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Break Even Analysis of Medical School Education

Introduction
A recent article on Money mangzine listed the 20 highest-paying jobs in America. Seven of the top 10 jobs are in medical field. Here is the list:

Rank Description Median Pay Top Pay
1 Anesthesiologis $290,000 $393,000
2 General Surgeon $260,000 $412,000
3 Emergency Room Physician $250,000 $368,000
4 Obstetrician / Gynecologist $210,000 $313.000
5 Psychiatrist $185,000 $269,000
6 Primary Care Physician $174,000 $256,000
7 Nurse Anesthetist $156,000 $206,000
8 Product Management Director $148,000 $192,000
9 Software Engineering / Development Director $144,000 $202,000
10 Sales Director $142,000 $222,000

Break Even Analysis

However, what is the economic cost for an aspired person becoming a doctor and earn the top pay after obtaining an undergraduate degree? How many years it will take him to break even? Let’s look at the process in details.

Step 1 – Prepare for MCAT exam

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) covers Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Biological Sciences and Writing. All medical schools require MCAT score. It will take time to prepare for the exam. Let’s assume he uses his spare time to prepare for MCAT, which does not affect his income.

Step 2 – Medical School
Most medical Schools are 4 years in the United States. Yearly tuition varies from $34,000 to $75,000. Using $40,000/year in our estimate. Using living expense $12,000/year, total yearly expense is $52,000. Four years’ total expense is $208,000.

Step 3 – Medical Residency
To become medical doctors, medical students need to take residency in hospital.  Anesthesiologist, general surgeon and other specialists require 4 or more years of residency. Neurosurgeons spend 7 years in residency. A quick check on the Internet shows stipends for medical residency are just enough to cover living expense. Table below shows typical resident’s pay:

Year Description Pay
1 1st Year (PGY1/Intern) $46,000
2 2nd Year (PGY2 $48,000
3 3rd Year (PGY3) $50,000
4 4th Year (PGY4) $52,000
5 5th Year (PGY5) $54,000
6 6th Year (PGY6) $56,000

Step 4 – Medical Doctor

After passing medical board exam, the resident becomes a medical doctor. If he finds a position, he starts from low end of the doctor salary scale. Let’s assume he starts with $100,00 with $20,000 yearly raise for 5 years to reach $200,000.

Years to Break Even

Based on the analysis above, the aspired doctor incurs total cost in tuition and living expense for 4 years of $208,000. Using different salary before medical school, the table below shows years for him to break even:

Yearly Income before Medical School Number of Year to Break Even Total Extra Earning in 25 Year
$20,000 10 $2,588,000
$25,000 10 $2,463,000
$30,000 11 $2,338,000
$35,000 11 $2,213,000
$40,000 12 $2,088,000
$45,000 13 $1,963,000
$50,000 13 $1,838,000
$55,000 14 $1,713,000
$60,000 14 $1,588,000
$65,000 15 $1,463,000
$70,000 15 $1,338,000
$75,000 16 $1,213,000
$80,000 16 $1,088,000
$85,000 17 $963,000
$90,000 18 $838,000
$95,000 19 $713,000
$100,000 20 $588,000
$105,000 21 $463,000
$110,000 22 $388,000
$115,000 23 $213,000
$120,000 24 $88,000
$125,000 26 $-37,000

Summary

If you are making more than $50,000 before you start medical school, it will take you more than 13 years to break even on your investment in yourself. If you are making more than $125,000, then it takes more than 26 years to break even. However, this analysis only focus on financial aspect. Money isn’t every thing. It should be very rewarding in helping other people to recover from their illness and getting their lives back.

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