Fourth-year medical students around the country celebrate Match Day on March 20, the day acceptances to medical residency programs roll in, and soon-to-be doctors learn of the hospitals, clinics, and cities where they will be spending the next few years of their lives.
One topic of conversation that’s less celebratory? How much they will get paid.
The average salary for a medical resident is about $51,000, according to Payscale.com. While that is close to the median household income in the United States, residents are known for working very long hours—a practice that has caused controversy, in part because of safety concerns. Rules set by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education officially limit residents’ working hours to 80 per week—though exceptions allow hours as high as 88 per week.
What this means is that in hourly terms, pay for residents can be as low as $13 an hour. That happens to be the level to which Wal-Mart announced it would increase full-time wages this year.
The good news, of course, is that doctors can expect their salaries to rise significantly once they finish training: The average pay for general practice physicians is $131,000 a year, according to Payscale—with medical specialists like orthopedic surgeons pulling in starting salaries as high as $450,000.