SDN Salary Expectations Survey

by Laura Turner
SDN Staff Writer

Based on a series of polls conducted by the Student Doctor Network, students generally understand the current salaries they can expect to receive as a health professional.

The polls asked SDN users to select the salary range for an occupation “without Googling” to find the correct answer.  The results of the polls are available in the SDN poll archive.

Students were most likely to select the salary range into which the actual mean annual wage falls for all occupations except Dentists and Optometrists.  Actual wages used for comparison were determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are accurate as of May 2007.

The range was underestimated for Optometrists and overestimated for Dentists.  In both cases the mean wage lay very close to a break point for the salary ranges available, and a majority of respondents selected either the correct range or the next closest range.

The table below details these wages:

Profession Mean Wage Link
Physician (MD/DO) $155,150
Dentist $147,010
Pharmacist $98,960
Optometrist $101,840
Veterinarians (DVM) $84,090
Podiatrist $119,790
Psychologist $83,610
Physical Therapist (DPT) $71,520
Occupational Therapist (OTD) $65,540


For most occupations, while the answer most likely to be selected was the correct one, incorrect responses skewed higher than the actual wage.  For example, 61% of students overestimated the wage for Occupational Therapists (OTD), versus only 12% underestimating the wage.

Salary Expectations“The internet makes it easy for students to identify what they can generally expect for a wage following completion of their degree,” said Michael Magatelli, an employment expert and executive coach with the Magatelli Leadership Group of Sacramento, California.  “No student should invest in a degree without understanding the value they are going to receive from it.”

To gain further insight into wages beyond the average salaries referenced above, Magatelli recommends students conduct four to six “informational” interviews.  These interviews will help illustrate any unique costs or required investments associated with setting up their desired practice model.

“Informational interviews, in addition to internet salary information, will provide a more complete picture of the costs of becoming a practicing health professional in your geographic area,” said Magatelli.

This entry was posted in Audiology, Dental, Medical, Optometry, Pharmacy, Podiatry, Psychology, Rehab Sci, Veterinary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to “SDN Salary Expectations Survey”

  1. It would be nice to get some more figures from the poll. Salary ranges for physicians can be so wide that it would be interesting to see what those actual numbers were.

  2. Greg, PharmD says:

    I think aside from salary, it would be good to post the number of hours one has to devote to their profession.

  3. admin says:

    Look for a follow-up article which will cover the amount of training required to both become a doctor in each profession and how many hours each works on average.

  4. Eric, DMD says:

    A poll of expected debt for each profession would also be interesting

  5. Yes, it’d be interesting to list some data that stratifies each specialty, calculates up an “earnings ratio” that breaks down how much return a particular field obtains given the training required!

  6. Ed says:

    Does the ~$150k salary for ‘physicians’ only include family practice physicians? According to several other salary websites, other specialties earn much more. IM averages about $180k, any surgical specialty is $250k+, anesthesia $250k+, radiology $300k+, etc.

  7. admin says:

    The $155,150 figure is from the BLS and represents the average of all physicians in every specialty. The data is accurate as of May 2007.

  8. doctor d says:

    It should also be pointed out that the hourly wage is $75 for physicians on the BLS website so according to their numbers that salary is based on about a 40 hours work week (many physicians work longer).

  9. Dan says:

    I graduated pharmacy school and took an offer for 120k, so these figures must be a little off.

  10. spoon says:

    I am finishing my vitreo-retinal surgical fellowship and just signed a contract for 450 K .

  11. Camel says:

    Spoon….that is awesome.

  12. plasminogen says:

    To reiterate what others have said in a more through form…

    It would be interested to have a “how much this profession is worth” table that took into account:

    1) Salary
    2) Hours – so salary per hour
    3) Debt
    4) Years of training and therefore lost potential earning/savings/interest

    For example, a pediatric neurologist who trained for 14 years (4 college, 4 med school, 3 peds, 3 neuro) and makes say $200,000 but works 90 hours per week, and has $250,000 in debt with a 6.8% interest. He/she may be worth less overall than a computer programmer who started working right after 4 years of college. Oh, and the programmer probably doesn’t have to pay for malpractice insurance.

  13. sugarnacl says:

    Same problem with dentistry with the range. General dentists range from $70,000 in the prison systems to ADA’s average estimate of $174,000 for a general dentist with the average on career sites being about $130,000.

    For dental specialists though, the average stated all over the place is in the $300,000 range.

  14. The Dude says:

    You also have to keep in mind that this info is going to be skewed by the fact that the majority of people that reply to these surveys are general practitioners, no NSR, OSR, plastics, derm, etc.

  15. ridge says:

    FAMILY PRACTICE $178,859
    PEDIATRICS $188,496
    OB/GYN $296,699
    SURGERY $330,215
    DERMATOLOGY $390,274
    Source: MGMA Physician Compensation and Production Survey, 2007 Report based on 2006 data

  16. getreal says:

    All of the dentists I know don’t make nearly that much (and my ex wife is a dentist). Her classmates were expecting $300 k starting salaries out of dental school…try dividing that by 4. Dentists have “flown under the radar” from reimbursement cuts for the last 20 years…guess who’s on the chopping block now! Would you still stick your hands in peoples mouths all day for $50k? Its coming. Its happening to general FP, Peds, and IM docs now, its well past time for dentistry :)

    They must be using FP and Peds salaries for that physician average b/c as a practicing anesthesiologist, I can tell you, you can easily double the “mean” posted here right out of residency.

  17. Joseph Kim, MD, MPH says:

    We all know that salary is also dependent on several factors:
    geography; private vs. academic; work hrs; etc. Therefore, it’s so difficult to judge what a “true” average value is because the range is so broad. Plus, when salaries are reported via surveys, we often see several sources of bias: 1) the information is almost always self-reported. doctors tend to inflate their salaries on surveys; 2) selection bias – those who are “proud” of their high salaries may be more likely to respond to such surveys. those who feel overworked and underpaid may be less likely to respond; 3) bias from the perspective of the reporter – what do sources have to gain/lose by what they report? If the group is a physician recruitment firm, they’d want to report very high #s to make physicians feel like they need to look for a new opportunity.

  18. Jim says:

    @ Joseph Kim. Thumbs up on pointing that up. Stay on top of the statistical bias. Don’t let salaries discourage from doing what you love most.

  19. Dre DDS says:

    It should be cautioned that these salaries, at least for dentistry, are not very accurate. General Dentistry is a field in which you are limited by your own business accumen. I know 1st year out general dentist making from $90K yearly to $181K. The money earning potential in dentistry is far beyond that of MDs etc. Especially considering that general dentist can do anything a specialist can do (it is up to the practitioner’s discretion).

  20. Bahaa says:

    I agree, Dre DDS. Its the same for Podiatry. A lot of residents are signing contracts between $90k and $200k. It all depends on how well you market yourself and if you have good business sense.

  21. viagradoc says:

    The real question is, How hard do you want to work? I am on call 24-7-365, 5 full office (and surgical) days per week, in a surgical subspecialty, small city, very efficient practice with low overhead, and I have consistently made $750K for the past 3 years. I have yet to meet anyone who wants to work this hard, though. I am convinced I am at my maximal income potential, for my specialty, in this day and age. And I cant do this for too many more years. Looking for a partner now, although my accountant doesnt want me to…

  22. Joseph Kim, MD, MPH says:

    A better way to provide salary ranges would be to say: among 75% of each type of doctor/pharmacist/dentist/etc., the salary range tends to be x to y. And then provide geographical trends. We all know that there will be outliers that throw off the mean.

  23. jb says:

    dentists salaries are always underreported

    they only file for what they need to. they dont work with all insurance like most docs

    and this survey is totally pointless do something worthwhile with your time

  24. says:

    Just do some job searching like you might after school and you can get an idea of what to expect. Check out some practices for sale, I’ve seen dental practices grossing 200K on 3 days a week for a retiring dentist (take out 40-60% for overhead and figure it out), also some full time practices grossing 300-400K. I’ve also seen practices for sale where after overhead the dentist is taking home 450 and even up to 700K, which I’d think isn’t common. Though not all of the practices for sale note the income, so you have to think those choosing to mention their office grosses 600-800K may know that they have something special. As for hiring associates a lot say a guarantee six figure or some 120K. Some places like the VA hospitals say their GPs pay range is 93-175K.

  25. says:

    And sometimes they state they only worked 42-46 weeks out of the year.

  26. OTR/L says:

    I am an Occupational Therapist, and live in San Francisco. I personally find the average salary estimates much lower that what I’ve made. I made 65K the first year out of grad school working part time. Being that the field is dominated by females, many tend to be mothers and therefore the average tends to be lower due to part time wages. The potential to make six figures is there, and is generally in the same exact salary bracket as the other rehab professions (PT, SLP)

  27. Jordan-Alicia Machado says:

    I was wondering if anybody knew the estimated salary for a specialty in oncology?

  28. Admin says:

    Thanks to all for your interest in this story. We will be doing one or more follow up articles based on the comments we have seen.

    For those interested in seeing the Bureau of Labor Statistics information for specific specialties for physicians, please see the link below:

    Note that data is not available for all specialties.

  29. kevin ny says:

    The average salary for dentists did not average in that of the following specialities: Exclude “Prosthodontists” (29-1024), “Orthodontists” (29-1023), “Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons” (29-1022) and “Dentists, all other specialists” (29-1029). So I think the average salaries for dentists is definitely not accurate.

  30. Dan says:

    To OTR/L, i absolutely agree with your assessment of the rehab field. I am currently getting my doctorate in physical therapy and have met people making anywhere from $50k a year part time in a pediatrics place, to over $100k a year working in traveling and home health. About 6 months ago i shadowed a physical therapist who owned his own clinic and he shared with me that he was making around $400k a year (take home). I told him I couldn’t believe it…then he showed me his paperwork and files on his business earnings. He is 34 years old and wants to spend more time with his family though so he is selling his business. It is currently listed for $1.8 million.

  31. Gina says:

    Previously, salary meant absolutely nothing to me. I just wanted to be the best OB/GYN I could be. That was until, I completed my first two years of medical school, which proved to be quite a challenge. Knowing that I will be in just about $400,000 debt when I finish, year, I am definitely going to specialize based on my earning potential. I want more than anything to work with the undeserved, but that is going to be put off for a few years until I can get some debt off my back. Sad, but very true.

  32. john mafnn says:

    i’m a dentist in a small town doing just pediatric dentistry. I graduated dental school 1 year ago and am on track to make $450,000 working as an associate 5.5 days per week. . .half days on Saturday and Mon-Fri 9 hours per day.

    My other friend from dental school was our valedictorian and he is on track to make $700,000 this year in another small town.

    Key to making a lot in any health profession is GO TO A SMALL TOWN!
    These numbers are not inflated; they are reality. I never thought these types of numbers would be possible as a dentist, working as an associate at a practice. . . but it is.

  33. NYDerm says:

    The average doctor salaries posted seem reasonable, but many doctors today have used their business skills and established major practices, with several physicians, nurses, PA’s, NP’s ect… I know of a few plastic surgeons and Derms that take home 2.0 mil+ from their practices on gross revenues of anywhere from 5 to 10 mil. Clearly they are not making this by working solely by themselves so it cannot truly be considered to be a doctors income.

  34. Peter says:

    Yeah, I know many dentists who make close to half a mill. easy, many also have half days. M.D.s get screwed in comparison.

  35. jack says:

    well said Peter

  36. bellguilly says:

    Salary is one thing, but everybody knows that if you don’t have MD/DO after your name……well…’ll never really be the real thing

  37. GV says:

    I make about 300K in Emergency Medicine working about 35 hours per week. I think if you look at the number of hours worked, it’s a hard specialty to beat.

  38. BA says:

    “Salary is one thing, but everybody knows that if you don’t have MD/DO after your name……well…’ll never really be the real thing”

    You detract from your imagined prestige with a comment this blatantly stupid. The real thing? I suppose then that a doctor of dentistry is not the real thing when it comes to care of the teeth and mouth? Each of these professions are geared to a specific purpose. Tell me how the mouth or eye are any less a part of your body than your skin or hair? Try to show some respect for your fellow professionals (if that is what you are).

  39. min says:

    Liking what you do is more important than how much you make. I want to be a dentist and I think I would enjoy that while many others would hate it. Skill and ambition are things that cannot be calculated and put into a table like this. Same with location, if you are a plastic surgeon in LA, you will make a lot more than one in south dakota.
    And why is this a competition??? It’s information, are you trying to compensate for where you lack? all these professions are prestigious and not everyone can do them

  40. stv says:

    Salary is one thing, but everybody knows that if you don’t have MD/DO after your name……well…’ll never really be the real thing

    … you’re a moron if you went into medicine to make money…..and obviously, you went to medical school to ‘try’ and make up for something… you’re jus like my roommate.. lmao

  41. carlosc1dbz says:

    The salary survey seems pretty worthless. I gained so much more simply by reading the comments on this page. Can someone explain why small town doctors or dentist get paid so much? Insurance companies pay the same regardless of where you live, and in small towns, you cannot say that volume is much larger? So why are the salaries so high in small towns?

  42. chiroDoc says:

    just for the record, Doctors of Chiropractic should be included as well. I’ve been in practice 10 years and like Dentistry, you gotta market yourself and be a competent business man. I’ve made over 400K my last 4 years in practice, to do this i must work 50 hours per week at 5.5 days. I see 250-275 patients per week at $50 a visit. I’ve got a friend who is making 750K as a chiropractor and owns 2 offices. There are some Chiros only making 35K per year. It all comes down to how hard you want to work, and of course owning your own business will most likely generate more income, but of course more headaches. My education cost me 200K but my malpractice insurance is only 2k per year. Not a bad profession

  43. DrAK says:

    50 hours a week and 250 patients. 12 mins a patient? Is this a joke? (no offense)

  44. DC says:

    I agree that Chiropractors should be included in this evaluation, although it appears there is some bias on this website because they are not included, and even after getting into contact with the site, they refuse to add them. Where I am from, chiropractors can expect to start out in the 65-70k range and then with the yearly bonus, generally make 100+ k, and like chirodoc said, the malpracice insurance is extremely low compared to the MD/DO. The most successufl chiropractors in the area make 400+k a year working 5 days a week. The money should never be the reason why you get into anything, although it appears to be the deciding factor with medical school hence the shortage of general practice doctors because they typically have the lowest salary.

  45. Urgent Doc TX says:

    I am an Urgent Care, FP trained and oard certified MD. I work about 40 hrs per week, I see 25-35 pts per day, and the last 2 years I made $255k. No call, no hospital, no overhead, independent contractor.

  46. PoohCandy1 says:

    What about salaries for psychiatrists? How do they seem to fair?

  47. Ali says:

    I see doc salaries listed, but these do not factor in malpractice. If a surgeon is making $250K, but malpractice is 50K, the income should be listed as $200K Right? I mean, you can pay doctors a million a year, but if malpractice is $950K, then salary does not mean much.

  48. IamPRESTIGIOUS!!! says:

    one reason student doctor is so stupid is because anyone can just get on here and pretend to be whoever they want and can make claims of whatever they want
    i personally am an Ear nose and throat surgeon, who barely has time to get on here, due to the fact that i work 9 days a week and make a little less than a billion.

    ok ok so im not, im actually a dental student, but hopefully one day i can get into prestigious DO school so that all prestigious DO’s will finally respect me (although not as much as themselves because I had to use dental school as a stepping stone)

    Ok, so im not a dental student after all, so what am I? Looks like im just a dumbass!!!! thanks for letting me waste your time!! now get off student doctor and do something real with your life!!

  49. LovePodiatry says:

    There is GREAT disparity in podiatrist income as well… I think that one must take all of these “averages” with a grain of salt

  50. Spectacular article . It’s all new to me. Waiting for your next article.

  51. Dave says:

    Splendid! Really very informative.