Income Comparisons – Teacher vs. Physician


Who makes more money over the course of their career – a high school teacher or a doctor?

Doctors are obviously paid more.
However, when you also consider that doctors work 1.5 times more each week than other Americans, that doctors spend an average of 42,000 to 50,000 hours (20-24 years of full time work equivalents) just to become a doctor, and that doctors pay almost $700,000 for their educational debts, the net hourly wage of doctors versus high school teachers shows that, on average, teachers earn about 3 cents per hour more than doctors over the course of their careers.

And these calculations don’t even consider the licensing fees, licensing exam fees, DEA fees, malpractice insurance premiums, continuing medical education fees, hospital staff dues, costs of running an office … and also assumes that the doctor doesn’t get hit with a multimillion lawsuit judgment.

[Also see this related post:]

Teacher Salary vs. Doctor Salary


  1. Dude, I’ve seen retired teachers and retired doctors. No way do they compare in terms of money because the doctors have better houses, retirement nest eggs, etc. If it was better, then people would break down the doors to be teachers and not doctors.

    • If the retired teachers had put in 50% more hours over the course of their careers, do you think that there might be a little less disparity?
      Everyone focuses on the income and few focus on the ancillary issues. Doctors make more money when they get to attending status, but they also have a MUCH larger financial hole to dig out of.

      • No because they’re salaried. They don’t get extra pay unless they moonlight. Even then, they would have to have a masters’ to get a position at even the community colleges that grant 2 year degrees. It depends on whether or not you are STEM. Take this example, my school system pays better than the norm. Say you get a 4 year in education, someone else a biology/pre med degree, same institution. Teacher makes $40750 starting out, then at year 5 (say when medical school is over for the other person) they make $43229. Now that other person: PGY2 – $51,026, PGY3 – $52,392, PGY4 – $53,760. Instate here is: $29,396 for the 4 years. Fees run years as follows: 1,446, 1,441,
        1,101, 1,196. So now, 20 years out the teacher makes 57189 a year. Say just a plain internist is making over $200K a year. Even with 10 years of paying off the loans, they have a lot longer time at 3 times as much that rate to put money away. See th mortarboards to millionaires I listed earlier. No teacher is getting a million dollars. Now look at the stats on MD/MD couples. “The American College of Surgeons surveyed nearly 8,000 of its members, 90% of whom were married. Of those, half had spouses or partners who did not work outside the home. About a third of the double-income couples were actually double-doctor duos, and in about a third of those marriages, both partners were surgeons. In fact, the study notes that something like 50% of female surgeons are married to physicians.” So say if you are one of those couples, here is a couple (of internists) making $350K a year compared to our teacher/teacher making $80-$100 a year. This probably hits its better since its addressing that.
        I then suggest you google “come from a medical family” and you’ll see the costs of medical school are cheaper because the parents help them out. 30% of medical school kids “come from a medical family”. Try also Finally check out Wikipedia and check out “been victimised for not having come from a “medical family”.

        I’d say it was pretty obvious where the money is.

      • So your logic is that because teachers choose not to work as many hours as doctors, that makes the comparison invalid? Kind of like saying a B student is entitled to a better grade and should really get an A … because the B student just didn’t want to work as hard, isn’t it?

        Using your example, starting out, teacher is $175,000 richer and the medical student is about $240,000 in debt – with interest compounding at 8% annually. By the time of graduation, with interest the first year debt has grown to $80,000, the second year debt has grown to $75,000 and third year debt has grown to $70,000 and the fourth year debt has grown to $65,000.

        So starting at PGY 1, the doctor is $290,000 in the hole from loans, that debt is growing by $23,000 per year, and the doctor has worked 50% more hours compared to the teacher. Add in the money that the teacher made and the difference for the first 4 years is $465,000.
        Had the teacher chosen to moonlight to keep up with the difference in hours, the teacher would have made an extra $85,000 which would have made the hole $550,000 when the doctor started working.

        Residents easily work 80 hours a week and sometimes more. So if we cut the salaries to make the hours equal, then the residents are still making less than the teachers – and they’re still losing money during residency as the interest on their student loans outpaces their income.

        Add 3 more years to the equation and teachers have earned a total of about $300,000 while the doctors have earned $150,000, have amassed a debt of $360,000 (not including college tuition), and have worked 50% more hours for 7 years.

        Evening out the hours worked, had the teachers moonlighted for those extra hours, they would have already earned nearly $500,000 while the doctors were in the hole more than $200,000.

        Then we can go into all the expenses involved in running an office and in maintaining licensure – since those are expenses that teachers don’t have to pay – but you hopefully get the point.

        This post and the infographic wasn’t intended to assert that any set of numbers is 100% accurate.

        The point of the post was to get people to think about the long number of hours and hard work involved in becoming a physician and in working as a physician – before they parrot the “rich doctor” phrase.

        Mike Royko wrote a column about this topic more than 20 years ago and it still rings true:

        Doctors’ Pay Poll Reflects Sick Society

        • So why can’t you refute that when doctors retire the money is better, their houses are better, they drive better cars etc.? What about the tax deductions? Med Mal payments are tax deductions? How about a surgeon/obgyn & surgeon/peds & heme/onc & endo I know? Pulling down more than $500K a year so they’re making up time. They’ve got 20 years to keep practicing. Teacher & teachers’s kids dont go to private schools nor can their parents help out with medical school. 20 years ago? Things were different.

          So why do we have people who are looking to invest in doctors’ finances when we dont for teachers? How can a teacher put away over $360K for retirement and still have 15 to 20 years left to work?

          Right … as someone said on another blog keep on saying it because people will know you all are living in a different world.

      • Hmmmm’s Statement: How about a surgeon/obgyn & surgeon/peds & heme/onc & endo I know? Pulling down more than $500K a year.

        Hmmmm’s Logic: If those doctor couples are making $500k a year then ALL doctors must be making $500k a year.

        Hmmm’s Logic in general terms: If a few members of a group possess a characteristic, then ALL members of that group must possess that same characteristic.

        To emphasize the fact that everyone should believe that theorem, Hmmmm asserts that anyone disagreeing with Hmmmm is “living in a different world.”

        Applying Hmmmm’s logic elsewhere:
        I saw three chihuahuas in town last week, therefore ALL dogs must be chihuahuas. If you don’t believe that, you’re living in a different world.
        I’ve seen multiple high school teachers arrested for molesting their students. Therefore ALL high school teachers must be child molesters. Fess up, now Hmmmmm. Confession is good for the soul. Denying it only proves that you are living in a different world.

        Oh, and Hmmmm … if you’re not a child molester, explain why so many other teachers have been arrested for having sex with their students.

        Hmmmm’s predicted response:
        Outrage. “How DARE you call me a child molester!”
        Possible denial. “That isn’t comparing the same things”
        Possible avoidance with ad hominem attacks. “I’d expect something like this from a rich doctor who is living in a different world”

        It’s difficult to have a one-sided rational conversation.

        • yes it is when you don’t have the info to back it up. Those MD/MD couples are starting to become not unusual. Again, the facts are there. I had a friend who’s daughter when to a top 10 school in the nation, graduated in education. More than a year later, couldn’t find a job. She went into something else. The unemployment rate is lower for medicine than teaching.

          How many teachers have a million in the bank compared to single doctor + other job couples? How many MD/MD marriages are there? Quite a few – if you read the links I had, it showed 1/2 of the doctor/surgeons married another doctor. Since there’s a lot of that going on, its not going to be uncommon. How many teachers can live on one salary and the spouse stay home, compared to docs?

          Like I said, the facts of life just aren’t there.

    • You are doing an excellent job, Hmmmm, of ignoring the basic facts mentioned.
      Yes, doctors make more money.
      A significant part of that is that they spend virtually none in their 20s as they are in school and residency and working crazy hours. The other significant part is they continue to work more hours later.
      5×1.5>5. No one is arguing this math.

      • and once they’re out of that, I’ve seen a 50 hour week except for the ROAD specialities, a number of office workers. The only ones in a 60 hour week are the cardiologists.

        It aint all the hours any more because doctors are complaining about work life balance.

        You also need to remember that residents are now restricted in learning times. Its bad enough that the surgical residents aren’t learning because they’re not doing 100 hour workweeks any more.

        So the hours aren’t what they used to be.

  2. Our household has both. I’m the doc, she is the teacher. She has the retirement. I have nothing after blowing my retirement fund trying to go back to private practice. She can retire in 5 years, I have to work until I die (which might be sooner than 5 years given I put in 80 hours a week). So the retirment next egg argument doesn’t hold up unless you are working for the VA or Kaiser.

    For current doctors, the saying should be: If I had a million dollars, I’d just keep working until it was gone…

    • So in other words, what would have happened had you stayed in practice like you were? I know some who are sitting with more than $300K in their nest eggs … unless they’re lying and I don’t think they are.

  3. Really WC? Really?

    At this point you should fire whoever is running your PR campaign. This has to be the dumbest thing you’ve ever tried to sell.

    • Matt –
      Ooooohhh. What a factually based, poignant, and intellectually compelling counterargument.
      Do you give all your clients such excellent work?

      And the “Really” quotes sound like my teenagers. Do statements like that seem to influence judges rulings during oral arguments or are the readers here the only ones who reap the benefit from your verbal jiu jitsu?

      • I wasn’t offering a factually based, intellectual counterargument. You were sharing propaganda with us, although I’m not sure why. Maybe physicians are so insulated they don’t realize that no one is going to buy the “we are just like teachers when it comes to income” argument.

        I was just sharing with you what a bad piece of marketing it was. You don’t have to agree. In fact, I encourage you to keep selling the “poor doctors, we’re just like teachers” line to whatever end you’re seeking, and let me know how that works out for you.

        As to your teenagers, I’m happy for you that they’re so smart and witty. Sounds like they enjoy parts of SNL as much as I do:

      • Propaganda – you obviously don’t know what that word means.

        You weren’t offering a counterargument because you don’t have one. Someone else investigages the time and monetary outlays involved in becoming a physician and working as a physician, and the best you can do is dance around in your underwear and spew SNL lines from some annoying skit that lasted for a whole month or two?

        Instead you choose to parrot your own propaganda that doctors are rich. You do this because it benefits you and your legal bretheren when you’re arguing for damages in front of a jury or when you’re trying to avoid having your client pay for medical bills so that you can earn more money in attorney’s fees in your personal injury cases.

        People can choose to believe whatever they want about physician income, but when they parrot some canned phrase about how physicians are overpaid without addressing all of the issues that go into the disparity in payments, then those arguments are as morally corrupt as yours.

        Again, read Mike Royko’s article on the topic.

        Maybe you could come up with some My Little Pony quotes to refute that.

      • I wasn’t offering a counterargument because it’s pointless. I didn’t look into the numbers because why? Do you really think anyone anywhere is going to buy this line? And to what end? We’ll all now be convinced you’re poor and petition our health insurers and CMS to pay you more?

        I’m not saying doctors are rich or not, I’m just saying trying to convince the general public that teachers are ultimately better paid is a stupid way to spend your time. But by all means, it’s your time and money – do with it what you will.

        “Morally corrupt”? Settle down, drama queen. You know I’ve always said you ought to be free to legally charge as much as you want. I’ve also said it makes no sense for you to be paid in lockstep regardless of skill like you do. I SUPPORT you maximizing your earnings, even if I think your PR sucks.

      • “Counterargument is pointless.”
        You keep telling yourself that. Next you can argue that the world is flat and not provide a counterargument for that, either. After all, that used to be a common belief as well – until someone debunked it.
        Tough when you don’t know what a word means then you still try to argue the point anyway.

        Going from warped logic and twisted syllogisms to name calling. What’s next?
        Oh, wait.
        HONEY! Hide the dogs, QUICK! Matt’s coming and he’s wearing pointy boots, throwing his hands in the air and repetitively mumbling then randomly yelling “REALLY?”

      • I noticed nowhere in your cute little rant did you actually explain what the point of the original article was. Or to justify it as a useful piece of propaganda.

        Quick, to the diversions machine, Scooby!

      • “SNL boy”? Come now, you can do better than that.

        I read the comments. I’m just not sure what the point is. Let’s say against the odds someone believes this stuff and is deeply sympathetic to the tough times American physicians are facing financially.

        Ok, what now?

      • Actually I agree with Matt. Well, not really, but his ultimate point is correct.
        The math above is generally correct. And was done several years ago elsewhere and was railed against as much then as now. But one cannot really argue math.
        The perception is that doctors are rolling in the dough. One, that isn’t near as true as it used to be. FPs now earn about the same now as they did a decade ago(despite seeing more patients and so are working harder) and relative to 20-30 years ago have far lower purchasing power than they used to.
        That it took years of sacrifice and long hours to earn it just doesn’t matter to the common guy on the street.
        But the reality is that this does not matter to the common man on the street. He does not care.

      • It’s also a little bit hard to feel bad for doctors complaining about declining incomes because most of them stay in the same third party reimbursement financial model and make no attempt to affect change. It shouldn’t be news to any physician alive over the last 10-20 years that reimbursements were going to decline, rather than increase. That the government, and in turn, the insurers were going to try and start cutting or demanding more for less.

        Knowing this, physicians have largely stood idly by other than to say “no we should be paid more”, while signing up for the same payment model.

      • Well, there are starting to be more direct pay/concierge models out there.
        In a few years I am either going to be a hospitalist where I am paid for 100% of my time or go to a direct pay family practice. I just have to save enough to be able to weather the first year or two of ramp up time.

      • That’s great. I’m glad to see someone on the front lines taking the risks to move us somewhat closer to a more free market, even if the bureaucrats are headed full steam the other way. Hopefully more will join you.

  4. I am a college instructor and my brother is a surgeon. A growing trend in education is to hire instructors on a part-time basis and have them teach the equivalent of a full-time load to save on having to pay benefits and so forth. My brother does undoubtedly work more hours than I do; however, his vacation time is probably about the same as mine. My student loan debt is actually higher as I had to pay for my graduate education myself. There is no way that teachers make as much money, and this would be true even if the work load were exactly the same. That said, I really don’t care that doctors and surgeons make more. Their work environment is typically more rigorous and challenging than that of an instructor, and they have a specialized skill that others do not have. For that reason, they are able to charge more for their services and, it seems to me, that that is as it should be.
    My only gripe about the medical profession was expressed by Milton Friedman many years ago. Through the practice of licensing and accreditation, they artificially restrict the supply, and this leads to anomalies in the pricing of services that would otherwise be regulated by true supply and demand. I think the doctors should receive a certificate rather than a license and that the medical field should be open to nontraditional practitioners. If that were the case, many of the problems associated with the high price of medicine would disappear without having to socialize medicine as we are doing in the U.S.

    • That chart in the linked article assumes that from year 1 the UPS driver (not an employee of UPS by the way) makes $60,000. That is incorrect.

      You can’t take the average salary of one job and assume the single person makes that salary throughout their career, and compare to the earnings of the single person as they go through their career arc and consider that apples to apples.

  5. Hate to stir the pot, but don’t forget the tax differences. I know our family pays exponentially more in taxes that the average bear.

    • Is the take home pay still better for the doctor than the teacher? I can’t speak with more specifics, only that a doctor earning $180K has a take home pay of $90K after taxes, etc. A teacher has a pay of $45K and take home of $34K to $36K.

      • Continuing to disregard the 2-4 years minimum that the doctor paid for school while the teacher was earning and continuing to disregard the extra hours the doctor spent in school and, on average, spends in a typical work week.
        No one in this article or thread is suggesting that a 45 year old doctor doesn’t have a higher W-2 amount at the end of the year than a 45 year old teacher. The article is about total compensation over a lifetime over time spent from high school to retirement.

        • How about teachers who got PhD’s from a place like Harvard and goes into elementary teaching? They have extra years of schooling and its not like they are making tons of dollars extra for their schooling. Why does the medical profession expect so much extra for 4 years of schooling when other professions put in that much and do extra hours too? Compare those to an MD who went to the local state school before they went into medicine.

          So how much extra and when should doctors expect that they get paid for the extra schooling? Just because you have to work over 40 hours a week, welcome to the professional world. So do others who got a degree or didn’t – like nurses, IT, managers, etc.

          Once the loans have been paid off, why should you all make any more than the average salaries of the IT workers who work the same amount of hours?

          Or how about we make medical school cheaper so its not just the rich who can afford it. Are you willing for medical school to be cut into 1/4 of the price now (if $200K is a rough loan figure, $50K would be the new figure) for taking at least a 50% pay cut?

          Please … how much is patient care vs. filling out forms, calling other doctors, etc. that others can do and do do for doctors?

          If doctors don’t want to do the extra hours, and get paid for it, then don’t go into medicine. I know a surgeon who got paid $500 for an hours worth of work. Should they get paid the $150 for 20 min. when all they do is ask how are you, have you been eating, drinking, smoking? A computer can spit out answers to that.

          Simply put once the loans are paid off what is the reason for making that much money free? If people don’t want medicine, go into something else. If I wanted my Christmas and Thanksgiving free or New Years without being on call, I could have gone into secretarial work for a company. I wanted to go into IT and that is part of the job and why I make more (but not 5x more) than someone else.

          CEO’s, finance, if they do better, go into that. However, stop carping about all the money for schooling and then justify a lifetime of $$$ when the loans are paid off in 10 years to 20. You know what you’re getting into. Anyone who makes those salaries, including some IT know, know that they have to keep up their education and work more than 40 hours a week.

      • Considering that overhead for a typical office is over $400/hr that $500 for an hour’s work is good of course but not as much as you make it out to be. And in a surgeon’s case(you provided no details so I am just generalizing) that hour’s work includes with it all f/u care for 10-90 days depending on the procedure done and all paperwork associated with it.
        Sure you can get people to do the paperwork.
        They like to be paid. That increases that overhead.
        And if the goverment has its way it won’t let me hire someone to do it. CPOE stands for computerized PHYSICIAN order entry. That means the physician does it despite it taking 2-3 times as long as writing an order by hand to then be entered by a secretary.
        I am not aware of many Harvard PhDs teaching elementary school. And if they do, I am not aware of them having $20K-$100K malpractice premiums. And even then, if they do, they would work for the state and get their insurance/retirement funded. I pay 100% of my health/dental/life/disability insurance premium. I fund 100% of my HSA. I pay 100% of the employee and employer social security/medicare taxes. I do not get a deduction on my taxes for student loans as I am too ‘rich’. I do not get a child tax credit as I am too ‘rich’.
        Yet at 39 my lifetime earning minus my lifetime debt is barely above what it would be if I had become a Mcdonald’s cook at 18. Yes, I will pass them, but it took 20 years to do so and I gave up my 20s for it. I choose to do this, yes. But if it keeps getting worse there aren’t going to be a lot of mes down the road.

        • JustADoc are you with a hospital or other group? Single practices do make more according to the latest from Medscape:

          I know one FedEx guy (moved to Boston) and another UPS guy (moved to Colorado). Seems the wife was in nursing and supported the family while they worked and went to school. So I don’t know who they’re getting the figures from. That being said, why isn’t there any investment groups for UPS & Fed Ex guys if they average out to the same earnings as a doctor? Google the following terms:
          physician income investment protection
          physician investment protection
          physician asset protection
          physician asset protection strategies

          Seems there is a lot more to keeping all that money when its been said that you all make less hourly than a teacher.

      • I am not sure how many times I can say the same thing, but here goes again:
        I make more this year than a UPS truck driver. I lived like a hermit thru my 20s and even early 30s.
        Most doctors work more hours(and trained for more hours) than teachers or UPS drivers. If one works more hours they make more money. If the math is too complicated for you than I really don’t know what else to say.

        • Then why the main post that teachers make more than doctors?

          Really, overall, there are more 1% in pre med than anything else. Its a lucrative career. Please stop trying to tell people it isn’t. CEO’s don’t live in my neighborhood and neither do doctors. It was a doctor who got in trouble with zoning in my area for wanting to build a 7000 + sq. foot home. You got any teachers like that? As in non admin because this doctor is not a MD/PhD and he’s not a cardiologist, in plastics or orthopedics.

  6. “And if they do, I am not aware of them having $20K-$100K malpractice premiums.”

    Who does? I thought we were talking about averages? The average family practitioner does not pay even $20K in malpractice premiums. The highest average is going to be OB/GYNs, who are still under $50K. Of course, they also have a mean NET income of $242,000 according to most recent numbers.

    If we’re going to go with averages, let’s do that across the board.

  7. ” I lived like a hermit thru my 20s and even early 30s.”

    The average resident makes $50K a year. Must have been quite a hermitage.

    • As I put out in a previous post, my 2 star local medical school they make over $50K and the median income is 43108 for 2011 from the google search.

    • Debt is accruing interest at rate of $12000 a year during those 3-7 years. And that resident is working 80 hrs/week.

      • My sister makes in the early 30’s and has a 2 bedroom house, pays for a car payment too. Cable TV and cell phone. I bought my home making less than $50K a year. Another sister makes in the range of my sister and has a 3 bedroom ranch w/a 10 year old to pay for.

        If they are married in medical school, the spouse can help out, at least if they’re not MD also, they can. Even still that is over $100K a year where some can still be put down on the tuition.

    • I graduated medical school at 28. That covers most of my 20s, Matt, with zero or minimal income.(<$10K/year and most years $0)
      Straight traditional med students(High school, college in 4 years, medical school with no breaks) graduate at 26.

      • The law student who goes straight through school graduates at 25. Doesn’t make that much money their first few years of practice, and tops out at a lower salary roughly 1/3 less than that of a physician.

        I was on that track and I’ve got lots of teachers in my family. I wouldn’t even begin to argue they make the same as I do, even on an hourly basis.

  8. “But if it keeps getting worse there aren’t going to be a lot of mes down the road.”

    Eh, maybe, maybe not. Most developed countries pay physicians at least 20% less than we do and their per capita physician rates aren’t appreciably worse.

  9. I want to begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for doctors, who are called to save lives and relieve physical suffering every day. As the daughter of two healthcare professionals, I understand how pressurized the whole industry is, and just how many legal and financial hoops one must jump through in order to become a doctor, as you have noted in your article.

    However, I am also a former teacher, and this article’s tone and point bother me. Yes, doctors work very hard, very long hours every week (and I would argue that nurses do as well, having had several nurses in my family). I recently learned, also, that “on-call” time is “reimbursed” but not necessarily “paid” work (I don’t quite understand what that difference is, myself). But the reason I bring on-call time up (and I do have to admit ignorance on the financial particulars) is because teachers have quite a bit of job-related time spent per week that is unpaid, too–possibly comparable to doctors’ unpaid time.

    Grading papers, for instance, is done either before or after school (many times done at home, which cuts into family time); those papers _must_ be graded, and so we end up having to use non-school hours to do it. But teachers are not paid AT ALL for those grading hours, which, depending on the subject matter being taught, can range from 3 to 8 or more hours a day. (Many was the time I stayed up till well past 3:00 AM grading papers, having gotten home at 4:00 PM and having rested all of 30 minutes before getting right back to work!)

    We are also expected to be tutors outside of school hours (of course, that depends on whether the kid actually shows up and doesn’t leave you waiting for an hour), and this is done without extra pay unless the parents decide they want to pay us (which is rare). This does not count all the summer meetings (teachers do not get “summers off”), plus developmental conferences (which you usually have to pay for out of pocket), and paying for classroom supplies, again out of your own meager supply of money every month. Lastly, we also go through 4 to 6 years of schooling (some schools require you to have your Masters’, some don’t require it). This 4 to 6 years generally includes internship and student teaching (all unpaid), before we become official teachers, which leaves us mired in a similar quicksand of student debt (like many college graduates these days, unfortunately). And, inevitably, some of us will end up having medical bills on top of that debt because of extreme stress-related illnesses. (That’s the reason I’m a _former_ teacher.)

    I in no way want to belittle what doctors do, because I have benefited from the care of excellent doctors much of my life. But I have also benefited from great educators much of my life, too, and I felt that this article’s tone and point belittles what teachers do. I wanted to at least offer the other side of the issue. Teachers and doctors both perform extremely necessary functions in our modern society, and, as I have learned, there is quite a bit of ignorance about both jobs in the general public’s mind. Your article does present little-known facts about a doctor’s true pay, which I didn’t know before–but it came at the cost of downplaying teachers’ workloads (and work ethics) just because we get paid 3 cents more on average throughout our careers when all is calculated. Admittedly, this felt like a huge slap in the face considering all that I suffered during my teaching career, and all that many of my fellow teachers have suffered during theirs.

    Truly, to be a doctor OR a teacher is a noble calling, one that requires service-minded humility. The work is different and hard to compare, but both education and medicine are vitally important to society as we know it–after all, teachers depend on doctors to keep them functioning, and future doctors depend on teachers to teach them how to practice medicine. And both careers, as I think you and I have both proven, are often taken for granted and not fully understood by people who are not in these fields. It is a shame, then, that articles like this, which are meant to educate, end up becoming a measuring contest over financial reimbursement rather than discussing the powerful positive impact BOTH these jobs have on people’s lives.

    • Thank you. I sincerely appreciate the time you put into making such an eloquent response.

      It was not and is not my intent to belittle the tremendous impact that teachers have had on me, on my children, and on the leaders of this country. Family and close friends are teachers.
      When I look back at my life, I still have fond memories of all the wonderful life and learning experiences I have had with teachers and mentors from grade school through my residency training.

      See below.

  10. If you were offended by this post, good.
    You should be offended.
    I was playing devil’s advocate to some degree in some of my responses, but I was doing so to prove a point.

    Think for a moment.

    Why were you offended?

    Most likely it was because you felt that a group of people who are considered “well off” should not be defending their good fortune at the expense of another group of people who are generally considered to be less “well-off.”
    Or perhaps you felt that people don’t understand the hard work and dedication it took to become “well-off” and the amount of money that it costs to stay “well-off.”
    In either case, the cognitive dissonance doesn’t sit well with most people.

    In the comments, several people pointed to the opportunities and material possessions that doctors have as evidence that doctors as a group have it easier than everyone else. That appears to be a deeply entrenched belief in many people whose gross incomes do not match that of many physicians.

    When that belief is challenged, however, by a statement that intuitively does not make sense, emotions change.
    Envy becomes defensiveness and people look for factual data to support their positions while often ignoring factual data that does not support their decision.

    Robin’s response was so well put that I had to stop the discussion because she made the points I intended to show better than I could have made them myself.

    Robin said that it felt like a “slap in the face” to her when a teacher’s hard work is downplayed.
    It *should* feel like a slap in the face. When anyone’s hard work is downplayed, it feels like a slap in the face – including physicians. Imagine crumpling up a picture your child drew for you and telling your child that it “sucks”. Think about the emotions you felt if you have ever been accosted by a panhandler who became indignant and verbally abusive toward you when you wouldn’t give him a handout. Those are the types of feelings that occur when someone’s hard work is downplayed.
    Robin also noted that we often make these judgments without knowing all of the facts – “there is quite a bit of ignorance about both jobs in the general public’s mind.” Downplaying one’s hard work without knowing the facts about that work is like a slap in the face followed by a punch in the gut.

    When we let envy rule our emotions to the point that we don’t care about whether we are slapping others in the face, we start down a path that leads to universally bad outcomes. Wrath and mistrust on one side, apathy and anger on the other side. Both sides build up larger and larger walls of resentment because the other side doesn’t understand them. None of these feelings is conducive to building a deeper understanding or a better society.

    Teachers should earn much more money than they are paid. Family members and close friends of our family are teachers. I have argued for higher teacher salaries in front of our school board and have pictures in our local newspaper to prove it.
    Do I believe that some doctors earn too much money for the work that they perform? Absolutely. Do some doctors take advantage of the system? Absolutely. But the vast majority of physicians work long and demanding schedules their entire lives, have extraordinary expenses, and earn enough money to pay those expenses while living comfortably but not extravagantly. The average physician shouldn’t be vilified because of the actions of a few outliers.
    When we vilify a group of people because of their skin color, age, sexual orientation, or features other than their income, it is called discrimination and is universally decried as being inappropriate. Yet many people still feel it is entirely acceptable to belittle the “nerds,” the “brainiacs” and the “try-hards.”
    What is wrong with us?

    Matt asked what we should do if we believe the premise that doctors and teachers are similarly paid.
    My proposal: Don’t believe it. It may be true in some circumstances and it definitely is not true in other circumstances. The proposition itself is not the point.
    The point is that we need to avoid the rhetoric in the first place. There are going to be trolls and special interests that try to leverage your emotions for their benefit by making this claim and similar claims. Don’t let them.
    Educate yourself about the issues. Make informed decisions. Don’t vote with your emotions.

    When the government publishes only partial data about physician earnings, be smart enough to understand *why* it is selectively disclosing those data. Envy breeds mistrust, anger, and wrath. When those emotions are focused on one target, they are less likely to be focused upon other targets such as the national debt, foreign policy, and privacy issues. Remember, this is an election year.
    When you read a story about doctor incomes that doesn’t describe the investment that goes into earning that income and the expenses involved in maintaining that income, ask yourself who is publishing that story and whether they have anything to gain from publishing such emotionally charged and intentionally misleading data.

    You want to decry doctors who make millions of dollars abusing the system? I and most other physicians would stand by your side while you do so. But realize that a system which allows fraud to occur is a broken system and can be easily fixed … if those running the system actually wanted to fix it. They don’t.

    Envy is a powerful emotion. We can’t let envy’s powerful divisive force tear our country apart as it diverts our attention from the much larger issues in our society.

    I encourage you all to read this timely article from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution titled “The United States of Envy.”

    This issue is something that transcends the “apple a day” paradigm.

    • Well put. As I said in an earlier post, I am a teacher and my brother is a surgeon. I’ve been sitting at a family get-together with him when he’s “on call” and he has to get up and leave to attend to a patient. My schedule is basically set and relatively predictable. His can be unpredictable. I don’t have to deal with “blood and guts” or having to give a family bad news. I don’t often have to miss my sons’ football games or theater performances; he does. I can accept getting paid less for that. I work hard as does he, but I’m not required to put in the long hours and I set my own schedule. His is set by the needs of his patients to a large extent. Neither my field nor his is completely controlled by “the market.” If they were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Unfortunately, things seem to be moving in exactly the other direction, and so I anticipate that these arguments will become more numerous as “the market” has an ever- decreasing role in setting the price for the exchange of goods and services.

      • So with all the complaints on money and what they earn, how do you think the medical profession is viewed when they make mistakes and aren’t complaining about getting that fixed or blaming the patient or the system or something?

        “Misdiagnosis is clearly a serious problem for the health care field,”

        Work for healthcare IT. They don’t care if you miss your kids’ football game and could care less about paying you more.

      • So everyone who will miss their kids’ games, etc. should get paid more? How about secretaries and others who end up having to work late? The people in the doctors’ offices who have to because docs are running behind? Billing people who work weekends for hospitals do it but they get a pittance for what they do.

        IT works all sorts of times and I’ve seen this, we don’t demand that they get paid extra just because I’m going to miss my kids’ game. Getting called out is part and parcel of the job.

      • People that work long hours do get paid more. If you are not getting paid for after hours, then your employer is probably not following the law; that’s a side issue. I am not advocating that doctors should or should not get paid more; I am saying that if you work long hours, you make more money than people that don’t work long hours, in this case, teachers. I think pay should be determined strictly by the economic forces of supply and demand. It currently is not in either of these two areas. Licensing artificially restricts supply in the medical field, and in my field, education is funded primarily by the governments of the states and the federal government.

    • Well working in “IT Healthcare” I’m sure you know all about being a doctor correct? Lol. If you really want to learn about errors, I suggest you read some of Lucien Leape’s work (one of the authors of “to err is human”, try googling him as an “IT guy” I’m sure you know how to do that) . One of his big conclusions is “systems errors” in medicine. But by all means play the blame game even though your field is part of the problem due to the idiot rush into EMRs with hITECH; even though there are many EMR products out there that are nothing but crap. Ask any nurse or doc about how the hospital functions when the EMR goes down. Ever heard of an EMR “clean kill”?
      Ps: by the way, when we call the software guys after hours they get paid handsomely for it.

      • Working in IT healthcare or any IT field, it means I know how to get to & query medical databases like UpToDate and catch doctors when they aren’t “up to date”. On more than on occasions. I’ve had some docs agree I hit the nail on the head for a diagnosis. You see some of us have a medical background that we don’t advertise on here. It shows how the medical community thinks that only they can get it right. With the advent of the internet, and access to their knowledge, that’s no longer true. Even if reproductive endocrinology was what I started out in.

        I’ve read enough to know and experienced with other people how the attitude in medicine is such that it causes more harm than good.

        EMR’s can be used for good, carping about it instead of fixing the problem won’t do any good. Sort of like justifying a raise when 20-30% of the diagnoses or wrong, or … what the latest? 5% of millions of diagnoses wrong. Attitudes are like flat tires, you can’t go anywhere until you change them.

        As for pay, we don’t get paid for after hours. Part of the job. No one else I know in this area either. They actually told a group of IT working for one of the major hospitals they were moving. Either uproot your family, etc. and keep your job or bye bye.

  11. “Teachers should earn much more money than they are paid.”

    Why? Teachers are paid what the market will bear.

    ” if those running the system actually wanted to fix it. They don’t.”

    Who we talking about? I’ve got a pitchfork.

    I do agree with your last post. I hope you engage in such a reasoned examination of the issues when you look at other subjects.

    • No, I am not carrying the argument that far. I am not suggesting that they should or should not get paid more. I am merely stating that I understand why they earn a lot of money; they work long hours. If you work longer hours, you make more money (and this is generally true whether you are a secretary, doctor, or whatever). Doctors tend to work longer hours than teachers, and so the fact that they make more money is no big surprise to me. My brother gets the nice sky trips to Colorado. I get the Warren Miller video so I can dream about such a trip. I can live with that. I work less hours and I therefore take home less money. The discussions and endless comparisons will always be an issue so long as the true market forces of supply and demand are not real determinants of how much an individual is paid in exchange for a given service. Neither doctors’ pay nor teachers’ pay is currently determined by market forces.

  12. Just came out today:

    How Physicians Can Foster Smart Money Skills in their Children

    Blog | April 21, 2014 | Finance, Healthcare Careers, Work/Life Balance
    By Steven Podnos, MD, CFP

    One of the most vexing questions I get from the medical families I counsel is the proper way to educate their children about money. Many physicians struggle with raising their own children in a more affluent environment than the one in which they personally grew up.

  13. So much wrong with this comparison. Basically, they’re saying that doctors work many more hours than teachers, which is sort of a p!ssing contest because there are many professions in which people work really long hours.

    In terms of the basic math though, a few obvious flaws. For one, why do teachers get pensions? Aside from the power of unions, it’s because they generally haven’t made enough during their working life to build a big nest egg for retirement. How do doctors survive without pensions? The power of compounding interest. They’ve been investing for decades at the time of retirement. Pensions shouldn’t be figured into lifetime income if investment income is not considered as well.

    Also, when calculating hourly wages gross income amounts should be used, not net.

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