How To Increase Your Income As A Doctor

Doctors work hard to generate a high income. It takes years of training and a high price to become licensed, maintain certification, and be insured appropriately. Financially, a doctor is a decade behind her peers.  Due to the nature of our profession, we arguably have a more conservative lifestyle than our MBA counterparts who are likely to generate an even higher income. We’ve focused on growing our net worth through saving. Today we are going to focus on growing income to build our net worth.

Work Harder

If working harder is even possible for most doctors, this is one sure way to generate a higher income. For doctors on the clock like Hospitalists or Emergency Room Doctors, you will generate more income if you pick up a few shifts. Mind you, you are unlikely going to command a higher hourly rate for additional hours–in some cases an overnight shift may pay a marginally higher rate but that’s it. You will obviously be taxed at the marginal rate for extra time, but if that’s what it takes to earn more, so be it.

If you are fortunate enough to be a radiologist, there are plenty of locums and coverage opportunities abound. Many radiologists have a significant amount of vacation time, so if you get bored, you can take a per diem opportunity in another city, and even consider taking your family there for vacation while you work. I know several radiologists who generate enough income working several per diem opportunities throughout the year AND get to see another city. It all depends on how your wish to arrange your family life and free time.

For those of you in HMO practices, you are out of luck. You are probably already working a double time hustling through your day.  I have spoken to many colleagues in the Kaiser Permanente (KP) Health System, and I get mixed reports on how busy they are working. In general, KP compensates its doctors relatively well, with the assumption of a very busy clinical and surgical schedule. However, I have spoken to several endocrinologists who work for KP and appear to have light schedules.

Can anyone comment on your experiences with KP? Please shout out below in the comments!

Work Smarter

Income is certainly affected by how efficiently you accomplish your tasks, especially if your income depends on volume. Seek out ways to work smarter, starting with your commute. How long is your commute, and is it possible to live closer to work (either move closer or move your work closer to you). If you can shave off an hour of commute a day, your hourly rate (taking into account the time you wake up until the time you return back home at the end of the day) will be higher. You might not necessarily have more money in your pocket by saving time during commute, but you will be happier and have more energy for other tasks.

Can you work more efficiently at work? If you are able to see a few more patients in your clinic by working smarter, you can increase your income. Can you motivate your staff to work more efficiently? Healthcare is a team occupation and efficiency has to run from the top down to make the process better. This includes your front desk, billing staff, medical staff, and the doctor. If you own your practice or are a partner, you can increase your income by optimizing revenue by optimizing your business.

If you are salaried, can you negotiate a higher salary? Start by figuring out the range of income in your specialty. Figure out how much revenue you generate from your practice, and your operational expenses. Then find out how much of that you actually receive as income. You employer may be taking a bigger cut out of your revenue than you realize.

Ancillary Income

You can boost your income through side hustles in your free time. Income outside of your profession is going to be more challenging to come by, but still possible. The challenge is that your ancillary income stream doesn’t come from what you spent a decade of your life working towards. If you’re not working as a doctor, your earning potential will have to come from your knowledge outside of your profession.

Real Estate

I know several physicians who dabble in real estate. Some own commercial real estate; others with residential. All of them like the leverage risk and find real estate to be an income-generating hobby. In fact, real estate is a great opportunity if you have the knowledge, interest, and time to dedicate to the profession. Plenty of professionals have had career changes to real estate once they discovered that it was a field that interested in it and also made them money.

I have seen surgeons invest in surgical centers and Internists investing in Urgent Care facilities. These facilities are still medical related, so a doctor may be more able to manage and run them better than simply an office building.

Technology

A second option can involve tech. The technology sector is a field where hard work, luck, and connections can generate serious coin. Many doctors I know are familiar with technology and opt to spend their time with venture capital. Perhaps you have an idea to develop healthcare software. Or you wish to develop your own electronic health record system. Maybe you like to write. How about blogging? All of these options have potential to generate ancillary income for a doctor, but all of them require time. This is time that is spent away from your family or time that could be used to unwind after a tough carotid endarterecomy.

Service and Education

I know doctors who are involved with pharmaceuticals and run the lecture circuits. Honorariums can certainly supplement your income. You may be labeled as an industry pawn, but who cares? You’re still getting paid.

I have colleagues that volunteer their time with residents and medical students. Most of these are pro bono, but I know a few who have been able to establish a side business in tutoring or application essay coaching for both medical and college students.  Not a bad idea either; if you’ve made it far enough to be a doctor, then you hopefully did well on your MCAT, SAT/ACTs, or USMLEs.

Conclusion

Despite stressful jobs and tough work hours, doctors still have plenty of opportunities to increase their income. Time is essentially your only constraint. There are several venture opportunities that I have been exploring, and I will document for you all if they become fruitful.

What side hustles have you embarked upon? Have any of them been successful enough for you to switch careers?

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