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'Plan B' Doctor Careers When Plan A Doesn't Pan Out

Becoming a doctor is not just about taking temperatures, dispensing pharmaceuticals and listening to the lungs of patients through that ever-present stethoscope hanging around your neck. Before enjoying the benefits of the big-time paychecks that medical doctors enjoy, your first big decision will be picking the specialty you want to pursue. You have to pick what kind of doctor you want to be and that can be a major hassle if you aren’t already pretty sure where you want to head. The thing to keep in mind when choosing a career as a medical doctor is that if you get the heebie-jeebies from one area of the job, it may be fairly easy to make a lateral movement toward a less offensive specialty.  

  • Anesthesiologist

All that talk about your vital signs during surgery is the focus of the medical career of an anesthesiologist. The robust salaries enjoyed by those who specialize in providing anesthesia to patients are not earned without hard work. Anesthesiologists can expect to spend as much time in medical school as the surgeons they assist. The life of the patient undergoing surgery is the hands of the anesthesiologist just as much as it’s in the hands of the surgeon as well. Even if the surgery goes flawlessly, the end result can be tragedy should those vital signs not remain stable. The average yearly salary for anesthesiologists is $355,414, according to the Jackson-Coker Physician Salary Calculator. 

  • Pediatric Surgeon 

It takes a special type of emotional stability to find success as a pediatric surgeon, but if you have what it takes the financial rewards can be great. A pediatric surgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in working on children. Keep in mind that a pediatric surgeon isn’t just called upon to conduct surgery on toddlers and grade schoolers; today’s advancements in technology can actually mean performing surgery on a fetus still in the womb. The average starting salary for a pediatric surgeon nationwide is $295,000, but actual figures vary according to state. 

A 2009 report issued by the American College of Surgeons found that North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming had no pediatric surgeons at all and the entire state of Hawaii was served by just one. Try to find another Plan B where you could quite literally be the only specialist in an entire region of the country!

  • Dentist 

Those reconsidering a career as a medical doctor when their first choice falls through for one reason or another, often forget that the dentist is a bona fide doctor. Your dreams of becoming a doctor do not change in any foundational way by moving from a hospital to a dental office. If anything, this Plan B for a medical career will give you the opportunity to move away from the myriad stressors related to dealing with hospital bureaucracies. Advancements in growing teeth are coming along slowly in the US, so expect the job outlook for dealing with cavities to only increase as the amount of corn syrup and cane sugar in the average American’s diet only looks to continue increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for dentists is currently hovering around $150,000.



  • Neurologist 

Those traumatic injuries to the brain no longer automatically mean life-long effects of brain damage. Advancements in neurology have even lessened the chances that severe brain damage will result in death. Those advancements serve to make neurology one of the most exciting niches in the entire medical field and if that isn’t a good enough reason to file it away as Plan B, what could possibly be a good enough reason?  The brain remains the biggest mystery of the human body, but researchers learn a little more about it every year. They then pass on that knowledge to the neurologist who comes in to perform miracles. National annual compensation for neurologists is more than $260,000, according to the Jackson-Coker Physician Salary Calculator.

  • Cardiac Surgeon

When the problem isn’t a brain injury, you may be staring death in the face due to heart disease. The cardiac surgeon is still the rock star of the medical career path and the median salary is more $530,000 a year. If you think that sounds impressive, consider this rather startling bit of reality: the median annual salary among those in the bottom 10% of earners in this career still manage to rake in more than a quarter of a million dollars a year. The very idea that cardiac surgeon would be an alternative choice for someone wanting to become a doctor might seem downright silly when such salary figures are tossed around. Keep in mind that the stress level of quite literally holding someone’s beating heart in your hand. If you are dismissing the career of cardiac surgeon for any other reasons other those related to that stress, it may well be worth a second look if your first choice doesn’t pan out. 

For many people Plan A is entirely constituted by the desire to become a doctor. Not all doctor careers are the same. And if by chance something happens to come along that places an obstacle in your path toward achieving your dreams of becoming a doctor, it is worth realizing that a wealth of very high-paying alternatives are still available.

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