There is always much talk about how doctors make a disproportionately large amount of money for the work they put in. The fact is that it is impossible to generalize because how much a doctor makes depends on numerous factors including: what level are they at?
What is their specialty Where are they located? All these factors will have a huge bearing on the actual earning of an individual doctor. Having said that, it is possible to get a general idea of how much doctors make in the US and the UK.
In the US a career in medicine is generally perceived to be lucrative and becoming increasingly so as one progresses on their chosen path. And this is largely true – the US Department of Labor puts doctors on top of the list of best paid professionals in the country. But it is also important to note that there can be a wide gap between how much doctors make depending on what specialty they work in.
For instance, surgeons typically earn more than primary care physicians do. And even within surgery, some specialties in surgery will be better paying than others. According to fairly recent statistics, the average annual salary for general physicians in the US is around $220,200 and that of general surgeons is around $384,000. Of course, medical education is extremely expensive and the majority of medical graduates have enormous student loans to repay over their professional career.
The medical system in the US is privatized unlike the UK, which has state healthcare by way of the National Health Service. Therefore in the US, pay and salaries are a matter of demand and supply much like any other industry.
It is mainly for this reason that highly specialized surgeons performing procedures that are highly in demand at the moment, including heart procedures, hip replacements etc. tend to earn more than low intervention doctors.
Coming back to the UK, the picture is entirely different. The UK has a nationalized healthcare system, and a much smaller private healthcare sector. The majority of doctors in the UK are employed by the NHS, which has fixed bands of pay scales for different levels and specialties of medical practitioners.
Average salaries for GPs in the NHS can range between around £53,000 to well over £100,000 depending on several factors including the length of experience; some GPs do earn considerably more than this, however. Consultants in the NHS can earn between around £74,000 to around £200,000. Some specialists can earn more. Foundation doctors, house officers, registrars etc. have fixed pay scales depending on how their job is banded by the NHS.
The private healthcare sector in the UK is much more exclusive and much more expensive. Salaries for doctors within the private sector can be much higher than the NHS. Private GPs are free to run their private practices as they choose, and can earn any amount based on how much private patients are willing to pay!
This is a general outline of what doctors’ salaries are based on, and some differences between the US and the UK. It is possible to find exact pay scales for different practices within the US directly from the source. Similarly, you can find current NHS pay scales from the NHS website for UK statistics.
About Richard McMunn: Richard is the author of this article and founder of How2become.com, the UK’s leading training and recruitment website for public sector careers. The focus is on providing applicants with the knowledge they need to prepare for and pass selection processes for careers in the police, fire service and ambulance service . The website currently offers over 150 different titles.