Skip to main content

What Women Should Know Before Entering Medical School

What Women Should Know Before Entering Medical School

A specialty career strategy article for the aspiring or transitioning female medical doctor.

Published 12 –   -2013

Medical professionals have such an important job. Would it surprise you to hear that female doctors are being paid $50,000 less annually than male doctors? As a student considering a career in medicine, or as a pre-med student, you may be shocked by that fact.

A comprehensive study has recently been completed that analyzed earnings of male and female health care professionals from 1987 to 2010. The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), are that female doctors, dentists and other health care workers are paid significantly less than male counterparts.

This can be maddening for many women to hear and for a good core cause being gender equality across the board. Often times, women are not afforded the same opportunities as men. But in the medical field, there are equal opportunities for scholarships, grants and programs.

Taking a step back, in the late 1980s, male doctors earned $33,840 or 20%, more than female doctors. By the late 2000s, though, the wage gap grew to 25.3% which is a striking difference of $56,019 per year. The study adjusted for amount of hours worked, and accounted for years of experience too. One factor that was not adjusted in the study was: specialty. This is significant.

One major explanation for the wage gap is a difference in specialties. Male doctors tend to be in specialties such as orthopedic surgery or radiology, which are higher-paying. In contrast, female doctors make up more than half of the pediatricians in the United States, but less than 10% of orthopedic surgeons. According to Forbes, the highest-paying specialties are orthopedic surgery, cardiology, gastroenterology, urology, oncology, dermatology, radiology, pulmonology and general surgery.

The average salary for an orthopedic surgeon is $464,500, whereas a pediatrician average salary is $145,000. Forbes also mentions that these top-earning specialties are also in high demand, meaning there are more positions available in these specialties.

Of course, as a student, you may not know exactly what you want as your specialty, but female pre-medical students may want to consider all their options for specialties. The initiative to schedule meetings and or consultations with academic advisors, research online, refer to useful books—do your just cause diligence and it can pay you ten-fold during your career. Learn about your options for various specialties. By thoroughly researching all options prior to committing to a specialty, female physicians can do themselves a great service as it seems largely this could substantially shrink a potential future income gap in the future.

Becoming a doctor is about helping people which often equates to long hours and an onslaught of information digestion. A conclusion from the study is that selecting a specialty plays a big role in the amount of income that can be earned during the different periods of medical careers. Closing the wage gap is more feasible if more women were in the higher-paying specialties obviously but until the study was concluded this fact was not known.

Another contributing factor to earning more as a doctor is being in private practice. Female doctors can consider private practice as a viable option with more flexibility in time, and often a higher salary. Of course, as a student this may not be something you are able to decide right away. But regardless, it is something every prospective medical doctor should consider. Your career as a physician will make an impact in many people’s lives, this is a definite. Earning the compensation of choice could be the difference in hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional revenue a year so why potentially leave this on the table?

You would be doing a disservice to yourself by not performing the few tasks that need to be completed during one’s career. A rising female physician can use this strategy to help ensure she makes what her male counterpart physician makes.

By Amanda Dickinson and Grant Webb of the Incontinence Institute at St. Louis Women’s Surgery Center. Amanda supports her fellow women by writing about the importance of knowing how to prevent bladder incontinence before it happens at any stage of life while Grant conveys the functional benefits of today’s most effective bladder and incontinence treatments.

On behalf of the Incontinence Institute at St Louis Women’s Center, we thank you. All readers and members of the American Medical Women’s Association are welcome to follow along on Facebook.


AMWA Admin

The American Medical Women's Association is an organization which functions at the local, national, and international level to advance women in medicine and improve women's health. We achieve this by providing and developing leadership, advocacy, education, expertise, mentoring, and strategic alliances.

Close Menu