Healthcare in the United States has always been under scrutiny, raising debate on any given chance. One thing that few people argue about when it comes to this industry, however, is the salaries and the growing need of professionals in the field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in healthcare will grow by 18% by 2026, much faster than the envisioned average growth for all other professions. Moreover, the industry is willing to create over 2 million new jobs by 2026.
According to the same institution, the average salaries in healthcare also grew from 2017, showing the fact that the healthcare industry is not only willing to welcome new members, but also to pay them excellent money. But is the money as good in real life as it is on paper? Today we will look at the top 3 best-paid healthcare careers and see if the money is really worth it.
Are real brain surgeons veritable copies of Derek Shepherd? The statistics say that they are to some extent: the brain surgeon (or neurosurgeon) has the highest salary in the medical profession in the U.S. It takes more than 10 years to become a neurosurgeon, but after that, if you are good, you stand all chances of becoming a rock star of the healthcare industry.
Upside to Being a Surgeon
The industry will repay you for your efforts, talent, and skills: a neurosurgeon can earn a little below $400,000 a year (in his/her experienced, late-stage career). It does seem a lot, in comparison to surgical tech for instance – the people sitting right next to Derek Shepherd.
The surgical tech earns around ten times less, but it is true such job only requires postsecondary non-degree award. By comparison to same-degree colleagues, people sharing the OR with, and other professions, almost all over the world, the brain surgeon is one of the highest earning professionals in healthcare.
Besides the pay, however, neurosurgeons have other benefits as well. The job comes with a great level of stability, benefits, financial and personal rewards, insurance, vouchers, and more.
An experienced neurosurgeon can work in a hospital, a medical center or his/her private practice anywhere in the world. Moreover, being one of the most respected professionals in the field, a brain surgeon receives plenty of support – research grants, entire teams of specialized colleagues, hi-tech equipment, governmental aid, and more.
Downside to Being a Surgeon
On the other hand, for this money and benefits, a brain surgeon will work more than his/her colleagues do and have to deal with things TV series only show you for entertainment.
Let us get into details. On average, a neurosurgeon performs around fifteen surgeries a week. Given the fact that the profession has to deal with life-or-death situations, neurosurgeons work plenty of emergencies, nights, weekends, and holiday. They have to be on call, and they have to be ready for on-the-spot decisions.
What is worse is that surgeons are some of the most vulnerable professionals in the face of burnout. In a burnout study compiled by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the data showed that burnout was present with 63% of the interviewed neurosurgeons a few years ago.
Burnout, anxiety, and concern for their future in neurosurgeons links powerfully with life-and-death situations, having to perform trauma surgery on children, having to deal with the grief of families, constant fear of failure, and many more.
Is it Worth It?
New data shows that the job is worth the struggle. A study in 2013 showed that over 70% of neurosurgeons are satisfied with their job. More than 80% would choose neurosurgery again if given the chance, but only a little more over 50% would recommend the job to children as a future career. While the subjects of study showed low levels of emotional exhaust, fatigue, and burnout, their concerns with healthcare policies, politics, and system’s flaws are congruent with previous data. It is worth it, but a little extra care does not hurt.
In the United States, an experienced gynecologist earns one of the highest salaries in the industry and a higher one than in most developed countries (such as Australia, Canada, U.K. or New Zealand for instance).
According to statistics, the median income of a gynecologist is about $200,000 per year, but with enough practice, one can reach over $300,000. Moreover, according to the BLS, the job growth in the field is expected to go over 24% by 2024. However, if you think gynecologists make easy money, you have to think again.
Upside to Being a Gynecologist
Besides the satisfactory paycheck, gynecologists can work in any healthcare facility, be it hospitals or medical centers, specialty clinics, and private practices. The birth rate in the U.S. is on the rise, as more and more baby boomers are having children; therefore, gynecologists will have their hands full in the years to come. Moreover, they can be of help in many parts of the world where low income, conflict, poverty, natural disasters, and more require their presence and their expertise.
The experienced professional earns ongoing training and education on the newest procedures and technologies, while they receive support from their peers, research funding, and respect from the community. Also, some states are trying to attract gynecologists to rural areas marked by a shortage of such professionals, and are willing to pay for them.
Downside to Being a Gynecologist
Once a gynecologist completed his/her studies (which take more than a decade), being a gynecologist is never an easy job. They have to be on-call always. Given the fact that they deal with life-and-death situations and emergencies, they usually work shifts, nights, weekends, and holidays as well. Since their job is more than consult and treatment, they also work around 50-60 hours a week.
Dealing with the life and well-being of babies, mothers, and entire families for that matter, gynecologists also have to deal with plenty of stress, burnout, and even depression. Emotional exhaustion, fatigue, emotional detachment, and the industry’s inherent pressure often leads gynecologists to burnout.
A study conducted in 2017 shows that 40% to 75% of gynecologists suffer from professional burnout, a matter that can lead to extremely serious issues on the long term, for both the professional and the patients.
Is it Worth It?
Money is not everything, even if on paper the money is more than good. A study in 2012 showed that the profession highly correlated with depression, burnout, and low job satisfaction in residents at the beginning of their careers. Seasoned professionals, on the other hand, and in the last years seem to enjoy more the job, with its level of independence, stability, growth tendency, extra benefits, and the unmatched feeling that one works for the greater good of humankind.
We all miss Cristina Yang and we all would want her to perform our heart surgery if we ever needed one. Cristina, while a fictional character, showed some of the talent, dedication, and skill a heart surgeon should feature. She also showed us bits and pieces of the pressure, competitiveness, stress, risk to burnout, and life-and-death challenges a heart surgeon has to deal with every day. On one hand, the job outlook is great: 14% increase by 2024. So is it worth it?
Upside to Being a Heart Surgeon
As paycheck is concerned, a heart surgeon earns one of the highest salaries in the healthcare industry in the U.S. The pay keeps getting better as the years of experience, reputation, and awards go by. The almost $300,000 a year for a seasoned professional can become certainty if the professional in question also features low patient death rates and small number of malpractice suits. Same as for all high-risk professions, the better you are, the more money you make.
Bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing, insurance, and funding come with the territory. Given the fact that heart disease in one of the world’s fiercest killers, heart surgeons are holy grails for the facilities and communities they choose to work with.
Downside to Being a Heart Surgeon
Diagnosing heart disease, offering treatment, performing surgeries, performing transplants, and implementing all sorts of sensitive procedures – heart surgeons hold your life in the palms of their hands. One of the main problems with the job is the hours they work: 50 to 60+ hours a week. Being on call all the time, working emergencies, shifts, nights, holidays, and weekends in chaotic schedules is one of the things that push young med students away from this particular specialty.
Is it worth it?
Chronic stress is one major issue among cardiac surgeons, as studies found they also lack proper coping mechanisms. However, in 2016, a research paper showed that cardiothoracic surgeons are still in love with their job even if it is highly demanding. It seems that cardiothoracic surgeons were so satisfied with their job, 50% of them would have recommended the job to children.
Are these jobs worth it? Cristina Yang and Derek Shepherd would say they are in the blink of an eye. Healthcare is a hard, challenging, and sometimes extremely depressing industry. The money may not cover for all the risks and the emotional burden, let alone exhaustion and permanent stress. However, saving a life is always worth it.