How Much Do You Get Paid During Residency?

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Starting down the challenging path of a medical residency is an exciting, albeit daunting, experience. With long hours, life-saving responsibilities, and the persistent peering over textbooks and patients alike, one significant question lingers in the minds of new residents: “How much do you get paid during residency?”

    This blog post will address the financial side of beginning your medical career, providing essential information to put the fear of financial hardship at ease.

    Here’s what you need to know about getting paid as a resident physician.

    The Baseline: Do You Get Paid During Residency?

    The short answer is, yes, you do. Medical residents receive a salary for their work, which reflects the increasing knowledge, responsibility, and call frequency required with progressing years of residency.

    The amount might be less than what you had hoped for after years of investing in your medical education, but it’s still an income.

    Understanding the Salary Structure

    New residents begin at the PGY-1 level, earning a base salary that can range from approximately $50,000 to $65,000 annually, depending on the geographical location and the benefits offered. 

    The transitional first year salary is followed by incremental increases in each subsequent PGY level.

    Additional Compensation

    Some residency programs offer additional benefits, such as a housing stipend, health insurance, and meal allowances. Specialty fields with higher call demands or more complex procedures often take these factors into consideration and provide compensation packages that aim to ease financial burdens on residents.

    The Pay Spectrum: Varying Salaries by Program and Specialty

    Residents in different specialties and programs receive varied salaries, influenced by factors like regional cost of living, institutional budgets, and the perceived value of a specific residency program. 

    For instance, surgeons might make more than their internal medicine counterparts, due in part to longer and more taxing hours.

    Location Matters

    Cost of living adjustments can significantly affect a resident’s take-home pay. Urban areas or cities with a higher cost of living often feature higher salaries to compensate. Conversely, residents in rural areas might not have as robust starting salaries but they probably have lower living expenses.

    Cost Breakdown of a Typical Resident Salary

    It’s essential to comprehend the financial breakdown of your residency salary. After federal and state taxes, Social Security, and any other mandatory deductions, you might find that your paycheck is less than you anticipated. Familiarize yourself with these deductions and budget accordingly.

    Money Management Tips for Residents

    Navigating your finances as a resident can be challenging, especially with student loan repayments, rent, and daily expenses. Here are some practical tips to manage your finances wisely and ensure that your salary sustains you throughout your training.

    Looking for a full-view look at how to manage your finances from med school through residency and beyond? Check out this interview with Dr. David Delnegro and financial advisor Anthony DiMeglio!

    1. Create a budget and stick to it.

    Budgeting is your best friend. List all your monthly expenses and categorize them according to necessity and luxury. This includes rent, utilities, and groceries, and occasionally, you might have to treat yourself. Understand your spending habits and adjust as necessary.

    2. Minimize additional debt.

    It’s tempting to rely on credit cards or additional loans to bridge financial gaps, but they can lead to long-term debt. Try to pay off credit card balances each month, and prioritize loans with high-interest rates.

    3. Understand your loan repayment options.

    Residents with significant student loan debt can explore the Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans, which calculate monthly payments based on a percentage of your discretionary income. This can provide breathing room in your monthly budget.

    4. Plan for the unexpected.

    Create an emergency fund. Even a small amount saved each month can be a lifeline in the case of unexpected expenses or challenges.

    5. Explore supplemental income opportunities.

    Engage with part-time work, telemedicine, tutoring, or scholarship opportunities where possible to earn additional income, but don’t compromise your training or rest time.

    6. Invest in your future wisely.

    Maximize any employer-sponsored retirement plans or other investment opportunities. Every little bit helps, and the earlier you start, the more you benefit from compounding interest.

    The Reality of a Resident’s Paycheck

    While your salary may seem modest compared to the immense responsibility you’re entrusted with, it’s important to remember that residency is an investment in your future, and your income is likely to rise substantially once you complete your training.

    1. Appreciate the experience.

    The value of the education and experience you’ll gain in residency is immeasurable, and the income is just one component. The relationships you build, the skills you acquire, and the patients you care for are equally significant aspects of your training.

    2. Look out for loan forgiveness programs.

    There are loan forgiveness programs for residents who commit to working for public service employers. You can also ask if your residency program qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness during your residency interview, or with this search tool!

    3. Stay informed and be proactive.

    Keep yourself updated on the financial implications of your career choices and always strive to make informed decisions. Seek out financial advisors who specialize in working with medical professionals to guide you towards the most advantageous strategies.

    If you’re looking for a place to start, check out these recommendations for physician financial literacy podcasts/books/blogs over on the Rosh Review blog.

    Final Thoughts

    Going through residency is a personal, professional, and financial challenge. Understanding the structure and variation of resident salaries is the first step in effectively managing your money during this critical time. 

    With strategic financial planning, budgeting, and a little savvy, you can make the most of your stipend and set yourself up for future financial success as a practicing physician. Remember, it’s not about the money you make during residency, but about how well you prepare for the success that follows. Focus on your education, your training, and the incredible future that awaits you in the medical field.

    In the midst of it all, be kind to yourself. The road to becoming a doctor isn’t easy, and your residency is just one stop on that path. It may not be the highest paying job you’ll have during your career as a physician, but it’s one of the most critical and rewarding. Stay focused, balance your financial outlook with the richer experience of learning and growing, and rest assured that every paycheck, no matter its size, is a stepping stone toward your bright medical future.