During residency, you will gain a wealth of knowledge about how to treat your patients. Unfortunately, that wealth won’t necessarily be reflected monetarily. Do you get paid in residency? Of course, but not as much as you may think.
Here is what you need to know about residency pay for doctors.
According to Medscape, the average resident salary was $64,000 in 2021. That said, your salary will differ depending on what year of residency you’re in, where your residency is located, and which residency program you attend.
Residency salaries by post graduate year (PGY)
Each residency program develops their own salary structure. Typically, first-year residents (PGY 1’s) will make the lowest salary. Each year of residency after that, the salary will increase. In 2021, Medscape found that the average salary for each PGY was:
- PGY 1 - $57,500
- PGY 2 - $60,300
- PGY 3 - $62,400
- PGY 4 - $64,900
- PGY 5 - $67,300
- PGY 6-8 - $70,300
Residency Salaries by Location
The AAMC breaks the United States into four different regions in order to present the mean resident stipend by location. They report the following mean salaries for PGY 1s:
Northeast - $64,181
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Midwest (Central) - $59,257
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
South - $58,845
- North Carolina
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
West - $61,139
- New Mexico
Residency Salaries by Specialty
Since residency salaries are determined by your program and correspond with your year, specialty has less to do with your salary than you may think. That said, a 2020 medscape survey reported the following salaries for a variety of specialties:
- Allergy & Immunology
- Plastic Surgery
- Surgery (Specialized)
- Critical Care
- HIV/Infectious Diseases
- Pulmonary Medicine
- Orthopedic Surgery
- Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
- Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health
- Emergency Medicine
- Public Health & Preventive Medicine
- Surgery General
- Internal Medicine
- Family Medicine
Negotiating your salary isn’t an option for medical residents. If you’ve already accepted a residency, you’ll need to wait until the next PGY for a salary increase. If a higher salary is important to you, you should prioritize programs that pay the highest when creating your ranked match list. A word of caution: ranking programs based on salary offerings alone could cause you to miss out on programs that are otherwise exceptional matches.
Since resident salaries are low, it’s important to manage your money well. To ensure that you can afford to live on a resident’s salary, consider the following steps:
Determine your expenses
Residencies are meant to be a continuation of training, but they aren’t the same as being in medical school. Instead, residencies more closely reflect traditional employment. That said, residents should be prepared to pay for all of the expenses they need to survive. These might include:
- Housing & utilities
- Car payments
- Student loan payments
- Cell phone bills
Create a budget and follow it!
Once you know your expenses, create a budget that helps you live within your means. Most importantly, make sure that you’re following your budget! If you get off track, you could quickly find yourself without enough money to pay the bills. If you do, do your best to minimize the damage and keep working on improving your spending habits. Here are a few more tips that can help you stay within your budget:
Make food at home
If your residency doesn’t offer free meals, you might find yourself eating take out a little too often. Instead, try packing your lunch and snacks from home to save money.
When your budget is tight, you should avoid taking on additional debt. If you aren’t careful, you could easily end up with more debt than you can manage.
Get a roommate or live at home
Having your own apartment or home during residency can be costly. Since you will be spending most of your time at work anyways, consider getting a roommate or just living at home with your parents a little bit longer.
Follow the 24 hour rule
If your budget's biggest sore spot is your spending, consider following the 24 hour rule: Before making a purchase, put it in your cart for 24 hours. If you still want it after 24 hours, then buy it.
Oftentimes, physicians need to take on additional work in order to afford life during residency. Here are a few common ways that residents increase their income:
Moonlighting at clinics
Many residents find themselves working at clinics after residency hours. Not only can these extra shifts increase your income, but they can also allow you to practice your skills and grow as a physician.
Tutoring medical students
Tutoring medical students is a flexible side hustle for resident physicians who are in need of extra money. Whether you offer your services to individual students or host paid study groups is up to your individual preferences.
If you have a knack for writing, becoming a freelance medical writer could prove lucrative. Many blogs, insurance companies, and medical journals need content written for their websites and some will pay a premium to have your expert narrative.
Grant-based research positions give residents the ability to make money while also helping to advance medical knowledge. A great example of this is the resident/fellow research grant offered by the R&E Foundation, which awards recipients with $30,000.
Affording a home on a resident’s salary can be challenging, if not impossible, depending on the type of mortgage that you choose. Before applying for a traditional mortgage, consider the following:
If your only income is your salary, it could be hard to buy and maintain a home. If you have multiple income streams, or take out a specialized loan, buying a home might be more affordable.
Whether or not you have a working partner
If your partner works, their additional income could be key in affording to buy a home.
Student loan payments
If you have student loans, especially if they are private, you might need to begin paying them back immediately after graduation from medical school. If this is you, you might not have enough income left to reasonably afford a home.
Physician mortgage loans could be your best option
Physician mortgage loans could be your best option for buying a home during residency, especially if you don’t qualify for a traditional mortgage. These loans allow you to buy a home based on your potential income instead of your current one. While these loans have mostly upsides, like lax DTI requirements and no down payment, they do have downsides. For example, doctor mortgages are often adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), which have fluctuating interest rates. Overtime, this could cost you more than a traditional mortgage. To find out which type of mortgage is right for you, consult a mortgage broker or loan officer.
Micah believes financial literacy is the key to building lasting wealth, security, and the ability to make life-changing financial decisions with confidence. For his own website and others, Micah writes thoughtful personal finance content that makes a positive impact in readers' lives. You can find his past work on Micah Murray Freelance and Money Under 30.