Let’s talk salaries. Because we think you’ve made it clear that you want to after the overwhelming response to last month’s poll question, How much money do you think you will make a year as a doctor?

More than 2,000 of you ranked your salary expectations, and let’s just say, we think you’re quite reasonable. Figure 1 shows the distribution of medical salaries expected by med students in 2011. About 19 percent of you plan to be pulling in $100,000-$150,000 annually, and the largest group (22 percent) expects $150,000 to $200,000.

medical salary survey results for stduent expectations in 2011

About 17 percent anticipates pulling in a physician salary between $200,000 and $350,000 each year. Earning nearly $1,000 per day wouldn’t be such a bad thing, now would it?

And finally, at the extremes: 6 percent expect to cash $1 million paychecks a year, and 4.2 percent foresee making less than $70,000 a year.

The gender pay gap persists, for MD pay as well. So keep in mind how you plan to negotiate and ask for what you want.

How does 2011 compare to past medical salary expectations?

The last time we polled the StudentDoc community about salary expectations was way back in 1999. At that time, over 600 students responded, and the results of that survey are shown in Figure 2.

expected medical salaries in 1999

At that time, the median expected medical salary was around $125,000, with about 10 percent of respondents planning to make more than $280,000. As a sign of the times, perhaps, we didn’t even ask who thought they would make more than $1 million a year.

To compare survey results from ’99 and now, we’ve plotted both data sets as cumulative distributions. These plots in Figure 3 show the percentage of respondents who expect to make a certain amount of money or less each year. For example, 82 percent of students expect to make $300,000 or less.

comparison of student expectations of medical salary from over a decade

Are medical salary expectations keeping up with inflation?

Salary expectations are basically guesses. No one taking our poll has been offered a job with a salary attached. Yet. 

To see how expected medical salaries have changed with inflation, we compared the increase from 1999 to 2011 to the change in consumer price index over the same time. The consumer price index (CPI) is a sort of measure of cost of living, and it changes as a result of inflation or deflation. From 1999 to January 2011, the CPI increased from 166.6 to 220.2, or 32.2 percent (see U.S. inflation calculator site).

Over the same time frame, the median expected salary increased from $125,000 to $166,000, or about 32.8 percent. It’s actually a bit surprising how similar the change in CPI and medical salary expectations are, suggesting that students have a pretty good idea of how the costs of living goes up.

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