Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Much Money Do Anesthesia Residents Make?

Once again, Medscape has published a survey of the incomes of doctors (registration required). These periodic reports are fun reading for the voyeurs in all of us. This time, they have elected to poll the medical residents and asked them how much money they make. I know that when I was a resident I was curious if my training program was shortchanging my income. At that time there really wasn't a way to find out without asking extremely embarrassing questions to colleagues and friends which they probably wouldn't answer truthfully anyway. Now we have a scientifically conducted inquiry splashed all over the internet for the world to see.

Medscape Resident Salary Survey 2014
Well I won't keep you in suspense anymore. The average salary for residents in the U.S. was $55,300. This is the average of all residents in all specialties. More than 1,200 residents participated in this survey. When broken down by specialty, the income pattern closely mirrors the income of physician attendings. Primary care residents made the least amount of money while the ROAD residents came out near the top. Since resident compensation rises for each year after medical school, a PGY 6 in gastroenterology will make more money than a PGY 3 in Family Medicine. That partly explains the low average income of primary care doctors. Anesthesiology residents fall in the bottom half of the responses with an average salary of $56,000. This can be partly explained by a relatively short training period compared to Cardiology or Pulmonary Medicine.

These earnings sound pretty good compared to what I remember making back in the day. At that time, I only earned about half of the money the young doctors are raking in now. Plus they have all kinds of restrictions on their work hours that make their salary look even better. But Medscape points out that when adjusted for inflation, residency salaries have been flat for over four DECADES. I'd like to see any government union employee tolerate that level of income stagnation. 

As part of this survey, Medscape also asked the residents how much money they owe after finishing medical school. The answer is sadly not surprising. It also helps illuminate the reasons why so few residents want to go or stay in primary care. As a matter of fact, 28% of the survey participants are in primary care residencies but only half plan to stay in them afterwards.

Medscape Resident Salary Survey 2014
While a quarter of the respondents said they owed no debt after graduation, the largest cohort of answers, 36%, reported a debt of over $200,000. Think about that six figure liability for a minute. That much money is enough to purchase a house in cash in many places in the country. It is also a very good deposit toward starting a business or creating a nest egg for retirement when Social Security goes bankrupt by the time this group of residents reach that age. What's even more scary is that over half of the residents say they owe over $100,000 after medical school. How many other professions can claim this sorry statistic?

So now all you residents out there know where you stand in regards to your income. Will this help with negotiating for better compensation in the future? Or will we all just gladly sign on the dotted line, happy that we matched somewhere, anywhere, in our chosen specialty? I'm afraid the latter will still be the case. That's the reason hospital training programs can continue to screw over residency salaries with impunity, knowing that they have a captive temporary crew who will accept any hardship so they can grab the brass ring at the end of the journey.


  1. As physicians in the UK/Commonwealth health care system, we receive an increasingly larger salary each year. For example, $65,000 + overtime PGY-1 (intern year). PGY-2, $75,000 + overtime. As senior registrars/residents in anaesthetics, we could be making approximately $200,000 per year. Finally, when we become consultants/attendings, then the salary (approximately) doubles. Just thought it'd be fun to know other health care systems' salaries. Thanks for your posts as well.

  2. Holy f**k! $200,000 as a senior resident? Overtime?! Twice that as attendings with virtually no litigious medical malpractice lawyers hovering over your every move? Who says American doctors make too much money compared to their European counterparts? If our residents got overtime pay, half the hospitals would go bankrupt. Maybe time for me to move to Canada.

    1. Yep, all this is true (with overtime). And yep we get paid for overtime, though depending on the hospital or ward they may not always like us claiming overtime!

      As well, my understanding is we have a lot more (paid) holidays/vacation than in the States.

      Anaesthetists/anesthesiologists where I am can currently also do locums for $2,000 per day + flight/travel, accommodation, car paid.

      And our volume of patients probably isn't quite as high (depending on hospitals). No CRNAs either. Only anaesthetists (at teaching hospitals - one registrar/resident with one consultant/attending per room).

      But I have heard our taxes are much higher than yours (over 40%!) and our cost of living is too. Maybe this cancels out the perceived benefits?

    2. $2,000 per day plus room and board with less work? I'll take that any day. I don't know which country you are in, I presume Canada or UK, but our taxes are just as high. The top income tax bracket is 40%. Add in state taxes, here in Cali it is 10%, and payroll taxes, another 10% and we're talking 60% of marginal income paid out to the government. We also don't have government mandated paid vacations either. So, no I doubt our living standards are as good as yours.

    3. Sorry to hear that, mate. And I had thought the 'grass is greener' in the States. I was considering moving but then I learnt I'd need to redo all my training so it'd be a long slog for me.

      I'm in Australia. If interested, here are examples anaesthetics jobs (locums). It's becoming difficult, but you could try working here. ANZCA has changed a fair bit, but presently I don't think it'd be terribly difficult for an American trained anaesthetist/anesthesiologist to work in Australia.

    4. But I reckon it'd be amazing to live in California. :)

    5. CA is great if you live within 20 miles of the coast. Then the high taxes and property prices are worth it. Beyond that little strip of paradise it is like living in any other state except the cost of living is double.