Making a living in health care

Update September 19, 2022

This post is old and the important links are no longer active. You can still read it but I’m inserting a link to a more recent article about healthcare workers you can read instead or in addition. Thanks for visiting. 

a hospital emergency entrance

The Helpers-a book review

Starting from the pandemic’s quiet beginning late in 2019 through the vaccine distribution in early 2021, the author unfolds how the pandemic impacted their lives, their families, and communities. Despite being front line workers, they suffered the same things others did-isolation, loss of jobs and income, demanding work schedules under pressure; and for some, infection, hospitalization, intubation, and death. From their stories, we watch their lives intertwine with each other and the virus that stalked their daily lives.

the original 2015 post

Previously I wrote about physician salaries after Medscape magazine reported the annual physician salary survey.  In it I explained  how doctors are paid and  where other  health care dollars  go. It became one of my most viewed posts.

My fellow physician blogger Dr. Kristin Prentis Ott  compiled a report detailing how people  make a living in health care. The report lists the earnings of different physician specialties , and other  healthcare professionals, including nurses and the length of training required by each job. You may not have  personal friends who are MDs or DOs but I bet someone in your family or social circle works in another of these  professions.

cropped logos final (2)

 I’ll explain about doctors’ income.

Physicians are paid differently, like other professions.  While some physicians  have a set annual salary, or hourly rate, other physician income is  based on how many patients they treat; office visits, surgeries, procedures, xray or lab consultations (which can be remote, so called telemedicine). Sometimes it can be a blend of the t wo. 

But whatever the specific formula,  most doctors’ income is directly or indirectly tied to how many patients we see in a given day, month, or year.

I found some of these income figures  surprising. The income for primary care doctors, that is family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics seems high to me, at least for  where I live ( there are regional differences in what doctors are pain, even within the same specialty). Physicians are paid while in residency, which can last from 3 to 7 years, depending on specialty. Residents receive a yearly salary, which is far below what they will earn in practice.

Absent from the chart in Dr. Ott’s post are the support positions, those people in a hospital or clinic who don’t have medical training but whose work enables the rest of us to do our jobs.

These include receptionists, customer service reps, maintenance, laundry, housekeeping, security, human resources, billing and coding.

Nor does it include IT (information technology)  professionals; the use of  medical computer devices and  applications, called medical informatics, is now  a specialized profession.

Also missing are dieticians, nutritionists, chefs and kitchen support.

Other  occupations  directly or indirectly contribute to health care. If you make a living in  health care , please tell us about it in the comments.  Add your income too if you want.

taking blood pressure
measuring blood pressure- a skill most health professionals learn
Laboratory testing is vital to providing health care.
MRI machine
Diagnostic imaging- CAT, MRI and PET scanning have increased our ability to see inside the human body compared to plain x ray.

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics (U.S. Department of Labor) –


The health care and social assistance sector will account for over a third of the nation’s projected job growth from 2014 to 2024.


I appreciate everyone who devotes their life to helping me and other physicians deliver quality health care in our communities. Despite all the challenges, I think we have picked the most noble profession .  Thank you.

exploring the HEART of healthcare

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.


Medical stethoscope and heart on a textured background

Dr Aletha

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

2 thoughts on “Making a living in health care”

  1. Thank you, Dr. Cress Oglesby! I appreciate your readership and that you were inspired to write your own take on it. I got my physician salary ranges from this article: They cite the average salary for each specialty and I agree that some of them seem high. The focus of my chart was geared toward years of training so ranges are listed by typical minimum years of training. In general the longer you train, the more you make in the end, but pediatric specialties are a clear exception to this. Pediatric Emergency Medicine Specialists do 3 years of pediatric residency plus 3 years of Peds EM fellowship (total of 14 years) while most general Emergency Medicine physicians only do 3 years of residency (total of 11 years of education) and fair or not – they usually make more than peds EM (likely due to more critical care time/codes/intubations).
    I received a few personal messages – and some comments on my facebook page post and on the article itself with ‘corrections’ of sorts – but I am not an “expert” on the training of other fields and most of the information was just drawn from straightforward google searches. There are all kinds of exceptions to the chart.
    **Someone commented that many hospital social workers are required to have years of experience prior to licensing, but I have a personal friend who practices as a hospital social worker with a bachelor’s degree and she had no prior experience (HIGHLY unusual).
    **Some people take longer to finish medical school, academic residencies sometimes include “lab years” and some specialties have a highly regarded additional “chief year” – but training years are average minimum.
    Anyway – thank you again! I appreciate your thoughts/feedback!

    Liked by 1 person

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