Why You Should Have Gone to Med School, in One Gigantic Chart

A blog about business and economics.
June 23 2014 4:31 PM

Why You Should Have Gone to Med School, in One Gigantic Chart

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Saving lives, making bank.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Seriously, your mother was right. The ridiculously long graph below (via Vox) ranks the best- and worst-paid jobs in America, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It was created by Reddit user Dan Lin, who did the patient work of compiling average wages for 820 different occupations. And, as you can see, 13 of the top 15 spots belong to health care professions (in pink), with anesthesiologists nabbing the top spot, right above surgeons.

This speaks to a point Matt Yglesias has made on Slate previously: American doctors are way overpaid, in part because we have far too few of them. General practitioners earn more in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, and our specialists are second only to the Netherlands, yet it doesn't seem to buy us more or better care. In the end, it's one of the many reasons U.S. medicine is so expensive. One could argue that our M.D.s need the high salaries to make up for the time and money they spend in medical school, along with their years toiling as poorly paid residents. But we'd be better off in a system that made med school cheaper and produced more graduates while funding residencies more generously (Medicare already subsidizes most of the training stints). While we're at it, we could also make it easier for foreign doctors to immigrate here. In any event, we'd probably be better off if the top of this graph wasn't quite so flush with pink. 

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.