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Do doctors make a lot more money than engineers?

by aeroplant
Tags: doctors, engineers, money
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hamster143
#19
Dec25-09, 03:20 PM
P: 986
Quote Quote by whs View Post
Really? So where does that money come from? They just happen to charge the students less than what it costs to educate them?
You know, it's quite possible that med schools don't have much of a profit margin. That's because they need real doctors to teach. Med school professors easily make 2-3 times as much as equally qualified and experienced physics/engineering professors. They need to be paid that much because, otherwise, it would be more profitable for them to leave academia.

So we're back to the original question, why is it that doctors are paid better than engineers? Cost of education is a consequence, not a cause. Despite exorbitant costs, people pile into med schools at such a rate that most of those schools have acceptance rates in single percentages (at most one in ten applicants is offered admission in most schools). It's harder to get into the med school at the University of South Alabama than it is to get into MIT. Clearly, there's a bottleneck somewhere that keeps the number of med students low, and, consequently, their potential salaries high.

Imagine if there were a federal regulation that required you to have a government-issued permit in order to write code. Further, imagine that the government issued 10,000 of those every year to graduates of a small number of elite colleges and eligible immigrants. Finally, imagine that it isn't possible to outsource, and every line of code that has to be written, must be written by a licensed U.S. resident. How much would such licensed programmers make? A lot more than today, you can be sure of that.

What's the nature of that bottleneck with regard to doctors? It's called "residency". In most states, all doctors have to work at least one year as hospital residents before they are permitted to practice medicine on their own. The number of available residency positions has been virtually flat, at around 24,000, for the last couple of decades. Medical schools are interested in making sure that all their graduates are employed, therefore they keep the number of students low enough for all of them to find residency spots upon graduation.
DrJD
#20
Dec26-09, 03:45 PM
P: 17
Just to give you an idea of the differences between an engineers training and a medical doctors.

Engineer -
4 years of Undergrad (many stop here)
1 year for masters (Most stop here)
So 5 years after high school you begin earning your salary of 50 thousand, and start working your way up.

Medical doctor -
4 years of Undergrad
4 years of Medical school.
3 to 7 years of Residency making 42 thousand a year.
So an MD doesnt start earning money until 11 to 15 years after high school.

So on average an engineer has a 6 year head start. Not to mention debt load. Most people I know personally will have at least 300 thousand in students loans from medical school, that has accumulated around 75 thousand in interest during residency. So MD's start 6 to 10 years later with an extra 375 thousand in debt.

So just in order to attract anyone to the field, salaries have to be high. I definitely think part of it is the importance of saving lives, but a big part is just numbers.
berkeman
#21
Dec26-09, 04:05 PM
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I think it was alluded to earlier in the thread, but I'll just highlight that it's more likely for an engineer to be able to make a lot of money at a startup company, compared to an MD. There are certainly medical startups, so MDs can make money at them also. But there are many more startups that are staffed by engineers.

Of course, the engineers that end up at startups are the cream of the crop, highly trained and motivated, and so on. But it's still a good and reasonable goal, IMO, for engineers to strive to make it to the level where they are attractive to a startup company, or able to start their own company themselves.
hamster143
#22
Dec26-09, 06:43 PM
P: 986
Quote Quote by DrJD View Post
Medical doctor -
4 years of Undergrad
4 years of Medical school.
3 to 7 years of Residency making 42 thousand a year.
So an MD doesnt start earning money until 11 to 15 years after high school.

So on average an engineer has a 6 year head start. Not to mention debt load. Most people I know personally will have at least 300 thousand in students loans from medical school, that has accumulated around 75 thousand in interest during residency. So MD's start 6 to 10 years later with an extra 375 thousand in debt.
Virtually no one (except maybe neurosurgeons) spends 7 years in residency. Most doctors are done in 3 years.

The average debt of a graduating medical student before residency is around 150k. On top of that, 30-40k in interest will accrue during residency.

So just in order to attract anyone to the field, salaries have to be high. I definitely think part of it is the importance of saving lives, but a big part is just numbers.
It's not like medical schools are struggling to attract prospective students. Quite the contrary. There's cutthroat competition to get in. UCLA School of Medicine has the acceptance rate of 4.5%. Stanford is at 2.5%. U of Chicago, 2.9%.
hamster143
#23
Dec26-09, 07:05 PM
P: 986
but I'll just highlight that it's more likely for an engineer to be able to make a lot of money at a startup company, compared to an MD. There are certainly medical startups, so MDs can make money at them also. But there are many more startups that are staffed by engineers.
I'll take a steady $300,000/year job over the chance of winning a startup lottery any day of the week.

You have to be lucky just to be in a startup that succeeds (because most of them flop). You have to be in from the beginning, otherwise you get very little equity. And even if you win, you have to pay taxes through the nose (in California, 26% AMT + 9.3% state tax).

Some concrete numbers.

In 2004-07, there was an average of 160 IPO's per year in the United States. There were almost no IPOs in 2001-03, and again since 2008. Let's assume that, for every IPO, there was one acquisition of a private startup. I'm going to guess that each IPO created an average of ten engineer-millionaires and ten management-type-millionaires.

That's 12 thousand engineers turned millionaires in ten years, across all engineering specialties (software, hardware, telecom, ...)

BLS says that there are 857,000 computer software engineers and 291,000 electrical/electronics engineers in the country.
berkeman
#24
Dec26-09, 07:10 PM
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Quote Quote by hamster143 View Post
I'll take a steady $300,000/year job over the chance of winning a startup lottery any day of the week.

You have to be lucky just to be in a startup that succeeds (because most of them flop). You have to be in from the beginning, otherwise you get very little equity. And even if you win, you have to pay taxes through the nose (in California, 26% AMT + 9.3% state tax).

Some concrete numbers.

In 2004-07, there was an average of 160 IPO's per year in the United States. There were almost no IPOs in 2001-03, and again since 2008. Let's assume that, for every IPO, there was one acquisition of a private startup. I'm going to guess that each IPO created an average of ten engineer-millionaires and ten management-type-millionaires.

That's 12 thousand engineers turned millionaires in ten years, across all engineering specialties (software, hardware, telecom, ...)

BLS says that there are 857,000 computer software engineers and 291,000 electrical/electronics engineers in the country.
It's not luck. Good research numbers, though. And I agree 100% about the tax fairy.
DrJD
#25
Dec26-09, 08:16 PM
P: 17
Quote Quote by hamster143 View Post
Virtually no one (except maybe neurosurgeons) spends 7 years in residency. Most doctors are done in 3 years.

The average debt of a graduating medical student before residency is around 150k. On top of that, 30-40k in interest will accrue during residency.



It's not like medical schools are struggling to attract prospective students. Quite the contrary. There's cutthroat competition to get in. UCLA School of Medicine has the acceptance rate of 4.5%. Stanford is at 2.5%. U of Chicago, 2.9%.
I think it is humerous that you chose to refute on such minor points are are wrong to boot!

Most doctors are done in 3 years? The only specialty that is 3 years is Internal Medicine, of which many graduates go on to fellowship for 1 to 3 years.
Family medicine, Dermatology, Ob/Gyn, etc. are 4 years.
Radiology, General Surgery, ENT, Urology, etc. etc. are 5 years.

Suffice it to say that most people spend 4 or more years as PGY's...

You are right that the quoted average is 150k, but naive in accepting it. It includes students whose parents paid for their school. As in, when you take the average of a set of debt values and with a bunch of zeros in the mix, what will that do to the average? Oh also, that number doesn't include any debt accrued from undergraduate or from other graduate degrees. So if you'd like to naively accept that value, cool, but nobody should. Look up the cost of attendance each year at ANY private medical school in the country. You'll likely see tuition around 40 thousand, with cost of living between 12 and 20. So on the low end, you are talking about 200 thousand from just medical school. (Plus the 50 from undergrad...)

And you are right about acceptance rates, thus my saying that medical school is extremely competitive to get in to. Also a faulty use of statistics though. Did you happen to look up the overall statistics for medical school admissions? Around 50% of those who apply get accepted. You know all those people who aren't in the 2.5% that are accepted to Stanford? Well they get in at one of the other medical schools in the country. So don't throw around an individual medical schools acceptance data in order to give the impression that people are swarming in droves to attend medical school. The best schools in ANY field are competitive.

The point of my original post was not to put down engineers. My brother and my dad are both engineers. However, there is no arguing that in order to make up for both initial investment and time lost, physician salaries have to be higher in order to continue to attract the caliber of doctor that you want taking care of your grandmother.
Choppy
#26
Dec26-09, 11:26 PM
Sci Advisor
P: 2,714
I agree with DrJD about the time in. Most of the radiation oncologists I know had a 5 year residency and I believe that's usually followed with a fellowship. Plus, if you account for things like maternity, time off for travel, sickness, research, etc. I don't think 7 years would be all that uncommon.

I disagree that the high salaries are there necessarily to attract high caliber doctors, although, that does play a part in it.

Salary is all about negotiation. Medical doctors are notoriously good collective negotiators, thanks in large part to the trump cards they hold.

One of those cards is what DrJD and others have explained - that there is a tremendous time and finanacial investment required. (It's not surprising that this, on its own, doesn't fly in a forum frequented by post-docs.) But this is a valid point. Substantial investment needs to yield substantial reward.

Another card is responsibility. Medical doctors traditionally assume ultimate responsibility in the health care system. They're the ones who sign the prescriptions. They're the ones who get sued when mistakes are made. They're the ones who are subject to committee investigations. In contrast, engineers most often work under the umbrella of a corporate entity. If a bridge collapses, the company that built it gets sued, rarely the individual engineers. (And really, who get's sued when Windows Vista doesn't work?)

Another trump card is fear. Not to sound too much like a left-wing hippie, but we can place at least some blame on drug companies and mass marketing tactics for that. Your health is the most valuable thing you have and marketing campaigns for everything from antibacterial sprays, to cold medications to erectile disfunction treatements pray on that fear. When it comes to your health and the health of yoru kids, you don't want Bargain Bob's Discount Drugs.

Another trump card is professionalism, which has a lot of faces. Medicine is largely a self-regulated profession. It has historically established itself at the top of the medical professions hierarchy. It has even legislated itself so many responsibilities there will always be a demand for doctors. As others have pointed out it even controls (to an extent) the supply of new doctors.

Another trump card is the legal restriction of medical practices, such as the prescription of drugs, or even the ability to make a diagnosis. Paramedics and nurse practioners are perhaps infringing on this territory a little, but the fact of the matter is that just about everyone needs (arguably) a prescription for a medication at some point and medical doctors are really the only ones who can do that. If you constrast that with engineers, you can have Joe Blow off the street design, build and repair your product, and do all the heavy lifting so long as you have the work inspected and signed by certified engineers at the critical points.

If I needed an engineer to inspect my car and sign off on it every time I needed to change the oil, things might be different.
hamster143
#27
Dec27-09, 10:23 AM
P: 986
Most doctors are done in 3 years? The only specialty that is 3 years is Internal Medicine, of which many graduates go on to fellowship for 1 to 3 years.
This link shows 3 years in family medicine and pediatrics. Internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics taken together already give you around 50% of all doctors.

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/medicine/ed...section-4.html

And you are right about acceptance rates, thus my saying that medical school is extremely competitive to get in to. Also a faulty use of statistics though. Did you happen to look up the overall statistics for medical school admissions? Around 50% of those who apply get accepted.
44% is the most recent figure. It means that we can easily increase the number of doctors by 50%, possibly by 100%, if we get rid of the residency bottleneck.

Even that overall acceptance rate is almost unheard of. If you want to study engineering, there are schools that will accept you and put up only modest prerequisites (or, in case of University of Phoenix, no prerequisites at all) - as long as you pay money. If you want to study law, GPA 3.0 and a perfect LSAT score are likely to get you into a top-14 law school, such as Duke or Cornell. In medicine, GPA 3.0 and a perfect MCAT score mean 50/50 chance of not getting ANYWHERE, including Sticksville Medical College. I can't think of any field of study where the majority of applicants are unable to get into any school, even if they are willing to pay.

http://www.aamc.org/data/facts/appli...-app-accpt.htm

And, of course, the acceptance rate would've been even lower if not for this massive debt load. It's all part of the AMA conspiracy to keep the number of doctors artificially low and their pay artificially high.
hamster143
#28
Dec27-09, 11:16 AM
P: 986
Quote Quote by berkeman View Post
It's not luck. Good research numbers, though. And I agree 100% about the tax fairy.
I have some more numbers for you.

I know an engineer who actually won the startup lottery. He was an employee number forty-something in a startup company. When he got the job, he was given a stock option grant with a four-year vesting period (meaning, he had to work there for four years consecutively to get all the stock).

For a while it looked as if the company would fold, but they persevered and, eventually, the company went public, with the market cap in nine figures.

On the day of the IPO, his initial stock grant was worth approximately 150 thousand dollars. Pre-tax. Closer to 100 post-tax. Most engineers who came after him had half or a quarter as much. Some people had more (sometimes a lot more) even though they came into the company later, but they weren't engineers - they had MBA's, law degrees, bachelors degrees in finance.

This should give you some idea of the kind of money an engineer can make in a startup. There is an outside shot of making as much money as any decent doctor would save naturally from his salary. Since the bust of the dot-com bubble, chances of an engineer making truly a lot of money (eight figures post-tax) are about as good as chances of a garage rock band scoring a #1 Billboard hit.
DrJD
#29
Dec27-09, 01:58 PM
P: 17
Quote Quote by hamster143 View Post
This link shows 3 years in family medicine and pediatrics. Internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics taken together already give you around 50% of all doctors.

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/medicine/ed...section-4.html



44% is the most recent figure. It means that we can easily increase the number of doctors by 50%, possibly by 100%, if we get rid of the residency bottleneck.

Even that overall acceptance rate is almost unheard of. If you want to study engineering, there are schools that will accept you and put up only modest prerequisites (or, in case of University of Phoenix, no prerequisites at all) - as long as you pay money. If you want to study law, GPA 3.0 and a perfect LSAT score are likely to get you into a top-14 law school, such as Duke or Cornell. In medicine, GPA 3.0 and a perfect MCAT score mean 50/50 chance of not getting ANYWHERE, including Sticksville Medical College. I can't think of any field of study where the majority of applicants are unable to get into any school, even if they are willing to pay.

http://www.aamc.org/data/facts/appli...-app-accpt.htm

And, of course, the acceptance rate would've been even lower if not for this massive debt load. It's all part of the AMA conspiracy to keep the number of doctors artificially low and their pay artificially high.
I appreciate the point you are trying to make, but again you are misreading the data about residencies. Family medicine and Pediatrics are a three year residency, AFTER a 1 year internship. So in PGY (post graduate years), Internal medicine is the only one that is three years, while Family medicine and Pediatrics are both 4 years, like I originally said.

Engineering, Law School, etc are good examples of getting into school easily, I agree. However, I don't agree with your point. All careers have a bottleneck, it is just where it is placed. If you don't graduate from a top 20 law school, you are going to have a hard time getting a good job. With engineering, the bottleneck is with employers who don't want to hire a university of Phoenix graduate. With medicne, the bottleneck is with medical schools, so once you are in, you are gauranteed a job. All of these are the same situation. Personally, I'd rather be bottelnecked before going 250 thousand in debt, rather than after.

Also, just because all of those people apply to medical school, doesn't mean they would make good doctors. So you saying that we can increase the number of doctors simply because we have people that are willing isn't a very good idea. When my wife, or kids, get sick, I want to take them to the best doctor possible. I know you would feel the same way.

Also, I think for your medical school example you meant to say 4.0 GPA and perfect MCAT. You are actually not correct there either. The average GPA and acceptance to medical school overall hovers right around 3.7 and a 30 or 31 MCAT. So statistics disagree with you.

The half of people who aren't getting into medical school are those who have lower credentials. Last year, the average GPA and MCAT for those that applied but weren't accepted were right around 3.4 and 27...

You are right too, there aren't any other careers that are this hard to get into for schooling. But not many other careers handle life and death decisions on a day to day basis.
kote
#30
Dec27-09, 06:32 PM
P: 871
Quote Quote by DrJD View Post
You are right too, there aren't any other careers that are this hard to get into for schooling. But not many other careers handle life and death decisions on a day to day basis.
That all depends on what you're going for. I think it's misleading to talk about careers within a field like they are all the same. Within different fields there are a range of careers with a range of competition.

There are plenty of engineering jobs that are harder to get and are higher paid than most jobs in medicine. All engineering jobs are not the same. All medical jobs are not the same. All business jobs... etc. A career as a fortune 500 CEO is harder to get and higher paying than a career in medicine. There are also more engineer CEOs than MD CEOs.

Even if you're only talking about jobs directly out of school... a career as a physics professor at a research university, for example, is harder to get into than medicine.

Of course things aren't directly comparable, but I don't think it's helpful to classify things so broadly as engineers vs doctors. It's most certainly not the case that a 3.8 engineering student will be guaranteed a higher salary or more responsibility if they go to medical school.
martharon
#31
Dec28-09, 01:48 AM
P: 8
Quote Quote by dE_logics View Post
Problem is when it comes to saving lives or curing themselves, people don't want to compromise...they want the best they can afford; as a result you get lots of money in the medical field.
very true i too feel the same no one is ready to compromise one's health rather they are ready to cut short their other expenses and other things related to it.
this is the reason why medical field is having this much money
Ben Espen
#32
Dec28-09, 10:15 AM
P: 192
I think kote is on to something, the range of the ability distributions of engineers and doctors are not the same. Broadly speaking, you could probably say that the distribution of ability amongst engineers is wider than for doctors. In a general way, people with greater abilities make more money and have more responsibility.

If there were a scale you could use for this, then perhaps you could compare skilled engineers with equally skilled doctors, but this would be very difficult to do. In practice, it is wise to think of how skilled you are in a profession, if you could only an average doctor, but an excellent engineer, it would be better to be an engineer than a doctor.

FWIW, an IPO is not the predominant way to become rich from starting your own company. Probably the more common path is a larger company buys the IP and perhaps the facilities of a successful startup. Much more common.
onlycurious
#33
Mar13-10, 12:26 AM
P: 3
Quote Quote by DrJD View Post
Just to give you an idea of the differences between an engineers training and a medical doctors.

Engineer -
4 years of Undergrad (many stop here)
1 year for masters (Most stop here)
So 5 years after high school you begin earning your salary of 50 thousand, and start working your way up.

Medical doctor -
4 years of Undergrad
4 years of Medical school.
3 to 7 years of Residency making 42 thousand a year.
So an MD doesnt start earning money until 11 to 15 years after high school.
First off, for most universities, an engineering curriculum usually has 10-12 more credit hours than any other school within the university. That's almost a semester more than any other major. Also, it takes the average student 4.5 - 5 years to graduate with an engineering degree because the material they learn is complex, even compared to Med school.

And since when do you get your masters in 1 year? It usually takes 2-2.5 years for the average person to get their masters. So you're looking at about 6.5 years of schooling for engineers versus 8 years of schooling for doctors.

Most engineering companies require you to have internship experience.

And you also make it seem like $42,000 isn't money... 3-7 years of residency/fellowship is getting paid. They just get a huge raise/promotion after their residency.
DrJD
#34
Mar13-10, 09:55 AM
P: 17
Quote Quote by onlycurious View Post
First off, for most universities, an engineering curriculum usually has 10-12 more credit hours than any other school within the university. That's almost a semester more than any other major. Also, it takes the average student 4.5 - 5 years to graduate with an engineering degree because the material they learn is complex, even compared to Med school.

And since when do you get your masters in 1 year? It usually takes 2-2.5 years for the average person to get their masters. So you're looking at about 6.5 years of schooling for engineers versus 8 years of schooling for doctors.

Most engineering companies require you to have internship experience.

And you also make it seem like $42,000 isn't money... 3-7 years of residency/fellowship is getting paid. They just get a huge raise/promotion after their residency.
There are so many points to address with this post so I'll do my best to take them in order.

1) You can't make the argument that it takes on average engineers 5 years to graduate. That is a general trend amongst all college majors, including the biggest feeder to medical school, Biology. So you'd have to add a year to both.

2) My brother graduated from UCLA with a bachelors in Engineering after 4 years, and then got his masters from UC Davis in one year. He then started working at over 50 thousand a year for a 40 hour work week. This is before he has taken his PE, so this would be like the"internship" you talked about.

3) In medical school education, you have 4-5 years of undergrad and then 4years of medical school no exceptions. If you want to compare you have to look at the amount of money per hour not total per year. Yes the 50 thousand for an engineer after 5 years of education seems to be close to the 42 thousand after 8 years, however, what about per hour? The engineer is making $24.03 per hours. During the 3 to 5 year medical residency they are making $10.09 per hour. That is a HUGE difference. Not to mention that many of the 80 hours worked by a residency take place in 24to 36 hour shifts.

Please note I am not putting down the training an engineer receives, I have a great deal of respect for all engineers. But the education, sacrifice and training doesn't compare to that of medical education. Of course, the end salary of medical doctors tends to be a little bit higher than engineers so that helps many medical students deal with the abuse for 12 years of their adult lives.
kote
#35
Mar13-10, 02:14 PM
P: 871
Starting salaries for engineers with bachelor's degrees at large US corporations are in a tight range around $60k now. ABET accredited engineering degrees are designed to be completed in 4 years. Taking time off to work at an internship can hardly count as time added to the major. Many (most?) master's programs are 10 courses and can be completed in 3 semesters, or one year. Some can be completed in 2 semesters. Even longer programs can typically be completed in a year. Stanford requires 15 courses, and their curriculum is designed to be completed in 3-4 quarters.
onlycurious
#36
Mar13-10, 03:17 PM
P: 3
Quote Quote by DrJD View Post
1) You can't make the argument that it takes on average engineers 5 years to graduate. That is a general trend amongst all college majors, including the biggest feeder to medical school, Biology. So you'd have to add a year to both.

2) My brother graduated from UCLA with a bachelors in Engineering after 4 years, and then got his masters from UC Davis in one year. He then started working at over 50 thousand a year for a 40 hour work week. This is before he has taken his PE, so this would be like the"internship" you talked about.

3) In medical school education, you have 4-5 years of undergrad and then 4years of medical school no exceptions. If you want to compare you have to look at the amount of money per hour not total per year. Yes the 50 thousand for an engineer after 5 years of education seems to be close to the 42 thousand after 8 years, however, what about per hour? The engineer is making $24.03 per hours. During the 3 to 5 year medical residency they are making $10.09 per hour. That is a HUGE difference. Not to mention that many of the 80 hours worked by a residency take place in 24to 36 hour shifts.

Please note I am not putting down the training an engineer receives, I have a great deal of respect for all engineers. But the education, sacrifice and training doesn't compare to that of medical education. Of course, the end salary of medical doctors tends to be a little bit higher than engineers so that helps many medical students deal with the abuse for 12 years of their adult lives.
1) Well, like I said, engineering degrees (most of the time) requires more credit hours and it's usually from a semester to a year more worth of credits.

2) UCLA, UC Davis? Did your brother get a job in California just above $50,000? That's ridiculous, he is getting underpaid as an engineer especially with a masters degree. And no, that is not the internship I'm talking about. Internships should be taking place during your junior/senior year of your undergraduate program and into your graduate program if you choose to get your masters.

3) So in the end, using the same time period:

Doctors = 5 years undergrad + 4 years med school + 3 years residency = 12 years training making roughly $150,000+ a year.

Senior Engineers = 5 years undergrad (while an intern) + 2 years masters (while an intern) + 5 years experience = 12 years training making roughly $100,000+ a year.


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