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Fellowship Doctor Salary: How Much Do Medical Fellows Make?

fellowship salary

When considering a fellowship, it’s likely that you’re considering the fellowship salary as well as a handful of other pros and cons of getting an internship. One of the biggest stumbling blocks of completing a fellowship may involve the opportunity cost of such an opportunity — in other words, you’re still learning, rather than out in the workforce earning money.

A fellowship can offer a wide variety of opportunities for your career as a doctor. In addition to a fellowship doctor’s salary, we’ll take a look at the definition of fellowship, some examples of fellowship programs, the length and purpose of a fellowship, and some pros and cons of entering into a fellowship.

What is a fellowship?

A medical fellowship is a training program for graduates of medical school, dental school, or veterinary school who want to learn more about a specific area of medicine. Fellows need a bachelor’s degree as well as a medical degree, which takes an additional four years to complete. You’ll also have to complete three to nine years in internship and residency programs and to subspecialize, a fellowship lasts one to three years.

During fellowship training, a board-certified physician (also called a fellow) works with a specialist (a field expert and leader) to deepen their knowledge and experience. Doctors who have three or more years of residency training can go the fellowship route to train for a specialty like neurological surgery.

Who can partake in a fellowship program?

Dentists, veterinarians, and physicians can take advantage of a fellowship program. For example, you might take advantage of the following internal medicine fellowship programs: 

  • Cardiology
  • Critical care medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology and Hepatology
  • Geriatric medicine
  • Hematology
  • Nephrology
  • Oncology
  • Rheumatology

Purpose of a fellowship program

The purpose of a medical fellowship involves producing physicians in subspecialties, indicating that they are the highest trained in their field. 

For example, an orthopedic doctor might complete a fellowship to become a knee surgery expert. In order to become a fellow, they may do knee surgeries consistently. It’s a coveted title and only a few get training as a fellowship.

How long is a fellowship program?

A medical fellowship usually lasts one to three years. You must graduate from medical school and complete a medical residency in order to apply for a fellowship. They are not required for doctors to complete and require dedication to an extended period of time learning.

Medical fellowship salary

Medical fellows can expect to earn more than residents, who typically earn about $60,000 on average, according to the American Medical Association, depending on the institution and correlates with the training year. For example, all residents in their second year usually get the same salary and all other residents in other years do as well.

The average salary of a fellowship doctor usually ranges between $60,000 to $70,000 a year, and it’s important to recognize that most fellows earn about the same. For example, you likely won’t earn more for a fellowship salary in cardiology versus another type of fellowship. You also won’t earn as much as a practicing physician. According to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report, primary care physicians earned $260,000 on average and specialists earned $368,000 in 2021.

Is fellowship worth it?

So, should you consider a fellowship?  It’s quite an honor to be given a fellowship. However, it depends on your career goals and whether you want to continue in a particular field. It’s important to ask the chief question: What do you plan to do when you finish school? There are some pros and cons of choosing to go the fellowship route. Let’s walk through them so you can decide whether pursuing a fellowship might make sense for you. 

Pros of medical fellowship

First, let’s touch on the benefits of pursuing a medical fellowship: 

  • Demand: There is a demand for doctors who completed their fellowships. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 23,800 openings for physicians and surgeons have been projected each year over the next decade in order to replace workers who transfer jobs or retire.
  • Accomplishes a worthwhile goal: Fellowship training results in accomplishing specialties needed in the medical field, not to mention that it helps you achieve your professional goals.
  • Learning opportunities: Fellowship opportunities allow you to learn from the most well-respected, best doctors in your field. They will guide you toward honing your skills and rising to the top of your field.
  • Well respected: As a specialist in your field, a fellowship will likely give you immense credibility and career opportunities. You may have a wide choice of career options in many areas of the country once you complete your fellowship.
  • Benefits: You’ll eventually have ample salary benefits, health care benefits, and other benefits, including top-notch health care benefits. 

Cons of fellowship 

What are the cons of undergoing a fellowship opportunity? Let’s take a look at some factors that might be a stumbling block toward getting a fellowship. 

  • More schooling: The prospect of taking on more education can seem daunting, so it depends on whether your career goals really require that extra schooling. In addition, training longer means that you have less time in your professional life to start earning income. 
  • Lower pay: Fellowship training earns you a lower salary than professional pay.  Training longer means you have less time to maximize your income. Consider potential income losses over the time you’ll complete your fellowship against diving into your professional life after your residency. 
  • Slower start: Fellows can find themselves behind compared to their peers in terms of not just take-home pay, but retirement savings and liquid income. Not only that, but doctors spend a long time accruing debt while in medical school, and a fellowship could put you behind in paying off medical school loans.

You may want to consider talking to other physicians who have completed fellowships in order to understand their experiences, debt load, and more. Having a mentor can help you make a final decision about whether a fellowship makes sense for your future.