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To hear most American doctors tell their stories, one would think they are horribly underpaid. A recent study found not only how much doctors in the USA actually get paid in salary, but also how much wealth they are able to accumulate.

Recently I did an article for SteadyHealth on doctor salaries in the USA. Although most doctors will tell you they are not paid very much, the truth is that the lowest paid American doctors, pediatricians, earn on average $189 thousand per year, and the highest paid American doctors, orthropedists, earn on average over $400 thousand per year.

However, physician salaries and profit participation don't tell the whole story. Maybe the reason a slim majority of American doctors feel they are underpaid is that they are unable to accumulate wealth like most other people. The Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2015 also addressed this telling issue. 

Here are some highlights of the data from the survey:

  • Fewer than one in ten medical students, by the age of 28, has a net worth (total assets, such as house, car, and investments, minus total liabilities, such as student loans, personal loans, and business liabilities) of $500,000 or more. Apparently it is very hard to earn that first million dollars during medical school.
  • Only three percent of even the best paid of all physician specialists in the USA, the previously mentioned orthopedists, manage to accumulate more than $5,000,000 while they are still in practice.
Obviously, American doctors have nothing on movie stars, sports figures, or hedge fund operators when it comes to accumulating wealth. No wonder your doctor is likely to complain about the measly few hundred dollars or even less your insurance company will pay for your ten-minute office visit. Perhaps after you read even more shocking figures about American doctor incomes you will want to leave a tip.

Many American Doctors Cannot Make Ends Meet

How does income translate into net worth? The Medscape Physician Compensation Survey found that:
  • 40 percent of male physicians in the United States have a net worth of less than zero, that is, their debts and liabilities exceed the value of their assets, including real estate, cars, investments, and the value of their practices.
  • 59 percent of female physicians in the United States have a net worth of less than zero. In other words, if you are seeing a doctor who is a woman in the USA, chances are that she has a lower net worth, in financial terms, than you do.

American Women In Medicine Paid Less Than Men

There is a reason that women who practice medicine in the United States have a lower net worth than men. As is the case in many other professions in America, women doctors are paid less than their male counterparts. Women in medicine in the USA are paid, on average, 24 percent less than men in the same speciality. Compounding the problem is the fact that the specialties most popular women, pediatrics and family medicine, are the lowest paid, pediatricians earning even less than family practice physicians. This is perhaps in part due to the fact that 58.5 percent of all US pediatricians are women.
That isn't to say that there are no women who earn high salaries in medicine in the USA. About four percent of women in medicine, for example, practice orthopedic surgery. However, even these women earn less than men doing the same job.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Troy Brown. Some Doctors Plagued by Student Debt, Bad Investments. Medscape Medical News. 19 May 2015.
  • Photo courtesy of H20series via Flickr:
  • Photo courtesy of zappowbang via Flickr:

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