A friend recently posted this meme suggesting that if teachers got paid like doctors, they would all become better at educating our kids. While the meme itself is factually incorrect about teacher pay in Finland, here is the question that I want to ask…

To get paid like a doctor, are you willing to go through what a doctor does?

It is all well and good to covet their paycheck, but are you willing to put in the work to earn it?

My cousin who is a doctor recently posted this on his FB page. He writes,

“Finally – after nearly 12 years of masters, med school, orthopedic surgery residency, and spine fellowship – I will be moving back to Denver! I am joining Precision Spine Center and will begin practicing in Colorado in September.”

On a personal note, I have spent 12 years in post-high-school education and earned my doctorate. I am a graduate professor and would love to make a doctor’s paycheck. However, considering the information below, I am not sure my experience is apples to apples with a medical doctor.

So to the high school teacher of music or English, Algebra, Geography, etc… who wants to earn a doctor’s salary, here is what it takes:

  1. Pay the price. The median four-year cost of medical school (including expenses and books) is $278,455 for private schools, and $207,866 for public schools in 2013.
  2. Put in the time. Go through 11 to 14 years of higher-education BEFORE you make a full-time salary.
  3. Spend approximately 27,000 hours on your training. (For doctors this assumes 80 hours a week of studying and training, for 48 weeks a year in medical school, and 80 hours a week of studying and work, for 50 weeks a year during residencies.)
  4. Carry a half a million dollars in real and potential losses, all by your early 30s.
  5. Pay off an average of $167,000 of eduction debt (assuming it takes 30 years to repay at 7.5% interest — a total cost of $419,738.)
  6. Coupled with average medical school debt of $170,000, the total cost of attending med school including lost opportunity is around $1,000,000.
  7. During residency, keep up with your full-time studies, incur more debt, and earn an average of $55,000 per year.
  8. Once on the job, spend at least 25% of your time doing school administrative/office work.
  9. Be willing to get rid of the Teacher’s Union and compete for the best jobs.
  10. Get paid based on performance, not based on years doing your job.
  11. Be willing to enter private practice and bill the government directly for every student you teach.
  12. Expose yourself to malpractice lawsuits for bad teaching.
  13. To earn the biggest salaries, be willing to pay malpractice premiums anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

Also note, to get paid like a doctor, you need to be willing to live with the stresses and frustration that most face:

  1. In hindsight, 50% of doctors say they would go back and chose a different career path, but you are so invested you don’t have a choice but to go forward.

To answer the question, “Should teachers get paid like doctors?”. I say if they are willing to put in the work… yes. Holy cow, anyone willing to go through all this deserves to make big money!!

Creating a culture where respect is defined by a paycheck is not healthy. Doctors should get paid like Doctors, Accountants should get paid like Accountants, and Teachers should get paid like Teachers. Ultimately, the real point is that every profession has its challenges and deserves the respect of others not in that profession.

Sources Used

  1. $1Million Mistake: Becoming A Doctor” — CBS Money Watch
  2. Is Medical School Worth it Financially?” — Best Medical Degrees
  3. “Which Medical School Graduates Have the Highest Debt” — US News: Education
  4. Residency Salary and Debt Report 2014” — MedScape
  5. The True Cost Of Medical Malpractice – It May Surprise You” — Forbes
  6. How Much Do Doctors Pay in Insurance?” — Chron

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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