Like all other similar threads on this topic, this is likely to get locked after devolving into an argument by those who've never done it (go through the rigors of becoming a practicing physician), nor had anyone they know do it, about why doctors are overpaid. To them I say, come walk in my shoes, and then you can offer your opinion. Until then, ferme ta bouche. I'll have been through the equivalent of 26 grades of school (12 through high school, 4 in college, 4 in medical school, 5 in residency, and 1 in fellowship) before I make a "real" paycheck.

Having said that, as a fifth year resident in orthopaedic surgery (and going into a fellowship next year for hand surgery), my honest opinion is that the only reason you should do it is if you love it so much and can't possibly see yourself doing anything else. My parents (neither one a physician--one actually an attorney of all things) always told me that if I did something that I loved, it wouldn't seem like work to me. I took that to heart and ended up doing something that I always thought that I'd love to do and I honestly couldn't see myself doing anything else. I enjoy what I do, but would honestly say that if I knew then what it took to get to the point where I'm at now, I'm not certain that I'd make the same choice all over again.

I was 26 when I started medical school, and we had our first child during my 3rd year. We've had 2 more since I started residency, and I've missed A LOT of family time already. I don't remember much from the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2011. You can't put a price on that.

If you want to do medicine because you love it and can't picture yourself doing anything else, then by all means go for it. People like that, in my opinion, end up being the best doctors. If you want to do it for the financial aspects or for any other reason, don't bother. There are a bunch of better ways to make (better) money.

From a purely financial perspective, it probably can pay off if you like and can match into one of the more well reimbursed specialties. Accruing $200+K of debt at 6.8% interest over 7-10 years of training, and then going into a low-paying specialty doesn't make a lot of financial sense. Especially while your friends are socking away money into their retirement accounts from age 25-35, and not having to make payments on staggering school loan debt.

As a fellow physician, I agree with everything in this post.

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greg24
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by greg24 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:21 pm

FordBiggs wrote:I was never interested to be a Doctor growing up. I took up Computer Science during my undergraduate (outside the US). When I immigrated here, I got employed in a Pathology lab working in the Digital Pathology department. With my exposure to the medical field, I've just started to get interested in it. I'm currently studying Medical Lab Technology but I think I can do "better" which is of course, to be a doctor.
You've just started getting interested in becoming a doctor? That is a gigantic huge glaring blinking red warning flag.

You can make 6 figures with your computer science degree. Or you can add a decade of schooling, loans, and long hours, to make a little higher 6 figures in a field you've recently become interested in through an accident of where you happened to find a job.

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FordBiggs
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by FordBiggs » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:27 pm

Thanks for the good insightful replies. As expected, some good and bad points whether its a good financial investment but ultimately, going to Med School shouldn't just be a financial decision which is really making this decision harder for me. I don't know if I can "endure" banging it out even if I don't truly enjoy it until I reap the financial and social status rewards in the future.
tj-longterm wrote:Ultimately, I think the decision *has* to boil down to: do you *want* to be a doctor and nothing else? If yes, it's probably worth it and you'll be fine financially. If no, then you're going to start to burn out anyway, either in medical school or when you're in the middle of an overnight 12 hour shirt during residency making minimum wage.
I actually do want to be a doctor but it may be for the wrong reasons. Of course, the financial/high salary factor is one of them but also I want to do something with my life that I can make a bigger impact. Prestige is also one of my reasons (no matter how shallow that may sound) and I'm also hoping to find a significant other in Med school. My problem with where I work is that people are older or the women already have kids. I immigrated here in the US so I don't have high school/college circles. So I'm hoping to expand my social circle in there as well. I think I can handle it without burning out but I guess I might be miserable since I don't really "love" it and I guess I'm more in the "I'm interested" range.
climber2020 wrote:It depends. Would you need to take loans out for the entire 4 years of school? For me, medical school was a great investment because I applied to about 80 different scholarships and got 2 really big ones in addition to need-based grants (I came from a very low income family), so I was lucky in that I did not have to take out as much in loans as many of my peers. The loans I did take, I was able to pay off completely in a little over 2 years. I'm not sure how I'd feel about my career decision if I was starting residency $200,000 in the hole.
Were you're scholarships only need-based grants? Or did you have a really high MCAT/GPA and more of high academic excellence scholarships? My GPA is high 3.97 but I took my undergrad outside US and I'm only going to a Community College here. I would need to take out loans for the entire 4 years of school since I'm living all by myself with no support from parents. How much did you make to qualify as "low income family"?
Erwin007 wrote:Like all other similar threads on this topic, this is likely to get locked after devolving into an argument by those who've never done it (go through the rigors of becoming a practicing physician), nor had anyone they know do it, about why doctors are overpaid. To them I say, come walk in my shoes, and then you can offer your opinion. Until then, ferme ta bouche. I'll have been through the equivalent of 26 grades of school (12 through high school, 4 in college, 4 in medical school, 5 in residency, and 1 in fellowship) before I make a "real" paycheck.

Having said that, as a fifth year resident in orthopaedic surgery (and going into a fellowship next year for hand surgery), my honest opinion is that the only reason you should do it is if you love it so much and can't possibly see yourself doing anything else. My parents (neither one a physician--one actually an attorney of all things) always told me that if I did something that I loved, it wouldn't seem like work to me. I took that to heart and ended up doing something that I always thought that I'd love to do and I honestly couldn't see myself doing anything else. I enjoy what I do, but would honestly say that if I knew then what it took to get to the point where I'm at now, I'm not certain that I'd make the same choice all over again.

I was 26 when I started medical school, and we had our first child during my 3rd year. We've had 2 more since I started residency, and I've missed A LOT of family time already. I don't remember much from the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2011. You can't put a price on that.

If you want to do medicine because you love it and can't picture yourself doing anything else, then by all means go for it. People like that, in my opinion, end up being the best doctors. If you want to do it for the financial aspects or for any other reason, don't bother. There are a bunch of better ways to make (better) money.

From a purely financial perspective, it probably can pay off if you like and can match into one of the more well reimbursed specialties. Accruing $200+K of debt at 6.8% interest over 7-10 years of training, and then going into a low-paying specialty doesn't make a lot of financial sense. Especially while your friends are socking away money into their retirement accounts from age 25-35, and not having to make payments on staggering school loan debt.
Wow. Thank you for that.

Just reading through your comments makes me think that I will "hate" going to Med School. I really think I want to be a doctor for the wrong reasons but then again, I'm still leaning to go ahead and go for it because of my very limited other options. If I don't, then I'll be back on my current plan to work as a Laboratory Technologist earning $55-$75k. Probably become a supervisor/manager after a lot of years and salary gets bumped to $90-$120k. (Which is the max cap for those positions) It's still peanuts and both choices I don't really love. Actually, as I'm typing this now, I think I've just realized why I'm leaning towards going to Med school. I think it's more of a "lesser evil" that will pay off in the future than actually something I want to do.

Does my reasoning make sense? I think I just feel "stuck" with very few choices on what to do now.

I think I really need to re-think what I want to do with my life again. I really appreciate all the help and replies guys.

misterpeppers
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by misterpeppers » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:32 pm

Just to give you a little different perspective:

I am 6 yrs out of medical school, finishing training this year. Net worth=negative 100K, less than 15K invested in ROTH IRAs, gained 30 lbs since med school, 150K in student debt to pay off still. Salaries stagnant for many years, likely going down further. Fewer traditional practice jobs available, will be working for a large institution as an employee.

Compared to my brother who graduated dental school the same year I graduated medical school: he has all loans paid off, bought a million dollar home, partner in his dental practice.

My solace remains that I would not want to spend the next 30 yrs staring at teeth...but at this stage, looking only at finances, its clear dentistry is the more lucrative job.

If you go into the higher paid specialties in medicine (ortho, plastics) and assume that their compensation will not drop in the future, then the finances would still favor medicine.

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climber2020
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by climber2020 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:43 pm

FordBiggs wrote: climber2020 wrote:
It depends. Would you need to take loans out for the entire 4 years of school? For me, medical school was a great investment because I applied to about 80 different scholarships and got 2 really big ones in addition to need-based grants (I came from a very low income family), so I was lucky in that I did not have to take out as much in loans as many of my peers. The loans I did take, I was able to pay off completely in a little over 2 years. I'm not sure how I'd feel about my career decision if I was starting residency $200,000 in the hole.


Were you're scholarships only need-based grants? Or did you have a really high MCAT/GPA and more of high academic excellence scholarships? My GPA is high 3.97 but I took my undergrad outside US and I'm only going to a Community College here. I would need to take out loans for the entire 4 years of school since I'm living all by myself with no support from parents. How much did you make to qualify as "low income family"?
No; my scholarships were acquired via good college grades and a solid MCAT score. Don't poo poo the community college. Our class president took all his prerequisite science courses at a community college and is now a big time surgical specialist.
FordBiggs wrote:I actually do want to be a doctor but it may be for the wrong reasons. Of course, the financial/high salary factor is one of them but also I want to do something with my life that I can make a bigger impact. Prestige is also one of my reasons (no matter how shallow that may sound) and I'm also hoping to find a significant other in Med school. My problem with where I work is that people are older or the women already have kids. I immigrated here in the US so I don't have high school/college circles. So I'm hoping to expand my social circle in there as well. I think I can handle it without burning out but I guess I might be miserable since I don't really "love" it and I guess I'm more in the "I'm interested" range.
There's nothing wrong with that. I was definitely not one of those people who possessed an unquenchable love of all things doctoring. I enjoy my job, am very good at what I do, and I feel it will hold my interest for many years, but I chose a career in medicine for the relatively good pay, job security, and lifestyle. Do I love it? No. But I am very happy with my life and couldn't ask for anything more. The idea that a person can't be an excellent doctor unless they are completely infatuated with the profession is ridiculous.

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greg24
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by greg24 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:57 pm

FordBiggs wrote:I don't know if I can "endure" banging it out even if I don't truly enjoy it until I reap the financial and social status rewards in the future.

I think I can handle it without burning out but I guess I might be miserable since I don't really "love" it and I guess I'm more in the "I'm interested" range.

Just reading through your comments makes me think that I will "hate" going to Med School.

Actually, as I'm typing this now, I think I've just realized why I'm leaning towards going to Med school. I think it's more of a "lesser evil" that will pay off in the future than actually something I want to do.
IMNSHO, this could be a disaster.

nimo956
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by nimo956 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:03 pm

After reading the latest TIME article, why don't you become the CEO of a non-profit hospital instead lol!
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SC Hoosier
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by SC Hoosier » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:07 pm

I am not a doc so could some on this forum please comment on the cost of malpractice insurance? I keep hearing that it is prohibitive. I am a supporter of tort reform. I think if a doc cuts off the wrong leg you don't need 50 million dollars. Fifteen will do just fine.

SC
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by hicabob » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:16 pm

misterpeppers wrote:Just to give you a little different perspective:

I am 6 yrs out of medical school, finishing training this year. Net worth=negative 100K, less than 15K invested in ROTH IRAs, gained 30 lbs since med school, 150K in student debt to pay off still. Salaries stagnant for many years, likely going down further. Fewer traditional practice jobs available, will be working for a large institution as an employee.

Compared to my brother who graduated dental school the same year I graduated medical school: he has all loans paid off, bought a million dollar home, partner in his dental practice.

My solace remains that I would not want to spend the next 30 yrs staring at teeth...but at this stage, looking only at finances, its clear dentistry is the more lucrative job.

If you go into the higher paid specialties in medicine (ortho, plastics) and assume that their compensation will not drop in the future, then the finances would still favor medicine.
But then staring at teeth might not be so bad compared to what urologists and colorectal surgeons stare at all day. :happy

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by SC Hoosier » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:21 pm

hicabob wrote:
misterpeppers wrote:Just to give you a little different perspective:

I am 6 yrs out of medical school, finishing training this year. Net worth=negative 100K, less than 15K invested in ROTH IRAs, gained 30 lbs since med school, 150K in student debt to pay off still. Salaries stagnant for many years, likely going down further. Fewer traditional practice jobs available, will be working for a large institution as an employee.

Compared to my brother who graduated dental school the same year I graduated medical school: he has all loans paid off, bought a million dollar home, partner in his dental practice.

My solace remains that I would not want to spend the next 30 yrs staring at teeth...but at this stage, looking only at finances, its clear dentistry is the more lucrative job.

If you go into the higher paid specialties in medicine (ortho, plastics) and assume that their compensation will not drop in the future, then the finances would still favor medicine.
But then staring at teeth might not be so bad compared to what urologists and colorectal surgeons stare at all day. :happy
Coulda done without that word picture. :P
Last edited by SC Hoosier on Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by linguini » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:22 pm

climber2020 wrote:
FordBiggs wrote:I actually do want to be a doctor but it may be for the wrong reasons. Of course, the financial/high salary factor is one of them but also I want to do something with my life that I can make a bigger impact. Prestige is also one of my reasons (no matter how shallow that may sound) and I'm also hoping to find a significant other in Med school. My problem with where I work is that people are older or the women already have kids. I immigrated here in the US so I don't have high school/college circles. So I'm hoping to expand my social circle in there as well. I think I can handle it without burning out but I guess I might be miserable since I don't really "love" it and I guess I'm more in the "I'm interested" range.
There's nothing wrong with that. I was definitely not one of those people who possessed an unquenchable love of all things doctoring. I enjoy my job, am very good at what I do, and I feel it will hold my interest for many years, but I chose a career in medicine for the relatively good pay, job security, and lifestyle. Do I love it? No. But I am very happy with my life and couldn't ask for anything more. The idea that a person can't be an excellent doctor unless they are completely infatuated with the profession is ridiculous.
While I agree that you don't have to have an undying love for practicing medicine in order to become a physician, I don't think that going to med school is the best (or even a good) way to accomplish the goal of meeting a significant other. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, putting off any serious earnings for close to a decade, and committing thousands of hours of unpaid work on training is a huge cost just to sit in classes with other young, single people for a few years.

OP, if expanding your social circle and meeting women is truly a primary reason for wanting to go to med school, I think you should first consider doing some group hobbies that will expose you to lots of young people and women. You could try salsa or singles meetups. That way you can meet people while having fun, instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for the opportunity to spend late nights at the library studying with them.

If you're just looking at financially, if you go to and graduate med school, you will almost definitely live a good upper middle class lifestyle and possibly more, depending on how your career unfolds, but you'll do fine in life with a computer science degree too so if I were you I'd choose based on which career seems more satisfying and enjoyable.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by lmpmd » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:25 pm

Interesting piece here on becoming a doctor:
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/abinazir/2 ... ased-rant/
I go out to eat with people who will say stuff like "I don't see doctors doing that bad" or "most of my doctors drive a nice car". I keep my mouth totally shut. I don't want to say anything I'd regret. They have no idea what I went through in training. Being up on call every other night in the ICU etc. They don't know the sacrifices I've made. the weekends I've worked, the hours I've put in. They don't know the stress. I guess they won't be happy until doctors are driving 15 yr old Honda Civics to work. I do procedures that are difficult and very risky like putting PEG's into high-risk people and get paid 1/10 of what my dentist gets paid for putting on a crown.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by linguini » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:31 pm

SC Hoosier wrote:I am not a doc so could some on this forum please comment on the cost of malpractice insurance? I keep hearing that it is prohibitive. I am a supporter of tort reform. I think if a doc cuts off the wrong leg you don't need 50 million dollars. Fifteen will do just fine.

SC
Costly, but frequently exaggerated.

It depends significantly on your specialty and where you practice,, but liability insurance can range anywhere between a few thousand to $150k. In typical states, if you're a surgeon, probably roughly $50k range, if you're a GP, probably roughly $10k range, etc.

I would rather not get into the political side of it though.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by dhodson » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:04 pm

SC Hoosier wrote:I am not a doc so could some on this forum please comment on the cost of malpractice insurance? I keep hearing that it is prohibitive. I am a supporter of tort reform. I think if a doc cuts off the wrong leg you don't need 50 million dollars. Fifteen will do just fine.

SC
while tort is an issue both high claims (my own life isnt worth 15 million by the way) and costs for possibly unnecessary tests, in my view medicare reimbursement is the bigger issue. Most other insurance is based off medicare rates. Medicaid is a money loser for many of us. Its a looming cloud like many we talk about in the news. Nobody really knows if the sky is falling or not but if itsnt falling then nothing for us to talk about.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by FordBiggs » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:07 pm

climber2020 wrote:No; my scholarships were acquired via good college grades and a solid MCAT score. Don't poo poo the community college. Our class president took all his prerequisite science courses at a community college and is now a big time surgical specialist.
That is actually very comforting to hear. I've been researching online and saw some comments that the Interview committee for Med School might look down on per-requisite science courses at community college just because the person might have just went there thinking it's easier and try to increase their GPA. Good to know and thanks.
climber2020 wrote:There's nothing wrong with that. I was definitely not one of those people who possessed an unquenchable love of all things doctoring. I enjoy my job, am very good at what I do, and I feel it will hold my interest for many years, but I chose a career in medicine for the relatively good pay, job security, and lifestyle. Do I love it? No. But I am very happy with my life and couldn't ask for anything more. The idea that a person can't be an excellent doctor unless they are completely infatuated with the profession is ridiculous.
Thanks again for this. I'm actually glad to get some insight from someone who is a little bit on the same boat - don't really love medicine but I can see myself enjoying it in the future especially reaping the rewards of your hard work. I think what you've accomplished is exactly what I'm envisioning for myself. I'm very hardworking and can definitely stay the course and "endure" the long sacrifice to be able to enjoy a good life afterwards.
misterpeppers wrote:Just to give you a little different perspective:

I am 6 yrs out of medical school, finishing training this year. Net worth=negative 100K, less than 15K invested in ROTH IRAs, gained 30 lbs since med school, 150K in student debt to pay off still. Salaries stagnant for many years, likely going down further. Fewer traditional practice jobs available, will be working for a large institution as an employee.

Compared to my brother who graduated dental school the same year I graduated medical school: he has all loans paid off, bought a million dollar home, partner in his dental practice.

My solace remains that I would not want to spend the next 30 yrs staring at teeth...but at this stage, looking only at finances, its clear dentistry is the more lucrative job.

If you go into the higher paid specialties in medicine (ortho, plastics) and assume that their compensation will not drop in the future, then the finances would still favor medicine.
LOL at spending 30 years staring at teeth. What specialty did you take? 6 years out of Med School would usually mean you're done with residency and already working in fellowship or attending, right? Thanks for the insight and good luck with your training. I actually do plan to specialize and not go into general medicine.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by dhodson » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:10 pm

you need to keep in mind that while people say they chose x specialty, its actually a match or competition for the spots. You arent guaranteed a specialty position by any means. For some of the fields we are talking about, only the top 10% of medical students (who typically are a fairly smart bunch) can get into those fields. Dont count on a specialty pay as making your decision for you. It may not turn out that way.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by Ranger » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:14 pm

linguini wrote:
SC Hoosier wrote:I am not a doc so could some on this forum please comment on the cost of malpractice insurance? I keep hearing that it is prohibitive. I am a supporter of tort reform. I think if a doc cuts off the wrong leg you don't need 50 million dollars. Fifteen will do just fine.

SC
Costly, but frequently exaggerated.

It depends significantly on your specialty and where you practice,, but liability insurance can range anywhere between a few thousand to $150k. In typical states, if you're a surgeon, probably roughly $50k range, if you're a GP, probably roughly $10k range, etc.

I would rather not get into the political side of it though.
OBGYN friend of mine in Florida with clean record was quoted $120k, which covers $250k/750k (per case/per year max). He decided to go bare, instead he posted personal bond to get his license.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by semperlux » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:31 pm

I'm an ER doc. After going through the training, & having finished residency & been in practice for over 1/2 a decade, here are some of my thoughts.

Training was hard, but clinical practice is even harder. I make good money & live comfortably, but I know I'll never be "rich," likely middle upper class. I'm fine with that. I went into medicine because I loved taking care of people & I really loved the science. However after less than a decade of practice, I'm already burned out. I enjoy what I do when I come across patients who are interesting & who benefit from my help. However the shear number of people I see now just makes it not enjoyable a lot of the times (due to political changes I will not go into).

If I purely wanted to make money, medicine would NOT be what I'm doing. However medicine interests me, caring for people gives me satisfaction, the money is relatively good but not great, it's nice to be addressed sir & Dr., I work with smart colleagues who can hold engaging conversations. If I only wanted to make money, I would have gone into finance, real estate, law, computer science, etc....

However when I really think about it, how many people in those fields actually make it big...I mean really big, earning a lot more than what I do? I'm guessing a good amount but not a whole lot. With those fields, a lot of it also depends on chance, opportunity, and being at the right place at the right time. Whereas being a physician...as long as you work hard, you make more.

I know family doctors & primary care physicians who make a lot more than I do, but they are on call 24/7/365, and they deserve every penny they make. So don't be discouraged into going into those fields regarding the money, but do be prepared to work your ass off.

In regards to the financial aspects, you will have a lot of loans, but it's manageable as long as you are smart about it. But remember to always pay yourself first & max out any and all retirement accounts. I started out with >$200k in loans. I've already paid down half of that, bought a modest home <$1mil, have mid 6 figures in retirement savings. However I was lucky to consolidate my loans down to 1.28% & my mortgage rate after multiple refinancing is sub 3.5%. So like I said, if as long as you're smart about it, the debt is manageable.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by FordBiggs » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:32 pm

dhodson wrote:you need to keep in mind that while people say they chose x specialty, its actually a match or competition for the spots. You arent guaranteed a specialty position by any means. For some of the fields we are talking about, only the top 10% of medical students (who typically are a fairly smart bunch) can get into those fields. Dont count on a specialty pay as making your decision for you. It may not turn out that way.
Damn. This is a deal breaker. I didn't know this was a "match". So does that mean I can't just choose to specialize as a Pathologist or go into Anesthesia? I would need to be evaluated to be able to do residency in that field? I do expect the competition and that's why I've mentioned that it's fairly hard to get to the holy grail specialties like Dermatology/Radiology since most of the students prefer that specialty. Thanks. This is a big deal since I don't want to get into that much debt and find myself not being able to even go into a specialty. I'll have to research on this more.
Ranger wrote:
linguini wrote:
SC Hoosier wrote:I am not a doc so could some on this forum please comment on the cost of malpractice insurance? I keep hearing that it is prohibitive. I am a supporter of tort reform. I think if a doc cuts off the wrong leg you don't need 50 million dollars. Fifteen will do just fine.
SC
Costly, but frequently exaggerated.

It depends significantly on your specialty and where you practice,, but liability insurance can range anywhere between a few thousand to $150k. In typical states, if you're a surgeon, probably roughly $50k range, if you're a GP, probably roughly $10k range, etc.

I would rather not get into the political side of it though.
OBGYN friend of mine in Florida with clean record was quoted $120k, which covers $250k/750k (per case/per year max). He decided to go bare, instead he posted personal bond to get his license.
:shock: That's a ridiculous premium to pay JUST for insurance.
linguini wrote:While I agree that you don't have to have an undying love for practicing medicine in order to become a physician, I don't think that going to med school is the best (or even a good) way to accomplish the goal of meeting a significant other. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, putting off any serious earnings for close to a decade, and committing thousands of hours of unpaid work on training is a huge cost just to sit in classes with other young, single people for a few years.

OP, if expanding your social circle and meeting women is truly a primary reason for wanting to go to med school, I think you should first consider doing some group hobbies that will expose you to lots of young people and women. You could try salsa or singles meetups. That way you can meet people while having fun, instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for the opportunity to spend late nights at the library studying with them.

If you're just looking at financially, if you go to and graduate med school, you will almost definitely live a good upper middle class lifestyle and possibly more, depending on how your career unfolds, but you'll do fine in life with a computer science degree too so if I were you I'd choose based on which career seems more satisfying and enjoyable.
I still think med school does sound like a good idea to find a significant other. I just feel like I can find people better suited to me with the same dedication/principles and personality. It also helps because they're also studying to be a doctor. Of course, I'm not choosing to go to Med School because of this. I was thinking of this more of icing on the cake and just an additional incentive to the financial and lifestyle/prestige reward in the end. I don't know if I can go back to Computer Science now since I'm already in the healthcare field and my work experience in my resume has no computer science related things in them. It's a little hard but I'm just trying to make the best of my current options (at least that's how I'm seeing it).

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by dhodson » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:39 pm

no you cant just chose. it doenst work that way. path probably would be easier to get into then the ones you mentioned but it isnt guaranteed.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by FordBiggs » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:45 pm

semperlux wrote:I'm an ER doc. After going through the training, & having finished residency & been in practice for over 1/2 a decade, here are some of my thoughts.

Training was hard, but clinical practice is even harder. I make good money & live comfortably, but I know I'll never be "rich," likely middle upper class. I'm fine with that. I went into medicine because I loved taking care of people & I really loved the science. However after less than a decade of practice, I'm already burned out. I enjoy what I do when I come across patients who are interesting & who benefit from my help. However the shear number of people I see now just makes it not enjoyable a lot of the times (due to political changes I will not go into).

If I purely wanted to make money, medicine would NOT be what I'm doing. However medicine interests me, caring for people gives me satisfaction, the money is relatively good but not great, it's nice to be addressed sir & Dr., I work with smart colleagues who can hold engaging conversations. If I only wanted to make money, I would have gone into finance, real estate, law, computer science, etc....

However when I really think about it, how many people in those fields actually make it big...I mean really big, earning a lot more than what I do? I'm guessing a good amount but not a whole lot. With those fields, a lot of it also depends on chance, opportunity, and being at the right place at the right time. Whereas being a physician...as long as you work hard, you make more.

I know family doctors & primary care physicians who make a lot more than I do, but they are on call 24/7/365, and they deserve every penny they make. So don't be discouraged into going into those fields regarding the money, but do be prepared to work your ass off.

In regards to the financial aspects, you will have a lot of loans, but it's manageable as long as you are smart about it. But remember to always pay yourself first & max out any and all retirement accounts. I started out with >$200k in loans. I've already paid down half of that, bought a modest home <$1mil, have mid 6 figures in retirement savings. However I was lucky to consolidate my loans down to 1.28% & my mortgage rate after multiple refinancing is sub 3.5%. So like I said, if as long as you're smart about it, the debt is manageable.
That is exactly what my thoughts are. I always get the "If you want to be rich, it's better to go to Finance/Law/Comp Sci" but then it's also not guaranteed. I think it's even more competitive especially in Finance (it's a cutthroat field) and probably only a very small portion of them actually make it. With Medicine though, I feel that as long as I study hard and work hard, I can be guaranteed at least a very good compensation and good lifestyle in the future. Thanks so much for your insights. They actually helped a lot.
dhodson wrote:no you cant just chose. it doenst work that way. path probably would be easier to get into then the ones you mentioned but it isnt guaranteed.
Interesting. Ok. I'll have to look into this more before taking a huge $250k loan and having things not turn out the way I want it to be. Thanks!

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by hq38sq43 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:53 pm

FordBiggs wrote:Hi guys,

With the recent threads on Doctors/MDs earning very high salary with huge but also manageable student loans (as long as they live like a resident and focus paying off their debt), it got me to reconsider medical school again. I've always had this lingering feeling inside of me that I want to be a doctor but never really seriously considered it considering the amount of student loans I need to take. I'm only 24 years old and just need 1-2 years to finish some pre-req courses and take the MCAT if I pursue this so looking into getting into Med School at 26 years old.

I'm living in New York and looking at a good and reasonable State school SUNY Downstate which I can go to:

Tuition per year: $30,000
Cost of attendance: $2000 x 12 months = $24,000
Total loan per year: $54,000
Unsubsidized Stafford Loan at fixed 6.8% (Current interest rate)

I simulated the calculations as if we're really taking out the loans every year and deferring payment until you graduate in 4 years:
EDIT: I used this Interest Capitalization calculator from FinAid.org

1st year: $54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 48 months = $70,825.30
2nd year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 36 months = $66,181.98
3rd year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 24 months = $61,843.08
4th year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 12 months = $57,788.63
Total loans after 4 years: $256,638.99

After medical school though, you still need to do residency for several years earning only $50k per year while accruing interest on your loans. (6.8 rate is just crazy! But apparently, this is the rate nowadays) Then there's fellowship and then starting salary is probably only $150k?

There's also the "lost" potential earnings and savings. I'm working as a Laboratory Technician earning $45K right now (looking to get an increase to $55k soon) and throughout those 4-7 years, I could have been earning/saving that money while maxing out my Roth IRA etc.

For the MDs and Doctors here, how much were your salaries when you started out as an attending? Were you able to manage paying off your loans?

What do you guys think? Is Med School still a good financial investment?
In my view, medicine is not a business, but a calling, like the ministry. If being a physician is your calling, do whatever is necessary to answer. Otherwise, go to B-school and Wall Street, or where ever. As a retired lawyer, I admire those who have the chops for medicine. Wish I did.
Harry at Bradenton

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by bottomfisher » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:56 pm

I was once in your postion 12 years ago. I was a physical therapist prior to attending medical school. I attended a state school and that makes a tremendous difference on tuition. However, I still have significant student loans - federal and private. I'm able to comfortably repay these loans. I would recommend medical school to someone who is driven and understands the sacrifices required. If it is what you really want to do the costs/loans should not be the primary factor affecting your decision. Regarding malpractice insurance - mine is $14,000/year. I'm in the lowest malpractice risk group in our state; my residency was in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, while I specialize in Occupational Medicine. Residency spots are competitive and you are not guaranteed a spot as noted above. But if you decide to attend medical school you should work hard and keep your nose to the grindstone and things will work out. Thats not to say you'll get into the most competitive residency; but things will work out.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by thewizzer » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:06 pm

wesleymouch wrote:Laurence Kotlikoff has done the math and primary care MDs (pediatricians, family docs) have no higher career earnings than a teacher. This is because of the high debt and the fact that their income comes in a short time span where it is heavily taxed. With the ACA on the horizon, MDs are likely to get squeezed so that career earnings will be even lower. I imagine some specialities will continue to do well but it is hard to predict which these will be. In the healthcare field you will be better off in dentistry. The best bang for buck jobs are in the govt. Both police and fire make six figure salaries and can retire in their 40s with six figure lifetime pensions. This is for a job that is less dangerous than a truck driver (police) or about as dangerous as a cashier (fire). Plus you only need a high school diploma. The NY Times recently had an article about how those going to veterinary school will have difficulty just paying off their debt much less prosper.
I'll be kind and simply say that a good portion of this post is bunk and I'll leave it at that.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by linguini » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:09 pm

FordBiggs wrote:
Ranger wrote:
linguini wrote:
SC Hoosier wrote:I am not a doc so could some on this forum please comment on the cost of malpractice insurance? I keep hearing that it is prohibitive. I am a supporter of tort reform. I think if a doc cuts off the wrong leg you don't need 50 million dollars. Fifteen will do just fine.
SC
Costly, but frequently exaggerated.

It depends significantly on your specialty and where you practice,, but liability insurance can range anywhere between a few thousand to $150k. In typical states, if you're a surgeon, probably roughly $50k range, if you're a GP, probably roughly $10k range, etc.

I would rather not get into the political side of it though.
OBGYN friend of mine in Florida with clean record was quoted $120k, which covers $250k/750k (per case/per year max). He decided to go bare, instead he posted personal bond to get his license.
:shock: That's a ridiculous premium to pay JUST for insurance.
Keep in mind that OBGYNs pay the highest liability insurance out of any doctors. But yes, they do pay a lot. :moneybag
FordBiggs wrote:
linguini wrote:While I agree that you don't have to have an undying love for practicing medicine in order to become a physician, I don't think that going to med school is the best (or even a good) way to accomplish the goal of meeting a significant other. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, putting off any serious earnings for close to a decade, and committing thousands of hours of unpaid work on training is a huge cost just to sit in classes with other young, single people for a few years.

OP, if expanding your social circle and meeting women is truly a primary reason for wanting to go to med school, I think you should first consider doing some group hobbies that will expose you to lots of young people and women. You could try salsa or singles meetups. That way you can meet people while having fun, instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for the opportunity to spend late nights at the library studying with them.

If you're just looking at financially, if you go to and graduate med school, you will almost definitely live a good upper middle class lifestyle and possibly more, depending on how your career unfolds, but you'll do fine in life with a computer science degree too so if I were you I'd choose based on which career seems more satisfying and enjoyable.
I still think med school does sound like a good idea to find a significant other. I just feel like I can find people better suited to me with the same dedication/principles and personality. It also helps because they're also studying to be a doctor. Of course, I'm not choosing to go to Med School because of this. I was thinking of this more of icing on the cake and just an additional incentive to the financial and lifestyle/prestige reward in the end. I don't know if I can go back to Computer Science now since I'm already in the healthcare field and my work experience in my resume has no computer science related things in them. It's a little hard but I'm just trying to make the best of my current options (at least that's how I'm seeing it).
Fair enough. I'm not going to discourage you from going to medical school, because I don't think it's a bad choice. I just want you to be sure it's what you want to do before you go there.

Before you make up your mind, I think you should also consider the alternatives of working toward becoming either a physician assistant (PA) or a registered nurse. Both positions are in health care, and they provide a very similar rewarding experience to becoming a doctor. As a PA or a nurse practitioner (NP), you would even take on a lot of the same responsibilities and authorities of a medical doctor. Compensation is good (upper middle class) and reliable, and the cost of schooling and the amount of time you have to put off starting your career is much smaller. Many of the same sorts of people you would find in an MD program, you would also find in a PA or nursing program, so this would help expand your social circle by putting you in close contact with other well-educated and will-meaning students trying to work in health care. And there is no better place to meet young single women than a nursing program. :wink: Just a couple alternative options you should consider if you want to go into health care but are worried about the expenses, time, or competitiveness of going through medical school and a long residency.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by czeckers » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:32 pm

A few thoughts. You ignored tuition inflation that is 6-8% per year so your cost of attendance may be higher. You also give up earning a salary in school.

Residency match is a competitive process. My program (anesthesia, not top 10) gets about 600 applications for 17 spots. We usually fill all spots within the first 50-60 names on our rank list. (this is because people who are ranked highly by us are ranked highly by other programs too).

Things are cyclical. In the late 90's and up to 2002, anesthesia programs couldn't even fill all their spots. 1996, the entire state of PA matched just one resident.

Unless you are top 10% in your med school class and come from a decent school, anesthesia (or any other competitive specialty) may be out of reach for many. Also, we tend to have one person per class who drops out of our program. There is also a medical school drop out rate.

Going to medical school is no guarantee financially speaking.

-K
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by White Coat Investor » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:58 pm

FordBiggs wrote:Hi guys,

With the recent threads on Doctors/MDs earning very high salary with huge but also manageable student loans (as long as they live like a resident and focus paying off their debt), it got me to reconsider medical school again. I've always had this lingering feeling inside of me that I want to be a doctor but never really seriously considered it considering the amount of student loans I need to take. I'm only 24 years old and just need 1-2 years to finish some pre-req courses and take the MCAT if I pursue this so looking into getting into Med School at 26 years old.

I'm living in New York and looking at a good and reasonable State school SUNY Downstate which I can go to:

Tuition per year: $30,000
Cost of attendance: $2000 x 12 months = $24,000
Total loan per year: $54,000
Unsubsidized Stafford Loan at fixed 6.8% (Current interest rate)

I simulated the calculations as if we're really taking out the loans every year and deferring payment until you graduate in 4 years:
EDIT: I used this Interest Capitalization calculator from FinAid.org

1st year: $54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 48 months = $70,825.30
2nd year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 36 months = $66,181.98
3rd year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 24 months = $61,843.08
4th year:$54,000 @ 6.8 annual interest for 12 months = $57,788.63
Total loans after 4 years: $256,638.99

After medical school though, you still need to do residency for several years earning only $50k per year while accruing interest on your loans. (6.8 rate is just crazy! But apparently, this is the rate nowadays) Then there's fellowship and then starting salary is probably only $150k?

There's also the "lost" potential earnings and savings. I'm working as a Laboratory Technician earning $45K right now (looking to get an increase to $55k soon) and throughout those 4-7 years, I could have been earning/saving that money while maxing out my Roth IRA etc.

For the MDs and Doctors here, how much were your salaries when you started out as an attending? Were you able to manage paying off your loans?

What do you guys think? Is Med School still a good financial investment?
It's getting worse and worse these days. Most physicians expect reduced pay, at least on a real basis, going forward. Sometimes those reductions happen in a dramatic manner like 20% in a single year for the same amount of work.

Med school is getting more expensive as well. Tuition is going up rapidly, you can't get a grad school loan for less than 6.8% and there aren't any more more subsidized loans. Considering it might be 7 years between the time you take out the loan and when you start paying it back, it won't be unusual for med students graduating in 5-10 years to have $300-500K in loans. More if they're supporting a family during those years. Loans like that essentially rule out lower paying specialties like pediatrics. You simply can't handle that and a mortgage on a $100-150K salary.

Some above expressed skepticism about comparing a teacher salary and a primary care doctor salary. When I compare a teacher making $60K with a full slate of benefits beginning at age 22 paying little in taxes and an internal medicine specialist making $150K without any benefits beginning at age 32 with a $300K student loan debt being fairly highly taxed (if nothing else paying both halves of his payroll taxes) it is not at all clear to me that the physician will come out ahead.

As far as malpractice insurance, my premiums are in the $18-20K range for $1M/$3M. It's not insurmountable, but it's a new car every year. During the height of the malpractice insurance crisis in Florida, I understand that many OB/GYNs had premiums of over $200K/year.

Now, some advice for the OP. People who go to med school wouldn't be happy being a lab tech. Which type are you? It's not a financial decision. What do you want to do with the rest of your life? If you're very anti-debt you might consider the military route, but as a general rule, you shouldn't have the military pay for med school unless you really want to be a military doc, at least for a few years.
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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by ddj » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:11 pm

greg24 wrote:
FordBiggs wrote:I don't know if I can "endure" banging it out even if I don't truly enjoy it until I reap the financial and social status rewards in the future.

I think I can handle it without burning out but I guess I might be miserable since I don't really "love" it and I guess I'm more in the "I'm interested" range.

Just reading through your comments makes me think that I will "hate" going to Med School.

Actually, as I'm typing this now, I think I've just realized why I'm leaning towards going to Med school. I think it's more of a "lesser evil" that will pay off in the future than actually something I want to do.
IMNSHO, this could be a disaster.
Agreed.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by DFWinvestor » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:25 pm

thewizzer wrote:
wesleymouch wrote:Laurence Kotlikoff has done the math and primary care MDs (pediatricians, family docs) have no higher career earnings than a teacher. This is because of the high debt and the fact that their income comes in a short time span where it is heavily taxed. With the ACA on the horizon, MDs are likely to get squeezed so that career earnings will be even lower. I imagine some specialities will continue to do well but it is hard to predict which these will be. In the healthcare field you will be better off in dentistry. The best bang for buck jobs are in the govt. Both police and fire make six figure salaries and can retire in their 40s with six figure lifetime pensions. This is for a job that is less dangerous than a truck driver (police) or about as dangerous as a cashier (fire). Plus you only need a high school diploma. The NY Times recently had an article about how those going to veterinary school will have difficulty just paying off their debt much less prosper.
I'll be kind and simply say that a good portion of this post is bunk and I'll leave it at that.[/quote]

I would absolutely agree.

I am a physician and although there are some very difficult things about my job (working all hours of the night, weekends and holidays) I have no regrets. I am 5.5 years removed from residency and work in Emergency Medicine.

I have already paid off some of my debts and live well beneath my means. I could work as little as 50 hours/month and stay afloat financially, although I wouldn't be taking any nice trips, going out to nice dinners, or investing for retirement. My hours in a given month are not that bad as a cumulative total (120-140 hours/month most months), but it sometimes feels like I work a lot more just because I tend to work when the rest of the world is off and this limits social interactions a bit.

One thing I find interesting is reading from so many how there are "many better ways to earn the same income or more". This is very dependent on how you define "better". I would be absolutely miserable working in an office, sitting through board meetings all day, trying to squeeze out a few more dollars profit for a huge company peddling products I have no passion for, etc. I can't imagine how miserable some of those careers must be in the business world, at least for me. You often hear people talk about the drawbacks of medicine as a career but people seem to gloss over what it takes to earn what a physician does in many other career paths.

My friends in other careers who make a comparable income to mine work a lot more hours than I do and only have a few weeks vacation a year.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by norookie » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:52 pm

Only if you assimilate and the .gov pays for it.
Explore New Options to Repay Medical School Loans
Current medical students can have their loans repaid in exchange for working in underserved areas. Medicine is a changing! I M O But then I'm speculating, the wealthy will never be afforded better Hcare. :happy IIRC if you had the funds, you graduated, "cum laute" :wink: Marten up.
" Wealth usually leads to excess " Cicero 55 b.c

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by zebrafish » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:57 pm

I am about 6-7 years out of fellowship training.

I graduated from medical school in 2001 after doing MD/PhD with 100K in debt. I graduated from a combined residency-fellowship training program in 2006. By 2008, I had paid off all the debt as part of a loan forgiveness program for doing basic science research (in which, by the way, my salary + loan forgiveness was less than I would have made being pure clinician). 7 years later, I am a little over 40 and have high 6 figure net worth. My spouse works and makes 1/3 what I bring home. I'm not in what is felt to be a highly compensated specialty. I have virtually no weekend call, and I work days.

I would personally ignore all the advice from non-physicians provided in this thread-- I don't think much of any of it is relevant. You can pay off the med school debt. It just has to be a priority.

My advice to OP is to pursue a career in medicine that you really enjoy-- then it won't be work. Don't choose based on compensation. Don't choose by prestige. No matter what you do, compensation will be there. Look at every rotation and try to see if you can imagine yourself doing that job for the next 30 years. Look at the attendings-- are they happy? Why? Why not? Look at lifestyle carefully. Look at work and call requirements carefully. Can you do this for the next 30 years? Does the clinical work make you want more?

I look forward to going to work every day because I love the challenge in my field. I'm well compensated for what I do. I'm upper middle class. I'm not going to be rich, own beachfront property, or have a private jet, but I don't really want to. I don't worry about job security. I have time for my family and personal growth. I'm not sleep-deprived. I help people. I'm really happy, and I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do.

So, for me, medical school was the best investment (aside from having kids) that I've ever made. I would still do it today in a heartbeat.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by Alex Frakt » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:06 am

Thanks for keeping this more or less in line so far. But I'll still post a reminder that politics, which include policy issues, are off topic here.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by DJB » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:08 am

I hate to post statistics without a reference, so sorry about that I am in the field of healthcare policy and recently read a scientific article comparing the ROI for various graduate degrees and it valides the thoughts of some other posters. It considered cost of tuition, years spent in training, career income, and hours worked. The data points came from graduates of the US News top 20 graduate programs in law, medicine (specialists and primary care), business, and engineering. The results showed that medical school and specializing (anything but family practice, obgyn, pediatrics) is still the best investment one can make. Business school/finance is a very close second. The only reason business school is lower is that there are some graduates who really don't end up doing too well financially, whereas there are very few MD specialists who don't hit 200K/year. Much more stable income and career in medicine.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by kermit » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:09 am

http://benbrownmd.wordpress.com/2010/06 ... edconsent/ is a very good read on this topic. Highly recommended to: those who think doctors are paid too much, those who think teachers are paid too little, and those considering a position in medicine.

My wife is a doctor and most of our closest friends are doctors. None of them are doing it for the money. You need to really want to help people.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by DFWinvestor » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:21 am

kermit wrote:http://benbrownmd.wordpress.com/2010/06 ... edconsent/ is a very good read on this topic. Highly recommended to: those who think doctors are paid too much, those who think teachers are paid too little, and those considering a position in medicine.

My wife is a doctor and most of our closest friends are doctors. None of them are doing it for the money. You need to really want to help people.
That article is a little bit skewed and takes some very big liberties. It assumes the debt is on the high end compared to the average U.S. medical school graduate, and I can tell you that while medical school is no cakewalk I wouldn't say it was an 80 hour/week commitment for the entire four years.

I like the point they are trying to make in the article but I wish they wouldn't have gone way overboard with the hypothetical numbers.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by spotty_dog » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:39 am

FordBiggs wrote:
dhodson wrote:no you cant just chose. it doenst work that way. path probably would be easier to get into then the ones you mentioned but it isnt guaranteed.
Interesting. Ok. I'll have to look into this more before taking a huge $250k loan and having things not turn out the way I want it to be. Thanks!
Since you have a CS background you might find this information interesting about the residency Match: http://www.nrmp.org/res_match/about_res/algorithms.html

You might want to go into radiology because you heard it's highly compensated and has ridiculously good hours. But when you apply to Rads residencies, your application has to be strong enough to land you plenty of interviews, and then you have to do well enough in the interviews that you have the hope that out of your rank list there's at least one program who wants you as much as you want them. If you don't match...you don't become a radiologist, no matter how much you want that sweet payday. In 2012, Radiology had 691 applicants for 135 spots.

Speaking of the Match, you might also need to know that if you meet Mrs. Right in medical school, that means you need to be ready to face the Couples Match. It's even tougher to accomplish a successful match if you insist on hitching your future to another new doctor; but if you don't Couples Match (or if she's a year ahead or behind?) then you have every chance of matching across the country from each other. Long distance relationship + intense workload of residency sounds like a recipe for incredible stress.

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Re: Is Med School still a good financial investment?

Post by xram » Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:11 am

Yes yes and yes
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