Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Being A Doctor Is Better Than Working For Silicon Valley

Click to enlarge to appreciate the enormity of anesthesiologists' salaries.
This graph has been making the rounds on the internet for the past week. It illustrates the best paying jobs in America as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I made a screen capture to show only the top 25 or so occupations. To see the entire list of 820 job classifications, go here. According to the BLS, anesthesiologists earned the highest salaries in the country with a median income of almost $240,000 per year. This was followed closely by surgeons, oral surgeons, OB/GYN, and orthodontists. In fact, of the top 15 highest paid jobs, only two (chief executive and petroleum engineer) are not healthcare related. It is interesting the the federal government doesn't specifically mention highly paid specialties like neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, or gastroenterology. If they did, the top fifteen would all be medically related professions.

Even though doctors are listed by the federal government as having the highest paying jobs in the country, we can't help but read about and envy all those young punks who barely graduate from college and become instant millionaires working for some flash in the pan internet company. It's just innate human nature to think the grass is greener on the other side of the 101 freeway. But the reality is that striking it rich in Silicon Valley is more akin to winning the lottery. The vast majority of workers in the tech industry toil away in anonymous cubicles for electronics companies that may never go public. Most of these kids will never cash in on a headline grabbing IPO as their companies labor to attract eyeballs and in-app purchase money 99¢ at a time. Worst of all, the longevity of a career in computer science can be extremely limited as the next crop of graduates who have been trained in the latest technologic innovations quickly supplant the previous years' workers with their eagerness, energy, and knowledge.

By contrast, nearly everybody who finishes medical school is virtually guaranteed a six figure income right after residency. Unless the physician dedicates his life to research or charity work, it is almost a certainty that he will land in the top reaches of the BLS salary list. Now this elevated income comes only after years of training, high student debt load, and delayed gratification. But it is there for everybody once the grueling process to become board certified is completed. There will be no fantastic IPO on the NASDAQ that will vault the physician into the Forbes 400 but it is still a good steady job that can last decades and sustain a nice upper middle class lifestyle. That too is worth something.

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