Do You Get Paid During Medical Residency?

As you and your physician spouse/partner prepare to transition into medical residency, you’re probably plotting, planning and dreaming about where you’ll live and how you’ll get there. Questions are circling around the not-so-little topic of finances, including if you get paid in medical residency. 

There may also be some more specific questions you might be wondering about as you and your physician spouse/partner head into residency. Here are some to consider as you make plans. 

Do you get paid in medical residency? 

The short—and relieving—answer is yes, they do get paid in residency. But, here’s the tough part to swallow: since your spouse/partner is considered to still be in training, the hours are long and the pay is not nearly as much as what they’ll earn once residency is complete. 

How much are residents paid? 

With many students facing significant debt after medical school, this is the burning question. The short answer is it depends. A more complicated answer involves dissecting a few areas that we’ll discuss throughout this article: 

Location: Each hospital will pay differently depending on the cost of living.

Timeline: Your spouse/partner will most likely receive a pay increase each year of residency.

Benefits: These vary from hospital to hospital.  

Looking for hard numbers? According to some research, the average amount all post-graduate year residents earned in 2021 was $64,000, while the average salary for a first year resident is around $58,000. 

What locations pay the best?

Do you love a big city and can’t wait to experience all the things? Would you rather settle into a quiet community with kids and family-friendly things to do? Now that you know location plays a part in salary ranges, here are some things to consider in your research: 

  • You will likely be paid more if you are working in a larger hospital in a large city. 
  • Look at the cost of living in different locations to see if it will even out or if it makes the higher pay not worth it. For example, residency at one of the larger hospitals in a big city may pay well, but the cost of living will likely be higher. Just as a quick reference – Miami, Denver, Chicago, and Washington DC are some locations with the highest cost of living, while Colorado Springs, Tempe, Norfolk, and Pittsburgh are some of the less expensive areas. 
  • Are you considering an apartment or a house? Be sure to research the rental/housing market thoroughly as it will also factor heavily into whether or not the salary offered will work. Hint: If your spouse/partner is set on a large city hospital in a high cost of living area, consider looking at housing just outside of the city to bring the cost of living down a bit. At the same time consider the commute, post-call exhaustion, call room accessibility, etc.  

When will we earn enough to pay off student loans?

Let’s face it. “Tight budget” will be a familiar term throughout your physician spouse/partner’s residency. Student loans will feel like the weight of the world and you’ll begin thinking about when you can get the weight off your shoulders. 

Consider the following when determining the pay structure and the length of time it will take to pay off those enormous student loans: 

  • How long will your partner be in residency and does their specialty require additional years of training? Some specialties require training for only three years… we’ve seen some take twelve. Additional training after residency does generally pay more, but your family will still not be in a position to pay off those student loans until they’re finished with training.
  • What is the demand for the chosen specialty and what is the average length of time for a physician who is ‘done with training’ to secure a position in the chosen specialty? 
  • Finally, once a physician is finished with training, the base salary will be just that – a base. The good news, it generally goes up from there the longer a physician is in practice. Be aware that in some cases seniority helps generate more income. In many, it does not.

What benefits do residents receive? 

Believe it or not, benefits are a critical factor to consider when choosing a resident program. Generally speaking, though, it’s not really a differentiator as most programs offer benefits. Additionally, these benefits tend to be better than an average workplace in other industries. 

Questions you may ask when looking into a residency program:

  • What, if any, are the health deductibles?
  • Is there a 401k? Do they have a matching program?
  • Are there other benefits?  Life insurance, discounted housing, hospital meal plans, child care, paid time off, or even malpractice insurance costs?

Residency is an important step for you and your physician spouse/partner. Choosing the right program is key to making an easy transition from medical school. Yes, the salary may require your family to be on a tight budget. It may also lead you to a larger/smaller location than first desired when considering the cost of living. The benefits may be basic. Taking the time to research and understand all these factors will ensure you and your physician spouse/partner make the best possible choice. 

All in all, worry not! Again, as your physician spouse/partner progresses in the medical program, it’s likely the salary will increase annually. Once training is complete, that salary will increase significantly. 

Here’s to a fruitful search!

  • Elizabeth is a Physician family advocate, Certified Life Coach for Physician Wives, EM wife of 20+ years, mother, and founder of The MedCommons – a marriage between her tech/business dev background and passion for helping physician families.

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