When my wife's friends ask her what I do for a living, they all give knowing glances when she says I am an anesthesiologist. It is the look of understanding, with a tinge of envy. They know I have good job security along with excellent pay. For you see, seems like everybody has seen the poll where anesthesiology was named one of the top jobs in America.
I had heard about this poll but had never actually seen it, until now. The poll was conducted by Money magazine and PayScale.com and came out in early October. No, anesthesiology did not get the absolute top ranking for best job in America--we came in at number 11. However, we did rank number one (woohoo!) in median salary, at $292,000. We came in right above OB/GYN, who earn $222,000 and psychiatry at $177,000. Incidentally, CRNA's came in at number four with a median salary of $157,000. I love their job description of CRNA's, "Like the anesthesiologists to whom they report..." I bet that just annoys the hell out of them.
Anesthesiologists also rank highly in top pay, coming in at number two. By their methodology, the top pay in a profession is the 90th percentile on the pay scale. We just lost out to securities traders (don't we wish we could all work for Goldman Sachs?) but again top OB/GYN and psychiatry. Surprisingly attorneys came in only at number six, with the 90th percentile making $262,000. The stories we hear of money grubbing lawyers driving around in their Bentleys only apply to a very small elite. Medicine is much more egalitarian. Most doctors make roughly the same amount of income with much less variability; hardly anybody makes the millions of dollars top lawyers in large law firms can make. But we also don't have new doctors working as glorified clerks like many new law graduates have to endure when they first go into practice.
So overall, anesthesiology ranks number eleven. We get dinged for having a high stress level, which is true. But compared to general surgeons and emergency physicians, who have similar compensation levels, the stresses of anesthesiology is much more tolerable. I also don't see a listing for the other ROAD specialties (radiology, ophthalmology, and dermatology). It would have been interesting to see how these high pay and low stress fields rank relative to anesthesiology. But I can recommend wholeheartedly to any medical student that anesthesiology is a terrific field to specialize into. You can have the high pay, job security, and relatively lower stress levels compared to primary care doctors and surgeons. Plus you'll be the envy of all your spouse's friends. Hard to top that.