Being a medical resident marks an exciting chapter in the journey to becoming a fully licensed physician.
This phase brings with it invaluable on-the-job experiences, patient interactions, and specialized training opportunities.
But the average residency salary doesn’t always mirror this.
What Is the Average Medical Resident Salary?
The national average salary for a medical resident is $57,084, according to data from Zippia, which is quite low considering the hours and commitment required.
Residents also have to start paying off medical school loans, which is challenging enough. Plus, if you have children in residency, there’s often not much money left over after paying for childcare expenses.
Like other professions, residency salary ranges tend to vary state by state.
- South Dakota
- New York
- North Dakota
- New Mexico
15 Ways to Maximize Your Resident Salary
If you’re wondering how to thrive – not just survive – during residency, check out these 15 ways to maximize your residency salary or add to it.
- Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Plan
- Reevaluate the Car You Drive
- Stock Up on Groceries
- Negotiate Your Bills
- See Patients on Telemedicine
- Be a Medical Consultant
- Teach Medical Students
- Write for Medical Journals
- Participate in Clinical Trials
- Change Your Specialty
- Become a Private Tutor
- Start a Medical Blog
- Participate in Speaking Engagements
- Invest Extra Cash
- Negotiate Your Salary
1. Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Plan
Most residents need help to make the standard payment on their medical school loans as residency physicians. However, you can enroll in an income-driven repayment plan to help stretch your dollar during residency.
An income-driven repayment (IDR) plan is designed to make repaying medical school loans more manageable by pegging monthly payments to a person’s income level and family size. This is especially helpful for residents who start their careers in significant debt with modest salaries.
Under an IDR plan, your monthly payment is determined as a percentage of your discretionary income. Discretionary income is defined as the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150% of the poverty guideline for your state and family size.
There are several types of IDR plans, including income-based repayment (IBR), pay-as-you-earn (PAYE), and income-contingent repayment (ICR.)
The monthly IDR payment is usually $0 for the first year of residency because most residents do not generate income in their last year of medical school.
2. Reevaluate the Car You Drive
Cars are an expense that many of us have grown to accept. However, it may be worth reevaluating the car you drive if your monthly payments and insurance are eating up a portion of your budget.
When you’re spending 80 hours in the hospital each week, having a nice car isn’t as important as having a reliable and cheap mode of transportation. Consider whether you can trade in your vehicle for one with a more affordable monthly payment or if you can commute to the hospital more cheaply, such as a bus or bike.
Many resident physicians work similar hours, so consider setting up a carpool with others in your residency program. This can help you cut down on gas costs and bond with your fellow residents.
3. Stock Up on Groceries
Nothing eats up your disposable income – no pun intended – more than eating out. Even if you’re not going to restaurants during the week, grabbing food at the hospital cafeteria can turn expensive quickly.
Stocking up on groceries may seem like a simple domestic chore, but it can significantly help reduce food costs to help stretch your resident salary.
Planning ahead by keeping snacks in your white coat pocket and meal prepping can help prevent late-night food runs when you’re on a call or hitting the drive-thru on the way home.
4. Negotiate Your Bills
You would be surprised how much you can save by simply calling and negotiating your regular bills. Fixed expenses, such as electricity and insurance, are a reality for everyone, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t wiggle room to negotiate.
Service providers are always looking for ways to retain customers to avoid losing them to competitors. Knowing what other service providers are offering can be a powerful tool to negotiate lower prices.
Take an hour or two on your day off to research competitor prices for your cable, car insurance, credit cards, and any other fixed expenses you have.
Call up your service providers and see if there is any way to get discounts or lowered rates on your expenses. You may be surprised how many providers are willing to negotiate.
5. See Patients on Telemedicine
The pandemic changed the way we look after our well-being. Telemedicine has been a game-changer for seeing patients and maximizing your time as a physician. Plus, you can earn between $50 and $250 per hour by seeing patients virtually.
Ultimately, medicine is a service profession, and the highest-paid doctors are often the ones who see the most patients. If your program allows, you can look for a telemedicine job to see patients in your off-hours.
Not only will you be making healthcare more accessible for all, but you will also boost your take-home earnings as a physician.
6. Be a Medical Consultant
Medical technology companies are on the rise in the digital age. They are often looking for medical professionals to provide expertise, validate product usability, and help people within the business understand health systems and the medical marketplace.
Being a medical consultant can be an exciting opportunity for residents who want to flex their business savviness and provide medical expertise.
The best part about being a medical consultant is that you can do it on your own time and bill your hours accordingly. Firms are willing to work with physicians who know their stuff, and they will pay top dollar for years of experience.
7. Teach Medical Students
Many medical schools and training programs offer paid opportunities for residents to lead lectures, workshops, or lab sessions.
Taking on a teaching role at a medical center or university can be an excellent way to help young medical students and increase your income.
The pay isn’t always great, but it can still provide the boost you need to cover daily expenses or loan repayments.
8. Write for Medical Journals
Do you have a knack for the written word? Writing articles for medical journals can be a strategic move to supplement your income and enhance your career trajectory.
Medical journals, magazines, and other publications are constantly looking for licensed physicians to contribute articles. The pay varies from publication to publication, but you can significantly increase your income by publishing articles in journals and magazines.
Beyond just the pay, publishing articles with respected journals and medical magazines adds to your professional reputation and recognition.
Being a published author can make you more competitive for grants, fellowships, and speaking engagements. Even if a journal doesn’t pay well at first, consider publishing as a way to elevate your professional profile and position yourself for a more lucrative career later on.
9. Participate in Clinical Trials
Did you enjoy research during your graduate medical education? You can participate in clinical trials to boost your salary and expand your professional experience as a medical resident.
Clinical trials offer financial incentives for medical professionals involved in the study. Whether you’re designing and implementing the experiments, collecting data, or analyzing results, clinical trials can help you earn extra cash and free up other parts of your salary.
Plus, participating in clinical trials can set you up for higher-paying opportunities in the future.
10. Change Your Specialty
Choosing a specialty is a critical decision that can profoundly affect your career trajectory and earning potential.
While passion for a particular field should be an obvious factor in your choice, you should also consider which specialties have decent earning potential to help you earn more during residency and beyond.
The rule of thumb to remember is the more specialized the field, the better the salary. Surgery, anesthesiology, ophthalmology, and emergency medicine tend to command higher salaries than more generalized fields.
However, even broader fields like family medicine, pediatrics, and internal medicine have subspecialties that can offer higher compensation.
11. Become a Private Tutor
Was there a subject in medical school that you found second nature? If so, you can make some extra money by tutoring medical students.
Becoming a tutor is a flexible and effective way for medical residents to supplement their income. The demand for tutors in biology, chemistry, and even specific medical courses is consistently high for undergraduate and graduate students.
Depending on your skillset, you could also offer tutoring for standardized tests relevant to medical school admissions, such as the MCAT.
12. Start a Medical Blog
If you are looking for a creative outlet, starting a medical blog can help you flex your medical knowledge and supplement your income.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of medical residents who are in the same position you are now. Whether you want to share tips on how to survive residency or spread awareness about a particular medical topic, a blog is a flexible and simple way to earn extra cash.
It will take some time for your blog to gain traction, but the earning potential is nearly limitless depending on how much time and effort you put in.
13. Participate in Speaking Engagements
If you’re a talented public speaker, participating in speaking engagements can be a lucrative way to supplement your income and expand your professional opportunities.
Medical organizations, academic institutions, and healthcare companies will pay knowledgeable physicians to provide valuable insights and expertise at their events. The pay can vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousand per event, depending on the platform, the topic, and your experience.
Because residents are deeply involved in clinical practice and often up-to-date on the latest research, organizations are willing to pay for them to speak at events. Some residents even turn this into a regular side gig, which can generate significant income and grow their professional network over time.
14. Invest Extra Cash
Coming up with extra cash during residency isn’t the easiest thing to do. However, putting some money into investments can help you earn significantly over the long run.
Investments in stock markets, mutual funds, or even real estate can provide short-term and long-term financial gains. Depending on how you invest your money, you can earn dividends, interest, or even rental income if you invest in real estate. Plus, you can always sell your investments later at a higher value.
The key to investing is to start early and be consistent. Start with relatively safe, diversified investments that align with your risk tolerance and financial goals.
15. Negotiate Your Salary
Negotiating a salary increase can feel uneasy, but it is a legitimate way that you can boost your take-home cash as a medical resident.
Like any job, hospitals and residency match programs are willing to pay more money for talented candidates. There is a ceiling on how much a hospital is willing to pay, but you can always negotiate to see how much wiggle room they have.
A successful negotiation doesn’t have to secure a huge increase to be worthwhile. Even a modest boost in your salary can add up over the course of your residency.
Knowing your worth is important, so take the time to negotiate your salary to make sure you are investing in the immediate and long-term well-being of your financial future.
Ultimately, there are many ways to make the most of your resident’s income. In general, by being aware of your spending and expenses, you’re far more likely to live within your means.
If you can do that in addition to negotiating some of your monthly bills or picking up a side hustle, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing the income you receive.