Almost all medical students leave medical school with student loans. For about half, that can be above $200,000 and for 80 percent it’s greater than $100,000. The American Medical Association has come up with six tips for those students looking to maximize their earnings as a physician to more quickly pay off their debt.

It can take years to reach your earning potential

Physicians don’t maximize their earnings until completing their graduate medical education; the average first-year resident makes about $60,000 a year. All residents are paid the same regardless of specialty.

Surgical specialties tend to pay more

One online survey found that the highest-paying medical specialties are: plastic surgery orthopedics; cardiology; radiology; and dermatology. The lowest are in the primary care fields, including internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics.

Lucrative specialties require more training

On the flip side, those looking to enter into a higher-paid specialty will be making that salary for a shorter amount of time as much more t raining is required. While primary care specialties earn less, some pathways for physicians can  take as little as six years.

Reflect on demands in the workforce

In terms of specialty-specific salaries, 2018 saw a 16 percent increase in compensation from the previous year for psychiatrists. A shortage is on the horizon for that specialty with more than half of the 30,000 psychiatrists in the U.S. over 55 years old.

Where you are matters

Indiana is the state in which physicians earned the most on average, and the cost of living is cheaper, meaning the money goes farther. However, Connecticut also gives physicians a higher salary countrywide, but it’s one of the most expensive states to live in.

Ownership may offer more risk but also more reward

One quarter of survey respondents in an online survey categorized themselves as self-employed; 69 percent indicated they worked in an employed setting. Those who were self-employed and owned a stake of the practice where they worked reported higher earning regardless of specialty.

Read more at the American Medical Association.

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