Career Woman

Why women can earn big money in the medical and healthcare sector


Workers in the healthcare sector get paid more in general than in any other sector. It might surprise you to know that this doesn’t just apply to MDs and other trained medical staff, it also applies to non-medical personnel, like cleaners too.

Part of this has to do with the robustness of demand for the sector and the never-ending infusion of government money. During the global financial crisis, the US economy alone lost more than 7 million jobs — a massive blow to the economy from which we’re still recovering. However, the medical sector added more than 400,000 new jobs during that period, despite the wholesale collapse of the economy and the financial system. This had the effect of driving wages higher, even when average salaries in the rest of the economy were falling as labour demand dried up.

The other reason has to do with the inelasticity of demand for medical care. When it comes to spending, people would rather spend money on their medical treatment and cut out non-essentials, like holidays, than the other way around. This means that even when incomes are squeezed, the medical sector continues to vacuum up money. Even if people can’t afford the upfront costs, they’re often willing to go into debt to pay for medical treatment, and this in itself increases the amount of money sloshing about in the system beyond that which could be supported organically by the market.

Women can earn a killing in the medical sector for relatively little training input. To make $70,000 a year as a programmer, most people have to gain at least a graduate degree. But with an equivalent education in the medical sector, your pay could be up to $30,000 higher. In other words, the medical profession pays women a premium that they’re unlikely to get in any other sector, thanks in part to the fundamental drivers of the industry.  For those who are thinking of getting into the healthcare sector, starting with the right path in college can greatly affect your role in the industry. You can take up an RNBSN Online Program and work your way up in order to get a higher salary grade.

Doctors need to be recouped for all that training

So this begs the question: why is it that women can make so much money in the medical sector. One of the reasons for this has to do with the fact that the training to become a doctor, especially a specialist, is involved. Not only is the training itself hard work, but it also takes a very long time for practitioners to earn top wages. Yes, the average doctor can make more than $240,000 a year. But it often takes them well into their 30s to get close to that sort of figure. In the meantime, they’ve built up an enormous debt and have spent years of their life suffering through gruelling training, night shifts and dressings down by their superiors.

As far as many women see it, it’s the training on the way to the high salaries that justify them. Given that the medical profession is one of the least happy in the world, money is needed to keep people motivated and provide a justification for all the stress they experience. Money is the payoff at the end of the road that many doctors use to help them cope with seven years plus of training. It needs to be there to pull them into the profession.

Market conditions push wages higher

But there’s another reason why salaries for women in medicine are so high: market conditions. If you compare a neurosurgeon salary in, say, Norway to the salary in the US, you’ll find a marked difference. This is strange. Both have been through rigorous training, and both need high pay at the end of the road to justify their experiences. But pay in Norway is several times less than pay in the US, at least as a ratio of GDP per capita.

The reasons for this have to do with the way the market is structured. Although many people consider the US healthcare market to be a “free market” system, it’s not. In fact, healthcare providers have traditionally enjoyed near-monopoly conditions thanks to the government banning competition within many states. In addition, the level of regulation and government involvement in practically every aspect of the industry makes it one in which the usual market forces don’t operate, even under an insurance-style setup.

This, in turn, has actually helped to push up wages relative to countries with single-payer, government-oversight systems. Whereas taxpayers might vote out a political party who paid excessive wages to health care workers, under a private insurance system, this isn’t possible. Thus, wages remain high, and are likely to do so for some time yet, because of the way that the healthcare system is organised. And that’s good news for women who want to make a killing in the sector.

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