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The Cost of Becoming a Doctor in America

Updated on July 20, 2012

Most people get the wrong impression when they visit their doctor. They think the doctor is rich, has a huge house in a nice neighborhood, few bills, earns anywhere from $100-200+ an hour. Well, this assessment is correct IF the doctor has been practicing for at least eight years.

If the doctor has not, more likely they are fulfilling their residency.

Most medical schools are expensive. Some schools admit not more than 165 students from an applicant pool of 5000. Students that are "pre-med" are not included. Pre-med students are simply those fulfilling general education requirements. Medical school is four years. On average, the tuition is near $200,000 during that time. Once they graduate from this school, the must look for a "training" hospital where they put their education to work. Training hospitals are difficult to find, not every hospital is one. Training hospitals often have only a few slots for new medical school grads, so only the best GPA's get them. Those that do not get into one, can find clinics to fulfill their required four years of residency.

Residency is required for at least four years. All doctors call this period a "boot camp" or "slave labor". They are often on call 24/7, they continue to learn and be graded. Failing to complete the residency program can happen, It is like failing the Bar exam for a law student. You cannot practice. During the four years, these almost doctors work in real world situations and with real people under a mentor. They only earn $50,000 a year. By the end of the 4th year, they are making close to $60,000.

All during this time, their student loans compound. By the time they are "doctors", many owe banks $160,000. Doctors must have malpractice insurance, a very expensive outlay. Any mishap close to malpractice will shoot the insurance premiums into the stratosphere. Those that start or take over an existing practice has considerable expenses even before they see the first patient. Dealing with medical insurance is the one thing that drives doctors from private practice to HMO's, like Kaiser Permanente. It happens more frequently than you might think. They end up dealing with billing issues much more than treating patients.

Becoming a doctor is a very arduous educational process. Many are still paying off student loans long after their residency.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Yes, it is an eye opener. One really has to want to help people first to deal with everything that follows.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      An interesting read, perrya, about a very good point. Many of my work colleagues here in England are doctors and it's easy to think of them as rich. They must have had expensive training, too.Thanks for the hub.