(MoneyWatch) If you are brilliant, ambitious and gifted in science, you may consider becoming a doctor. If so, think twice. According to a new survey by personal finance site NerdWallet, most doctors are dissatisfied with the job, and less than half would choose a career in medicine if they were able to do it all over again.
There are many reasons for the dissatisfaction, said Christina Lamontagne, vice president of health at NerdWallet. Most doctors enter the field thinking they'll be able to spend most of their time healing the sick. Yet the paperwork burden on doctors has become crushing, and could become even more complicated under the Affordable Care Act.
"Administrative tasks account for nearly one-quarter of a doctor's day," Lamontagne said. "With additional liability concerns and more layers in health care, we can understand the drain this takes."
Worse, the cost of becoming a doctor has soared, with higher education expenses leaving the average newly minted physician with $166,750 in medical school debt, while average salaries are declining. Nearly one-third of doctors -- 28 percent - saw a cut in pay last year, according to NerdWallet's research.
To be sure, pay is still high, with of six-figure positions in the country according to government data. But it also takes between 11 and 14 years of higher education to become a physician. That means the typical doctor doesn't earn a full-time salary until 10 years after the typical college graduate starts making money.
That lost decade of work costs a cool half-million dollars, if you assume this individual could have earned just $50,000 annually, and the typical medical school candidate is smart and successful enough to earn considerably more. Add in the time and cost it takes to pay off medical school debt and a dissatisfied physician may well consider pursuing medicine a $1 million mistake. (This assumes the average $166,750 medical school debt takes 30 years to repay at 7.5 percent interest -- a total cost of $419,738.)
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