SALARIES / AUG. 20, 2014
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Is Becoming a Surgeon Really Worth the Big Salary?

You probably won’t be at all surprised to learn some of the highest paying careers in America are found in the health care industry. Doctors have traditionally been viewed as one of the glamour careers due to an income that affords them a fairly comfortable life. Of course, money isn’t everything and along with the tidy income often comes steep college debt, long work hours and the frustration of dealing with bureaucracies and unhappy patients. The decision to pursue the dream of being a doctor may well pit your desire for a bigger than average paycheck versus the assorted downsides of being a key member of a health care system facing increasing pressures from all sides. So if money is your aim, then you might want to shoot your arrow of medical interest in the direction of surgeon. Just make sure you fully digest and understand the cons of being a surgeon before you make the very rash decision to pursue this career solely for the money

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the annual median salary of surgeons at more than $187,000 a year and then further breaks that down to an hourly wage of around $90. Or, to put it another way, more than ten times the minimum wage. The biggest pro in favor of pursuing a career as a surgeon is clearly an income that puts you pretty far away from the status quo. That should translate into a dream home, a sports car if you want it and, if you manage your finances intelligently, probably not many sleepless nights worrying about how to pay the bills every month.

Don’t go thinking that becoming a surgeon is a free ticket for a peaceful night’s sleep for the rest of your life. In order to enjoy your career in a high income tax bracket, you better start trying to enjoy school as much as anything in your life right now. After high schools comes four years as an undergraduate followed by another four years of medical school. Graduation from medical school isn’t the end of your education, but the middle because now you must get through another eight years in the exhaustive learning environment of internship and residency at a hospital. Do the math and you will find that becoming a surgeon means probably a whole lot of sleepless nights for the sixteen years of your commitment and that’s before you start enjoying the big monetary payoff.

That big paycheck comes with very long work hours in a very stressful environment. The operating room is no place for anyone who does not deal well with pressure nor should you be there if you are not intensely detail oriented. You must possess both intellectual and manual dexterity, not to mention having dependable vision and bodily strength. Depending on the type of surgery in question and the complexity of the medical conditions, surgeons may sometimes be called upon to stand on their feet within a narrow frame of movement for more than eight hours at a time. You must remain mentally alert as well as physically steady during those hours. Or, to put it another way, imagine working at a fast food order counter in which you never had a break, never got to sit down, had to remain within two feet of that counter at all times and, to top it off, if you got just one part of the order wrong, your customer would die.

Would you be willing to take on that job for $90 an hour? If you said no, you might very well want to reconsider becoming a surgeon.

 

Image Source: Self Interested Surgeons

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