We doctors think we're so smart, with our years of medical training and our precious hard earned degrees hanging on our office walls. But economically, it makes little sense anymore to go into medicine and hope to get rich. While the income is certainly in the top 1% in the country, the six figure debts that are incurred severely hinders physicians' ability to get ahead.
By contrast, CRNA's have it all figured out. PayScale, the compensation tracking company, has declared that a CRNA degree is the most lucrative master's degree in America. With a two year degree, a CRNA can earn anywhere from $143,000 to $165,000. The second most lucrative master's degree is for telecommunications engineer with a median of $141,000. The reported CRNA salary is comparable to Medscape's APRN Compensation Report where survey respondents average $182,000. If they get a PhD, they will make even more money.
The nurses who get CRNA degrees have a work history prior to getting their master's. That is one of the prerequisites of getting into the program. Therefore they have some savings cushion when they go to school to get their degree. Since the program is only two years long, CRNA's usually come out with close to $100,000 in student debt.
By contrast, most medical students go straight from an expensive undergraduate program to an even more expensive medical program, with zero income to show for all that training. Even after medical school, their incomes are a pittance for years as they go through residency and fellowships, frequently shouldering hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans.
As physician compensation continues to be pressured downward and the cost of the training rises inexorably, the economic rationale for becoming a doctor makes less sense. It truly becomes a calling, like going into ministry, to get a medical degree. Maybe it is the CRNA's that are really doing it for the money.