If you’ve binge-watched your fair share of Grey’s Anatomy episodes, you might have already wondered how much a medical school resident gets paid. Can you really afford a large, historical home near the hospital campus in a posh city like Seattle? Likely not, unless your mother also left you such an abode which was paid for by the years of hard work and accomplishment she left in her wake. So, in reality, medical school residents might not be living off of ramen noodles anymore and watching the game at the bar because they can’t afford cable, but they aren’t building a 401K either.
How much a resident gets paid isn’t set in stone across the board. Certain factors help to determine each resident’s paycheck. The most common determining factor is location. Are you going to be working at a 300-bed hospital in Wyoming or Johns Hopkins? These things matter. Obviously, positions at acclaimed facilities come with bigger paychecks. More obviously, you’ll need acclaimed marks from medical school to get those positions. So, the better resident you are the more money you are most likely going to make. If you’re living in the Southeast portion of the country, you’re likely on the low end of the income totem pole and raking in $50,000 a year. Residents training in the Northwest, comparatively, are making closer to $70,000. Again though, location matters.
The other biggest determinant of what you pull in each month as a resident is what department of medicine you work in. Certain specialties make more than others. This is true even of attending salaries. The average across all specialties is $55,300. A plastic surgeon is going to garner $60,000 before a dermatologist or anesthesiologist will.
Now then, these figures might actually sound like a lot of money to many people, but you have to factor in what’s coming out of them. If a resident plastic surgeon is making $55,000 a year living in Boston, their cost of living is quite high just for themselves. It would be even more if they have any dependents. After all, not every graduate is a single 20-something without a care in the world these days. Speaking of, residency gets even more expensive post-graduation. You also have to factor in the exorbitant amount of money spent on medical school and the fact that graduation means those residents must start paying the piper.
Only 20% of medical school graduates have less than six figures to pay back by the time they finish schooling. In fact, the average is close to $171,000. A new provision was instated in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act which allows medical school grads to put a cap on their monthly payments based on their income. This helps some, especially when faced with the comparison of what the monthly payment would be on a traditional repayment plan. Still, residents can expect to be shelling out hundreds every month toward that debt.