Once upon a time, when I was still in junior high school, I aspired to be a doctor.  Why?  For all the wrong reasons.  First, because my parents wanted me to be one, and second because it was a profession that made a lot of money.  Fortunately, after doing some research in high school about what’s required to be a doctor, I realized that being a doctor is not about the money, it’s about the passion for practicing medicine.

It takes real commitment to be a physician.  To become a specialist, it takes at least a decade of training/education, long hours, low pay, and a large amount of loans (for some) to finally make it to the big leagues.  Even once you’ve graduated, most specialties require long hours along with periodically being on call.

Back to the topic at hand, doctor salaries.  When most of you think about doctor salaries, most think that they are paid like rock stars.  There are some numbers thrown around like some make $500,000/year and more, which is true for some, but not for all.  While the initial figures are high, doctors have to pay a rather large overhead fee which doesn’t include income tax.  This overhead fee includes insurance coverage, a provincial government fee and other misc expenses.

Below is a table that is a bit dated (2005), but includes the average salaries of various doctor specialties in Canada.  I added a third column to the original table to include the overhead as a percentage of their salary.

Gross and net earnings rose in 2005
Gross Net Overhead
Dermatologists $360,000 $240,000 33.0%
Internists $310,000 $200,000 35.5%
Ob/gyns $320,000 $195,000 40.4%
Pediatricians $250,000 $160,000 36.0%
Psychiatrists $190.000 $160.000 15.8%
GPs $260,000 $155,000 40.4%

As you can see from the table, the average doctor pays around 35% of their salary to overhead fees.  What’s left over is then taxed at the highest income tax rate.  Mind you, making a $155,000+ salary (in 2005) is pretty darn good, but for the work and time commitment that doctors put in, they deserve more.

Back to you, was your impression that doctors make more than they actually do?

Any doctor readers out there?  Have doctor salaries increased much since 2005?

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  1. C'est What! on October 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Take Daniel’s opinion seriously… that post will have costed him roughly $500 in earning potential… haha.

  2. Pickles on October 28, 2011 at 1:25 am

    I have read some of these comments, and found them to be obscenely naive.

    Do you ever wonder why North American doctors (the U.S. especially) have such high salaries?

    Doctors in Japan earn about 1/3 less than American doctors on average ($15,000 a month for Americans), have longer work hours, and arguably the same quality of education. And what about a doctor from an undeveloped nation, like Kenya? Forget about it.

    So what’s the secret to the success of American doctors? Let’s just say, that it’s a kind of safety net. The creation of organizations, such as the American Medical Association, ensure that doctors will always be a profession in demand, and that it will entail lucrative pay.

    Have you ever wondered why there always seems to be a shortage of doctors? It’s not from the lack of people interested in medicine, it’s simply a limit created by the AMA to always keep doctors in high demand. And the less doctors, the more likely people are to have some affliction. And bottlenecking an essential service is the best business tactic one can use- but definitely not for the customer.

    But how do they set the limit? That’s easy- they make everything hard. Medicine inherently is not an attractive career option- not very many people have the commitment, dedication, or passion for such a calling. That’s when they have to sell M.Ds, by creating strict admission guidelines, expensive tuition costs, and limited seating for medical schools. Things like the mcat are introduced to add further pressure to would-be applicants, and more coin for the organisation’s wallets. Application is an expensive process! Suddenly, medicine becomes prestigious. The debt is only a temporary issue- as soon as a newly-licensed doctor starts to roll in the big bucks, their debt is slowly cleared. It’s like a wholesome pyramid scheme!

    Most other countries, by comparison, treat medicine as a trade, and not as an elite position of which you can have incredible influence. No, just another cog in the health care machine. And that is the blunt reality of medicine- being a doctor is a kind of trade, you apply contemporary science to find a practical solution to a person’s problem. Theorizing and solving mysteries is left to the drawing board. Isn’t it funny how people who were doctors in other countries end up driving taxi cabs in North America? Do you think that the AMA hands out licenses by the bundle, just to solve the doctor shortage issue in America? Fat chance. The situation isn’t going to get better, the amount of doctors are only increased to reflect population changes, nothing more.

    Add to that, the intimate relationships with the pharmaceutical companies, and other questionable industry, and you’ve got a match made in corporate heaven. Doctors get all sorts of neat things from these companies, only if they play by their rules. And they can only play by their rules, otherwise, the doctor’s licenses go through the shredder and they are out on the street with nothing but their stethoscopes. Drug safety, ethics… Who cares, when it comes to money.

    So what do we do about this? I’m not sure, I’m afraid. It’s clear that the doctor shortage isn’t going away anytime soon. To people who hope to get into medical school, but probably aren’t in the best situation now: slow down. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with becoming a doctor, and going in head first will make you another brick in the wall. There is so much to consider, that we must take a cautious approach to such things.

    As to the issue of doctor salaries… Let’s just say I’ve never heard of a doctor who has up to their neck in debt, unless they were really bad doctors. There is always more money available for doctors- such as becoming a shill for a drug company or some ‘health’ product.

    Without the high prestige we have for doctors, they wouldn’t earn as much. I’m sure doctors deserve quite a bit of compensation for their work and sacrifice. But in this case, I doubt the Hippocratic oath would condone making money at the expense of others.

  3. GT3 RS on November 22, 2011 at 1:21 am

    25 yr old high end restaurant owner. Apprx. 100hrs week.

    I see professional day in and day out. I respect all those who genuinely love their job. They attend several seminars to further their education in my establishment and most genuinely work around the same hours as I do. They deserve every penny they make and then some especially seeing and hearing their stories on a daily basis.

    The only issue I have with several doctors is that they are generally socially challenged for the most part. Luckily most of them are specialist and have very little need to talk to people thankfully. But A family doctor with no people skills deserves 10$ after tax.

    As far as restaurant business income, it’s high to say the least, assuming your not 1 of the thousands that fail day in and day out for those who think it’s easy.

    Do what you love in the end. I respect all those who do. But those working for the public who are unable to have a “human” conversation should not be doctors just because they can regurgitate useless undergrad information just as I did for Biology for 4 years or university.

  4. Herniated on November 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I just wanted to add that I think Pickles is quite right as to why physicians are overpaid in this country. It is a tight linked organization that protects it’s interests well. And that interest is not the public health. There are many major overhauls that would be needed to have a society actually based on people’s well being. And making physicians a job like any other rather than a position of prestige and power would be one of them.

    In the meantime, I have this society to thank for the 700k I inherited from my dead mothers assets and life insurance, at the age of 28. Making my valuation at the time 800k. Since then I have grown it to 1.1 million and have just turned 31. I have roughly 1.7M in rental property with .75M in mortgages. And 200K in stock with 35k on margin, with the debt being in USD of course, exchanged at 1.05125 USD/CAD. I made 60k off my investments last year (I don’t work), and paid 2k in taxes using depreciation on my properties. I spend less than 15k a year. And that includes my car payments which is for the business and thus a write off. In fact I try to spend less than that, choosing to live at relatives who charge me low rent or going as far as not heating when I stay in apartments that I rent. And try to invest 5k a month after paying off my mortgages. In order to grow my earnings by 10% a year when you include rental increases. Money has not given me happiness and never will. I live this life which I am not really proud of in order to achieve my ultimate goal. Which is to have a profound impact on the world. I would not trade my million to be a doctor, even if I know such an investment would be financial wise. Sometimes I envy the prestige, salary they make, and mostly the possibility of having both while saving/helping lives. However, I do not believe doctors help people at all. And in fact, partly because of their high salary, and partly because they have a direct interest in playing along with a band-aid health care system, are on the problem causing side of the scale when it comes to human equality and well being, not on the solution side.

  5. Herniated on November 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    My first post was unsuccessful. Here is what I recall saying:

    I believe physicians are greatly overpaid. Much like the new crime bill can be compared to an expensive band-aid which tries, mostly unsuccessfully and often temporarily, to fix a problem. When a preventative approach would be much more cost efficient. Especially when the biggest contributors to crime, drug addiction and poverty, could be greatly reduced with a fraction of the budget the band-aid solution will cost. And the savings are even greater as you don’t throw members who could contribute to society in jail where they do nothing but cost us all money while rendering no services. That is without mentioning the human element which obviously makes inprisonment of individuals less attractive than investment in their well being. The same thing can be said about doctors and our health system. Rather than invest on prevention we prefer to pay greatly for a band-aid solution. And so, instead of investing in prevention and people’s well being as they develop. Which would gives us a healthy population. We prefer to spend enormous amounts of money on providing people with a few more years or some level of relief once the problem has occurred. And this, with the help of costly surgeries and drugs which have many detrimental side effects. When prevention has only one side effect, a higher level of well being. One only has the look at heart disease for proof of this phenomenon. The very fact that a case of malnutrition is considered a disease is very telling of our health care approach. This ‘disease’ has been a cash cow for health care for many years, when it’s prevention is simple. And when, for many years, the government has been a cause of this ‘disease’ through its subsidization of meat and dairy products.

    The truth is, just as a plumber has a undeniable interest in your plumbing having problems. So does a doctor have an interest in your health having problems. With 500k, one could make much greater impacts on peoples health by investing in their well being, than by paying one physician to deal with their ailments once they can no longer be prevented.

    I have met many incompetent doctors in my life as well as very good ones. I am both grateful towards them as I am displeased with some of them. My mother went to doctors for 1.5 years to determine the cause of her intense heart burn. Somehow her cancer was not detected until it had reached the liver and she had but a month to live. Truthfully, I am glad she was not subjected to the expensive treatments that may not have even given her a good quality of life. Some would say there is no price tag for any extra time but is it really worth hundred of thousands to extend someone’s life? Especially when this extension is often an agonizing one. Perhaps it is worth the cost, but it certainly does not compare to the preventative measures she could have taken. Which may have in fact been free and would have given her a higher quality of life. Namely, vegetarianism which would have immensely lowered her chances of having intestinal cancer in the first place.

  6. Herniated on December 1, 2011 at 10:14 am

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    IN RRSP:
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    All of the stocks in my taxable portfolio pay dividends, or at least did when I bought them. As you can see, I take risky bets in my RRSP, which I will no longer contribute to as my tax rate is too low. I will just bank more contribution space for later. I search for stocks that are selling under book value without counting goodwill, and have very little debt, for my TFSA. I think it’s more important not to repeat mistakes than focus on victories in investing. Regrets: YLO: Never tell yourself ‘bah its just 1k’ and buy something you know is fishy. CTU.A and 3330: Why I decided to buy retail in a quasy recession, I will never understand. Av., DL, SL. and SLF: Although I don’t think these are that bad. It does seem that insurance companies are presently having a hard time generating enough investment return. However long term elements, namely extended life expectancy still makes them attractive in the long term. CSGN: Never buy simply to diversify. I knew I should have just bought more ROG to increase my Swiss dividends. Which BTW are subjected the worst withholding tax, 25% I believe maybe 20%. The others are 15% for my Dutch and US holdings. 0% for Hong Kong. And Canadian dividends actually lower my income tax by 3% of every dollar earned. I will no longer invest in other currencies, except in Hong Kong and perhaps dividend reinvestment. Not until my Canadian dividend income has reached at least 38k a year or the amount where under dividends are actually tax negative. This current portfolio produces over 8k in dividends a year (hard to know exactly how much since I keep adding and the companies increase.and decrease dividends) and costs me 500 USD in interest. I do not care whatsoever about capital gains and almost never sell.

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  7. Herniated on December 1, 2011 at 10:21 am

    0% withholding tax for UK holdings as well. The edit comment button was not working for me.

  8. Chinstrap on December 1, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Update to the original Comment about Doctor’s Salaries Not as High as You Think:

    Spouse doctor received an email for medical work this Holiday Season. Rural towns within 3 hrs drive from Toronto offering shifts.. nothing new. One very interesting one was a Northern Ontario town offering a Minimum of $2800/day plus percent of billings.. for about a 10 day period over the Holidays. They pay for your flight (and pay work time when you fly) and also put you up for the time there. So for under 2 weeks the pay is probably $35,000+

  9. Julia on December 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Does anyone know the average debt that a medical school graduate has from loans?

  10. med student on December 11, 2011 at 3:15 am

    ~180-200 k (can go higher)

  11. The Dentist on December 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I have read the comments here. Some of which make no sense.

    Doctors and dentists have a very difficult job and can make a salary of between $150-up to $1m for the very best, which is good.

    However engineers may make $50-100k for an average engineer, but the best earn millions. Think cars, think Ford and Mercedes families. The patents on all the small inventions earn millions.

    Also, we all want to have the best healthcare. In order to attract some of the smartest people into medicine, lucrative salaries need to be offered. Sure, we will get doctors even if the salaries were mediocre, but I want my doctors that may one day save my life to be amongst the smartest people out there. Thats why pay needs to be high.

    If you want doctors to be average earners, they will be the ones with average grades. With my or my families life on the line, I’d rather have the smartest brains looking after us!

  12. victor on December 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    In Spain, an oncologist earns about 3.000 Euros net (hasn’t rised the salary for years), 37.5 hours/wk (plus 4 days/month working another 7 hours in the evening) in an Universitary hospital. I have a PhD, I am the tutor of residents, do research for free (most of time I have to do it at home because no time with the busy schedule) and 11 years experience after residence. I speak French and Italian quite well. I think we are the worst paid in the western countries. Do you find fair ?

  13. leona on December 21, 2011 at 11:41 am

    well at the clinic I go to, my card gets scanned but most of the time I am seen by an intern with a strong accent, someone from abroad trying to get their credentials in Canada, and one of these students told me she was not being paid a penny by the clinic. So my GP pockets the money for the visit and gets free labour from these students from abroad. A bit of a scheme I think.

    I have respect for specialists, but my GP seems to have nearly disgust for the human body, and doesn’t even take my blood pressure. If he has to be involved with touching the human body, the student doctor from abroad does it, or I get sent to a specialist.

  14. Financial Guy on December 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    My company has a significant number of physicians and clients. Most of those physicians we work with are specialists.
    In Ontario, it’s not as bad as it used to be in terms of professional income; however they certainly are not overpaid. Most people would not even have a remote chance of getting into medical school far less completing it.
    In addition, they are dealing with situations that could have life changing effects if they are wrong.
    They are underpaid.

  15. David on December 30, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Excellent thread and information. I would like to know of any doctors with arthritis. I am doing a second Bachelors to get in to medical school, but my ankylosing spondylitis is starting to get the better of me. I think that |I will need to reconsider my career choice as I imagine residency to involve much standing and walking.

  16. DOS Master on January 21, 2012 at 6:23 am

    Reading this message board makes me feel better about my situation. I only have a high school education, but make $140 per hour as a consultant. Yes I did read DOS when I was in grade 6 and I have always been good with computers and people. I never wake up earlier than 10am and only show up to work once a week. Doctor’s have such a hard life, boo hoo.

  17. SOmeone on January 24, 2012 at 12:55 am

    I believe salaries depend more perhaps on the person and their situation in general that decide how much they earn.

    Also, Ontario Physician and Ontario Engineer; its spelled divine….

  18. Radiology is NOT a crutch on February 20, 2012 at 10:51 am

    At 33, my wife was earning 680K+ per year as a Radiologist in Canada. Her SALARY was 150k. Any Dr. earning more than 400K will incorporate to tax shield their earnings, and then claim (on their T1) a very LOW salary. This fact has not been taken into account. Your numbers are skewed because most Drs. making 400K+ will incorporate (if allowed) and then shield their earnings for later in life. (BTW, no pension, medical, etc means that you need to worry about your own old age, and this shielding of income is necessary).

    Typical scenario (I’ve seen this ***countless times***):

    2AM call from ER: 85+ patient with lower back pain. CT or MRI requested. 19 year old unresponsive (ghee, drunk maybe?). CT head/neck requested. And it goes on. The number of Drs not willing to do the most basic diagnosis is staggering. Imaging is the new Grey’s Anatomy. Many GPs are so poorly trained (or so busy) that they just blindly request imaging for almost anything. It is mind boggling. WHY, WHY is an MRI or CT being requested for ANYONE over the age of 80? It is absolutely insane!!! The patient won’t survive any surgery, and so what is the purpose? Expensive drugs to do what? Sigh.

    Cost to tax payers? A LOT. Fee-for-service is responsible for some very high salaries in Canada, not self referral.

    The truth is the following: my wife makes $0 (yep, identically ZERO. Yes, no salary, ZERO) unless someone requests imaging. Period. If she bills 1M per year, you had better look at the physicians doing the reqs, not the Drs doing **all** of the diagnosis.

  19. Pac on March 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    ^^^ Yes, well this is the trick isn’t it. The several physicians in my neighborhood are taking in $400-600K, a number of them have less than 5% overhead as they do work with hospitals and don’t have a private clinic, and their take home salaries are in the range of $120-150K.

    So that’s somewhere in the range of $250-450K a year not getting reported as salary, that can be invested, be called on later etc… Add to that that holidays can be tagged onto conferences and “educational” travel, some vehicle expenses can be written to the company etc… (also known as “overhead”), that even the crappiest doctors can bill these amounts and stand no possibility of losing their jobs, and it is the sweetest, least risky way to get wealthy in Canada

  20. Am I ready for Med School on March 30, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I just spend 6 hours reading every comments on this page word for word and I would like to thank everyone for bringing an up front discussion to clear doubts in many head I would believe.

    @Chinstrap, if you don’t mind me asking and willing to help, I am turning 27 in about 2 months and I majored in Molecular Biochemistry, with Master in Immunology. Now I am trying to apply for med school and I will not give up until I get there. I am not a big spender, I will not spend my money toward fancy cars or house but just to make a living as my primary goal is to get my MD and being able to help as many people as I could. My girlfriend and I are engaged and we will marry soon, expecting little ones to pop out in the following years; however, as a Med Student, my ability to make a living is nearly zero and we understand we would have to cut down our expenses to get there. So my question is, at what age did your wife become a doctor? Would she be able to make it if the household income is under $80k / year? I just need to know this before I start med school as I rather save up and go for it than be forced to drop out due to financial issues. Thanks in advance for your respond and I do appreciate your time for helping me out :D

  21. Chinstrap on March 30, 2012 at 10:28 am

    @ Am I ready for Med School

    Cool, so you did graduate work in immunology like my wife. As a med student the banks will shower you with credit lines. It was $150,000 professional degree (MD, dentist, etc) credit line which I hear is not $175,000 as banks like to get docs indebted to them years before they earn a cent. You can use this to carry you over or help pay tuition. I paid for my wife’s $20,000 tuition and it was even worse b/c I was working she didn’t qualify for OSAP and a lot of free money for ‘in need’ students. In the USA I am sure there are tons of scholarships for people who just deserve an aware w/o being poor… anyway,

    In the fourth year of med school, my wife’s school gave clerks $500 a month b/c they are actually on the floor doing work. When you become a resident you get a salary: around $550000 or $60000 depending on province and it slowly goes up. Oh ya, she became a doctor last summer at 33 after doing a 2 year residency. She is taking an extra year of training in Emerg. but she is fully qualified and has been doing locums in town and out of town.

    I don’t understand the $80k question exactly but when she was in school I was making $100k+ (but in Toronto which is not a lot) to help pay for her tuition and we didn’t take on ‘bad’ debt. Lots of her younger students didn’t have paying spouses and they make out.

    I would recommend saving up and then modestly using your credit lines and also get lots of awards. Don’t get married in your first year or two b/c then if your wife works you won’t qualify for most of the good paying scholarships.. again b/c the main cut off is does this person qualify for OSAP and then if so then they open up the awards to you.

  22. Med Onc In Canada on May 5, 2012 at 8:48 am

    As a recently graduated specialist, I am 4 months into my first (and hopefully last) dream job, and thus feel I am qualified to offer some comments on this subject. I will preface this by acknowledging that I am one of the fortunate physicians that ended up practicing in their number 1 choice, albeit not my number 1 location (although that is changing)

    A bit of background:

    First of all when I graduated from high school, medicine wasn’t even a consideration. Like everyone else in my med class I graduated with the Governor General’s Bronze (top marks) in a graduating class of >500 students. I chose engineering and excelled completing the first year (in which 30% fail) with the second highest average. I contemplated a career in biomedical engineering (via mechanical engineering) and ultimately decided that I didn’t want to spend my life behind a computer screen and wanted some personal patient interaction, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I also wanted to play with latest gadgets not design them. I’m not arguing which profession is more noble here, just stating the obvious fact that I had a choice between engineering and medicine and chose medicine.
    It wasn’t an ecconomical decision.

    For all the engineers out there who think doctors make too much money, first off I have a tremendous amount of respect for your profession. Are differential equations more mentally stimulating than regurgitating material for exams. Absolutely, which is why I transferred to science (pharmacology) to boost my entrance grades (one year was perfect, the others near perfect). I had to take some courses out of order (prereqs waived) but didn’t lose any years graduating in 4 years. And yes getting perfect grades in chemistry,biology,physics,organic chem,english (the medicine prereqs and MCAT subject material) is a lot easier than higher level biomedical engineering courses which I took for fun.

    Med school 4 years, 3 years internal med, 2 subspecialty, means I am prob the youngest med onc in Canada at age 31. No masters, no PhD, no post subspecialty fellowship. But I have a 1 year old and another one on the way and there are more important things in life (like spending time with your family) and I chose these over an accademic career. Will I be the the most respected expert in my field – not a chance. Do I have scintillating clinical dilemmas to solve each day in a rewarding field of medicine – absolutely. And tell me what area of medicine is more gratifying than watching cancer shrink away with treatment before your eyes. Balance that with the rapid deterioration seen refractory disease. Does it make you cherish the simple moments shared whith your children? Absolutely. And as much as I went into medicine with all the right reasons and love my job, I live for my wife, son and son/daughter to be.
    Fortunately I have one of the rare positions in medicine where I work 8-5, have weekends free and don’t do call. Oh and I’m an employee, with no major overhead (the usual CMPA/proffesional/association fees but some of that is reimbursed) and yes I do have benefits including a pension.

    So let’s look at the economical perspective. I make ~250k/year which is more than my engineering buddies. For perspective consider this: my brother who is an engineer thinks I make too much money, while my brother-in-law who is also an engineer thinks I’m underpaid. I graduated with ~130k debt which is good considering tuition was ~70k and living in downtown toronto is not cheap, and marrying an Arts student didn’t help from an income perspective. The 40k I started making as a resident (paying my dues ~110h/wk = 120,000km. Have a nice house and will pay it off as well as my other debts over the next 8-10 years. Net worth at age 31 = -140,000 with debts to service. I make a comfortable salary and am happy with this. Remember I didn’t go into medicine for the money.

    Would I have been better off economically to stay in Engineering? Probably. My brother-in-law is two years younger than me, and at age 29 earns ~150k with good job security and benefits including stock options working the same hours. oh and he’s been working since 4 years post grade 12 not 13.5 years later. Net worth: ??? But he’ll definitely have a net worth = 1million long before me.

    Another consideration which nobody seemed to comment on: for every physician making > 1 million / year there is another making < 100,000. I have a tremendous respect for family physicians. They have to deal with people like (see multiple posts above for examples) with vague headaches and tummy complaints all day long and still be alert and prepared for dealing with a Zebra when it walks into the office. Yet we undervalue them as Canadians. Even within my specialty of internal medicine there is a huge discrepency between the renumeration between infectious disease/geriatrics at the low end and nephro/cardio/gi at the other end. The disparity between physicians is much greater than the take home pay of a hard working full time physician in a lower renumerated discipline.

  23. ken on May 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    When you consider what hockey players make per year, physician’s pay seems very reasonable.

    As for foreign doctors, do you really want someone from the third world operating on your eyes without extensive retraining?

    Doctors work hard, and specialist’s Ferraris sit in the garage because they never have time to drive them. Never, ever judge another’s pay unless you walk in their shoes….I would not want to be a physician (or a nurse).

  24. Likes Teeth on September 19, 2012 at 12:39 am

    The dollar breakdown is heartbreaking, the personal toll is worse.

    Cost = $88,000 dollars -4 years tuition and living expenses for an Undergraduate degree at a respectable University, achieving marks sufficient for entrance into Medical School : (this could vary greatly depending on circumstance – but let us consider: 6,000 / year tuition, 16,000 / year living expenses)
    Cost = $2,000 – MCAT prep + write, applications, travel, interviews
    Cost = $132,000 – 4 years Medical school tuition, plus living expenses similar to undergrad.
    Cost = $8,000 – Interviews, electives, prep – (ie: travel is pretty expensive) for entrance into residency program.

    This adds to: $250,000, living very modestly during formative training.

    That means, a newly minted resident doctor is $250,000 dollars in debt before they ever start earning – wait for it… a single dollar.

    If the doctor’s brother was a tradesperson, working in a resource rich community (ie: fort mac, or in the gaslands) – it is not unreasonable for him to make – 80,000 dollars a year as an apprentice, and more even with seniority… (300k as an electrician is not unthinkable, albeit – he would be working hours like a busy doc) – then it is feasible that the tradesman could have made 1 million dollars in the time it took his brother to get his MD and go 250,000 dollars into debt.

    Tradesman after 8 years @ 120,000 (this is not an unreasonable mean) = 960,000 dollars
    Doctor in training up to residency after 8 years : (-) 250,000 dollars

    Residency typically pays 50,000 dollars the first year, and increases by 4,000 dollars per year. Therefore in the subsequent 5 years, the doctor will make 310,000 thousand dollars, while his brother will make 600,000.

    After 13 years, it is possible that the resident now turned physician will finally start making some decent money. At this point, assuming he paid no interest on his loans (not likely) – he might have been able to live off of 60,000 dollars over the 5 years (that is to say, 12,000 dollars a year). If he lived poorer than he did during training, then this is a possibility. Assuming he is therefore no longer in debt, compared to his brother:

    :::::::::::::::::::::::13 years worth of effort:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
    Tradesman: 1.46 million dollars grossed.
    Physician: 0 dollars grossed.

    Certainly – these numbers are open to some interpretation, but you can see that for the doctor – the personal sacrifice – 13 years worth of living as a poor student on 16,000 dollars (likely less) annually – is significant. There is virtually no way that he could afford to start a family, buy a house, drive a nice car, or spend extras on holidays, getting married, or helping his loved ones.

    He is not only nearly 1.5 million dollars behind his brother financially, but 13 years behind him regarding those important things that this forum treats as tertiary adjuncts.

    There are a lot of ifs for the doctor on his journey. Good marks, good extra curricular activity, community leadership, advocacy, research. There is only so many hours in a day, and the doctor is expected to sleep for some of them. Getting accepted to the program(s) is a waiting game full of ifs. Sleeping is iffy. Social life is non-existant.

    I personally do not think doctors are remunerated to a degree which reflects the years of personal sacrifice they undertake to be generally mistreated by ill-informed pundits who have a cold and think doctors make too much money. Whatever our doctor ends up earning – it will take at least a while to catch up to his brother, with 4 kids, a house that is almost paid off, a few motorcycles, a nice truck, and yearly vacations that have turned his eyes into wistful gems as he regales you with interesting stories from his travels.

    Do yourself a favour, and learn how to be valuable in a trade.

  25. Chinstrap on September 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Likes Teeth has made a clear, although biased, case that being in trades is better and more lucrative than being an MD. The cost of being an MD has been exaggerated while minimized for being in the trades. For every trade making a killing in Fort Mac( who wants to live there anyway?), there are also trades who make $30/hr and struggle to get business.

    You have forgotten that trades can take 5 years to qualify for hours. A friend just started his electrician training and has been on the bench waiting for the union to call him up.

    The original point in the article is about MD being underpaid. My spouse is now starting as an ER doc in the GTA so we know what the pay is and it’s more than $250k/year.

  26. PhysicsProf on September 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Wow. great posts. Bottom line is depends on where you live. Where we are (Canada) my wife pulls in over 800K per year, and that is with time off and nice vacations. Her colleague pulled in over 1million last year. They are both Radiologists. It’s fee for service, and since most drs look at imaging as “the norm”, there is no shortage of business. In Ontario, it is the norm to pull in well over 400K as a radiologist. I know this as a fact since my wife was offered a job in Hamilton, and that is the going average salary there.

  27. PhysicsProf on September 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I should mention that if you work less, you make less. My numbers above involve 16 hour days, and a lot of clinics. Her attitude is freedom 45. Work hard now, and then retire early. When she finished residency, she was already pulling in over 200K from day one. We are not in Ontario now, and the figures I mentioned are quite specific to our region. BTW, cost of living here is nothing like Alberta or BC – our home cost less than 300K, and it’s a 4000 sq ft home

  28. PhysicsProf on September 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    So……even if a trades person makes 1.46 million over 13 years, my wife has destroyed that figure in under 3 years. Not everyone can be a dr, or a specialist, and yes, some make less than others. However, for us, all of those years in school have paid massive dividends. We paid off our house in cash (no mortgage), have over 2 million in savings, and our kids education is already paid for. To each his/her own, but remember, just as in the trades, not everyone is going to get rich.

    We are very fortunate, and very grateful for what we have. What we should all (as a society) be looking at are athletes that pull in 7 figure salaries, and no one even bats an eye lash.

  29. PhysicsProf on September 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    ….sure, while you are in school, you make less than a person, say in the trades. However, even as a resident, you are making half decent coin (so, ignore that whole $0 over 13 years nonsense). If in less than 3 years you can make what took someone 13 years to earn, who is the better off? It’s not a competition, but if you are going to start quoting figures, then at least be aware of the facts. Fact, out debt was under 40K. Fact, it is possible to make over 1 million per year as a specialist. Fact. Paying your mortgage off in 2 years is totally reasonable (unless you’re an idiot and buy what you can’t afford). Fact. Trades etc are great, but you can easily out-earn these jobs within a few years if you go into the right field. Is money the objective? No. However, don’t be fooled. Drs make a lot of money, and if they don’t, they have very comfortable lifestyles, and dictate their own hours.

  30. PhysicsProf on September 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Oh, and that whole “incorporation of drs” was spot on. My wife “earns” 120K per year as far as ccra knows. The rest? In her business taxed at 16%. I suspect that a very large portion of the facts/figures don’t take into account that what a dr claims on their T1 is not what they actually bill. In our case, 800K+ per year (excluding my salary), but taxed at 120K per year. We are under 40, have over 2 million in cash in the bank , and don’t regret a thing. Our kids can go to any school they wish, and if it took 13 years to get there, who cares? Not everyone is the same, but to say that drs make little $$ is very misleading. If you work in a rural area, cost of living etc normalises things to a great degree. Also, banks line up to offer us cash. Trades? Lots of forms and justification for your loan. Sorry to rant and sound so bitter, but drs work hard, and deservedly get paid a lot.

  31. Chinstrap on September 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I think this recent rejig in Ontario with the gov’t adjusting fees has lowered Radiologists billing ability. I haven’t looked into things but I know some specialists were adjusted up and some down.. It seems like you are out of Ontario now so it doesn’t matter.

    Regarding the $800k, wow she must be working her butt off as that’s really high. As my spouse is just starting out in ER and it’s started trickling in now. We’re thinking she could do $350k and still have a nice lifestyle (vs. on call specialists) which is nice after the schooling and her tuition.

  32. Chinstrap on September 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    That’s a great point about incorporating. We need to look into that for next year as that will be my spouse’s first full year as a doc. When we chat with the accountant/lawyer’s about this we will get the full picture. I guess the thing is the money is kept inside the corp? Then you use that money to buy your house, invest in stocks, etc?

  33. SST on September 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    @Prof: “They are both Radiologists. It’s fee for service, and since most drs look at imaging as “the norm”, there is no shortage of business.”

    “As many as 30% of diagnostic imaging procedures are deemed inappropriate or contribute no useful information.”

    Self-supporting system, I guess.

    And just imagine if we were all high-paid doctors…
    The one and only plumber/mechanic would make 100 times any of them.

  34. uptoolate on November 29, 2012 at 2:24 am

    Figures on doctors’ incomes are from gross billings not their reported income on personal tax returns. The numbers are before overhead, malpractice, professional organization dues or any other costs come off. Most doctors employ at least 2 additional individuals. Incorporation does work for those doctors who have excess income after expenses as a way of deferring taxes but eventually taxes have to be paid. There is no free lunch. Do people really think that the government would let someone pay the small business corporate tax rate and then let them take the money out later with no additional tax owing? Incorporation is a tax deferral tool that itself costs several thousand dollars a year to set up and according to the OMA is only useful to doctors with 70k+ in excess earnings over what it costs them to live. Many doctors aren’t able to take advantage of incorporation because they either don’t have a high enough net income or do but get caught up in a lifestyle that forces them to spend too much money on the personal side.

    Also, I don’t think the income of radiologists represents the reality for almost all other doctors. They work in an environment where they often have many people doing work for them but to whom they don’t have to pay salaries. Overheads are very low or zero and patient volumes are very, very high.

    Many current medical students are running up debts for school in the 200k range after undergrad and medical school. Residents are not paid enough to get out from under this debt before finishing their 3-8 year postgraduate training. I would say that the estimate made above about $0 net income for 13 years is the reality for many if not most medical trainees these days.

  35. UndergradMedHopeful on March 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Very interesting article. I’ve been spending about 3 hours reading through it and I found a lot of useful information (the arguments between engineers and doctors were irrelevant in my opinion). I’m an undergraduate student approaching the end of my first year, about to decide what to specialize/major/minor in. This article could really help an undergraduate student, or any student wishing to pursue a career in medicine, since it offers information regarding the type of lifestyle and path to a medical career through the viewpoints of many different knowledgeable people. After reading this article I know that I still want to become a Medical Doctor and have reinforced my confidence in knowing I am following in the right path. However unfortunately my marks have not been stellar first year, so I’m concerned about my chances of getting into a Canadian medical school and have begun considering international medical schools (i.e. in the U.S. or Caribbean). Can anyone shed some light on one’s actual contingency of practicing as a physician in Canada if a degree is earned internationally? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  36. SST on March 15, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I know of a person who is going to med school somewhere in the Caribbean. Same level/quality of education, but I believe it is one year less of schooling than US/Canadian unis.

    A recent development from the government of British Columbia which offers a $100,000 signing bonus for a 3-year contract to practice in a rural setting.

    Something to think about.

  37. Danielle on March 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

    SST: while a $100k bonus is great many people forget about the taxes associated with it. I have a friend (not a doctor) who got a $100k bonus as part of his companies annual bonus program. This equalled his salary per year. He was ecstatic at first but then got the actual payment and was disappointed to see it was about half that amount. I didn’t ask the exact number but he was disappointed.

    Don’t get me wrong, a $100k bonus is awesome, but anyone who gets that definitely won’t take home anywhere near that original amount.

  38. SST on March 16, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    As far as I understand, it’s $100k paid in two parts, book-ending the 3-year contract.

    I’m sure there are a few creative ways to drastically reduce taxes on that sum.

    Perhaps a mental shift is in order for people who are “disappointed” at receiving tens of thousands of dollars in ‘bonus’ money instead of a hundred thousand. :)

  39. Chinstrap on March 17, 2013 at 11:13 pm


    Marks are important but you should check very carefully what each Cdn med school allows, etc. For example, some may only look at your top 3 years, allow you to throw away a year and some may allow you to retake some courses (take bird courses) to bump up your grades. For example when my wife was applying UWO allowed you to have some retakes, etc.

    So all is not lost but basically you do need to have very good marks and if you get to an interview and you have a few bad marks you have to maturely explain. If you just finished your first year, maybe consider taking a summer course that you can ACE!

    Getting into Cdn med school take 3 things: Marks, MCAT, Story
    if you have good references/connections that also helps
    What I mean by story is are you well balanced, leadership skills, travel abroad, volunteer work, languages, sports achievements, music ,etc. In my wife’s class there were some seriously talented people.

    Regarding int’l schools, Canada residency programs to take a few residents from int’l programs. However, there are very few spots but if during med school in say Grenada or Ireland you come over and do some rotations in some specialites and make connections with staff it can be done. We know a guy who was Cdn, med school in UK and got the one ENT spot for an int’l student at UOttawa.

    My thoughts are that the UK route is not good because it’s too long. Their residency/program takes many years and then you would come back to Canada and do another residency. best bets are Ireland, Caribbean or the USA. CAribbean schools aren’t looked up in great light but if you go and then start clerkship in the US (as they do) and then get a few interships, shadows back in Canada at a couple of different University than you have a chance. First though, I would keep tring for Canada.

  40. Chinstrap on March 17, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Regarding bonuses, a northern Ontario town (Rainy River) had posted last year for a family med Doc and the total compensation was like $550k or something if the doc signed on for two years.

    HealthForceOntario has a program that pays ER docs to go to small towns in need and pays them an extra $150/hr ( on top of the base of $180 approx) plus $600 driving there and $600 driving back (over 4 hours). Thus a 12 hour shift in North Bay, one could $5000 for one day. They will also put you up in the hotel for free.

    Pretty good work if you can get it..

  41. Chinstrap on March 17, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Doctors can reduce taxes by incorporating. Well, it is actually sheltered within the corp. where one can invest in stocks (sometimes real estate…), etc. and let it grow compound free like a giant RRSP. They can also deduct expenses, cars, fees, etc. to write it off against taxes.

  42. Jason on August 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I know these numbers are old but they are flawed. I know first hand a busy oncologist in Toronto will take home close to 1 million with no overhead (i.e. they work out of a cancer centre). Lots of money but well deserved.

    It pays to go to school folks.

  43. JSR on December 7, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    If it was an easy job everyone would be a doctor. Truth is, it is very difficult getting accepted to medical school, getting through medical school and practicing medicine. Most people have no idea how complicated the practice of medicine really is. Doctor’s deserve every cent they make!

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