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Potential Doctors Attracted to Primary Care Physician Jobs

This article was written by in Career and Work, Health. 19 comments.


The Health Insurance Reform Bill was signed into law a year ago. It’s already having an effect on the state of the medical profession. Thanks to some incentives, general practitioners or family doctors, typically the best choices when one is selecting a primary care physician, are becoming attractive jobs. It’s easy to see why, for a long time, early doctors choosing their residencies haven’t been attracted to these jobs.

Graduating from medical school, a student is likely to be in a significant amount of debt. With that in mind, consider the options. The student could choose to focus on family medicine and earn $150,000 to $180,000 or choose a specialization and earn twice that amount. The choice from a financial perspective is obvious. While many young people decide to become doctors not because of the salary, the financial reality is hard to ignore.

Choosing a high-paying first job can set the pattern for earning a higher income throughout your life. Many people believe that they will take a high-paying job first, until they pay off debt and become financially comfortable, and then shift gears to a lower-paying job about which they’re passionate, fulfills a deeper need, or provides meaning to their lives. That shift, if it ever happens, will often come later than they expected. Meanwhile, on average, those who choose the lower paying job out of school are often doomed to earn less than they could have throughout their entire lives.

For those who are taking the government’s incentives as the factor that tipped the scales in favor of general practice, and the number of those swayed must be significant considering the increase of family practice residencies this past year, there could be danger. Lawmakers are considering parts of the health insurance reform law.

How should money influence your career choice or initial job choice within a career?

Photo: gwire

Published or updated March 24, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

Pay for a primary care physician is low compared to the cost of the education and the fact that their earning years start later than for most jobs. If I were starting over and in my twenties, I think I would go for the money first, while you have the energy and the options. Your choices can narrow as you have family obligations and possibly physical limitations. You don’t tend to consider that when you are just starting out.

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

It’s good to see that people are looking into being a PCP since the need for them is so great, and growing, with or without any health care reform.

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avatar rewards ♦31 (Newbie)

If the demand is so great and the supply is so low, then why are PCPs compensated so poorly?

Also, this post speaks of incentives but doesn’t give any details on what they are.

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

They aren’t compensated poorly, they’re just compensated less than the specialties. And when you have a lot of school debt to become a doctor, you want to get as much money as possible to pay it off as soon as possible.

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avatar krantcents

Money should not influence people to select one career or another, but it does. I believe you choose a career based on interest, skills and talent. If you are good in your chosen career, you will be paid well. “Paid well” may be subjective, but it should be in the top 10% of your profession.

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avatar rewards ♦31 (Newbie)

Should and does. I would guess than most people include salary/benefits/fame in the equation alongside interest/skill/talent.

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

Unfortunately, this is a bit idealistic. There’s a lot more to it than having interest and talent. Example in my own career, some people aren’t that great at what they do, don’t have much interest, but get paid very well because they have the right personality that overshadows their inabilities.

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avatar OrchidGirl ♦16 (Newbie)

Money certainly should be part of your career decision. Your profession is just one of many major life choices and these should not be made in a vacuum. If you want to send your children to college without them incurring debt, you need to earn and save quite a lot. If you want to travel frequently, you need to pick a career that gives you the flexibility and time off to do so. Money is one of many considerations when choosing a career that is aligned with the rest of your life.

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avatar rewards ♦31 (Newbie)

More importantly, the old maxim that education is always a great investment regardless of the details is dangerous. Too many people paying $40 k a year for four years to do a job they love that only pays $25 k a year.

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

Problem is many jobs that pay that low (such as social work jobs), require a college degree. There are cheaper ways to get the degree, but rarely is the tuition free,

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avatar Marketing Gal

It would be hard to take a higher paying position and then later, move to a lower paying one. As life progresses, we tend to get used to the “quality of life” we have set up for ourselves. Marriage and kids can surely make this change much more difficult. Kudos to those who end up working at a job that they are passionate about.

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

this is a very important point. not only with regards to “quality of life,” as you point out, but also from a career/work standpoint. when one advances with their work, the desire to leave may be greatly reduced.

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

True. Although if I can, I’d like to have enough to be secure and then be willing to go for a lower paying job.

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avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

money must be a part of any career decision especially given the direction of where this country’s economy is heading and the rising cost of living.

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avatar Josh

Work is a part of life. There is no use in pretending that your personal and professional lives are insulated from one another. You can’t choose a career only focusing on what you think your professional life might be in that field. The quality of your whole life has to be taken into account because the career you choose will effect your ability to do certain things when you aren’t working.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

I can say from a personal standpoint that money has played a big part in my choice of a career. I was an administrative assistant for many years and decided to go back to school. I know that opportunity to make more money is what kept me going at times. I went to school and became an accountant and made more money than an admin.

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avatar PharmBoy

Taking the money while I’m young was always part of plan for my wife and I. I’ve worked my butt off during my first six years of working after college. It’s always been our goal to shift myself down into a job that has better hours and will be more fitting to our new family life (my wife and I had our first of hopefully many children a little over a year ago). I just interviewed for a job that should be more rewarding and more fulfilling but will likely pay significantly less (20 – 30% pay cut of a six-figure salary), but I already find myself attempting to rationalize a way into staying in the higher paying current position. It’s gonna be harder than I thought.

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avatar Craig

The cost of education is so high these days, and most people finance it with student loans, you can hardly blame a doctor for needing to take a job that pays more. I’m not a big supporter of government programs, but more of them that would help prospective doctors get their degrees without the high student loans would help with healthcare costs.

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

CRAIG: There are programs in place that pay entire loans off. All a doctor has to do is work where he/she doesn’t want to. Many communities need doctors and the government pays loans if you work there. There is paper work each year, but it’s a good deal. Most contracts are for 5 years.

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