physician side hustles

Side Income with Medical Surveys and Witness Work

There are physicians out there that have a passion for earning extra income. 

That passion is often borne out of necessity. Like many other residents, my wife was earning very little income, while her student loan debt continued to pile up. 

Perhaps it’s a desire to be free of the average $293,000 in student debt that new attending physicians will come out of residency with. 

Although money is an investment in your future, it’s also emotionally and financially freeing to pay it off! 

That is especially true early in your career when you are able to use your medical degree to earn side income. The increase in income can really crush that student debt. 

Subscribe to the Financial Residency PodcastIf you’re out there, and you’re trying to think of like how you could do things a bit differently, or how you could pay off debt quicker without having a change in lifestyle. That’s definitely one of them. I appreciate it going into that. 

So let’s talk a little bit about being an expert witness. How do you get into this? And how do you qualify for those things, I’m genuinely curious to know the step by step on that.

For any physician who is considering one of the many side hustles, this blog is meant to help you decide the right one for your personality and circumstances! You can use your medical degree to earn side income.

First, you might want to look at some of the ways that physicians can earn some extra income using their medical degree. 

Medical Surveys

One of the friendliest side hustles is doing medical surveys. You can do these whenever you have some free time. This is an area where you can use your medical degree to earn side income

This is one of the side hustles that takes a minimal amount of your time. What would I consider a minimal amount of time? One survey would take you between 30 minutes up to an hour. Over the course of a year that doesn’t average out to a lot of time. 

Bonus: Many of the companies have apps so you are able to take your phone out and do a survey anytime and anywhere!

Taylor, my wife, has done them in the past. For her trouble, she’ll get a small check or an Amazon gift card in the mail. While she doesn’t take them seriously, there are other physicians who use them as one of the profitable side hustles. 

Some questions you may have are:

  • How do you find these?
  • How do you qualify to do a medical survey?
  • What type of questions do they typically ask?

Pharmaceutical companies partner with medical survey companies. Their goal is to get information from doctors. 

The information they are searching for or investigating varies. It may be they are trying to figure out which medicine a physician prefers to use out of a group of available medications. 

They might send you sound files of a new medication they are trying to name. Which name is more appealing to the masses. This type of survey may be done online or through a phone interview. 

You could potentially do several phone interviews with pharmaceutical companies a week–earning you a tidy sum!

The easiest way to find these surveys is to create a list and apply online with the companies. When you fill out the application, they’ll ask for your specialty. Sign-up for every one of the companies, who will then contact you when they need a survey for your specialty. They’ll screen you according to your specialty prior to your actual participation. 

Then look for the surveys that pay at least $2 per minute. This is your baseline. That comes out to $120 per hour.  Your time is worth at least that amount. Anything less than that is not worth your time. There are surveys that pay up to $350. There are some doctors who average approximately $20k per year, just doing these in their spare time!

This is one of the side hustles, where you could use your medical degree to earn side income and that can help you quickly crush student loan debt! It could help you pay off debt quicker without having a lifestyle change!

The last tip when doing medical surveys is to set-up a spreadsheet to keep track of which surveys you’ve participated in and when you were paid. It’s a smart idea because many of the survey companies won’t pay you for four to eight weeks. You may need to go back to let them know you haven’t received payment for your services.

As an attending physician, you have the skill set that these companies need. It’s also one of the easiest side hustles where you can use your medical degree to earn side income!

Expert Witness

How do you become an expert witness?

It sounds like one of the more interesting side hustles, which requires you to use your medical degree to earn side income!

This is one of the side hustles where networking and having a positive local presence matter. You can establish relationships with attorneys in your city who need expert witnesses for legal cases. There are websites where you can post your resume.

Once you’ve done a few cases and your reputation grows, your name will be spread through word of mouth for more work.

What are the steps to launching into a side hustle as an expert witness?

  • An attorney contacts you about a case. They’ll set up a meeting with you. The meeting will typically be under 30 minutes. This call is how they get a “feel” for you. 
  • If you are chosen for the case, you’ll need to be prepared to state your rates and sign an agreement with the attorney.

Now, about those rates:

An example is setting up three different rates depending on the exact nature of the work:

  1. Depositions
  2. Reviewing records
  3. Going to Trial

This is one of the side hustles where your specialty matters, and you can use your medical degree to earn side income. It also pays more than others. You can get a feel for what other physicians are charging by networking with other doctors within your specialty.

You can ask for a retainer upfront. That way you have money in the event that they don’t pay you for all the time you put in.

Reviewing Records

One of the most lucrative side hustles which allows you to use your medical degree to earn side income is reviewing records. 

You’ll receive a file and it’s your job to review everything in it. You charge for all the time you spend reviewing the file, and your time on the phone talking to attorneys about it.

That process usually takes several months. You’ll keep track of all the time you spend going over the file material or making calls. 

There are times when you review the records and the case doesn’t get to deposition. So many times the case doesn’t go to trial.

Deposition and Trial

Your normal day will typically consist of seeing patients. That means as an expert witness you’ll be out of the office (or away from the hospital). There are also times that you’ll be required to travel for cases. 

It’s important to make sure your time away is covered. The way to do that is to make sure you’re setting your rates correctly. If you’re giving up one income, you need to earn its replacement–plus more to perform the special service of an expert witness. The way to do that is charge for at least half-day (sometimes a full day) for the deposition and trial. 

The point is to make sure you are setting your rates correctly and setting yourself for success. 

You’ll get paid well for the work you do!

Medical Reviewer

One of the best side hustles that allow you to use your medical degree to earn side income is to get involved with is the position of medical reviewer.

Similar to doing medical surveys, you sign up to do medical reviews with the companies on their websites. The best advice is to start out slowly, signing up with only a few.

The companies that do medical reviewing vary with the types of specialists they use and the volume they do. The best strategy is to call the company directly and ask them what their volume is for your specialty. 

How many reviews do they get per week, month or year?

If they indicate that they do only a couple of reviews per year–it’s not worth your time signing up with them. However, several per week is worth your time. The turnaround time is quicker than with medical surveys. 

Their process is as follows:

  • Sign-up (receive documentation)
  • You’ll get an email regarding the case they are reviewing and how long the work will take (turn around is 24-hours to three days)
  • They’ll tell you how much you are getting paid (an example is a set rate for 30 minutes)
  • Let the company know if you have time to work on the medical review

You’re paid every two weeks or once a month for medical reviews. 

Real Estate

Real estate can be one of the side hustles that allows you to use your medical degree to earn side income that starts out part-time to earn extra income but can become a whole new career. 

I’ve written other blogs about how to invest in real estate, but today I want to address some common mistakes that physicians make when they interact with real estate agents.

Anytime you engage in professional services of any type (financial planner, realtor or doctor), it’s a good idea to check out their reputation. Read online reviews and talk to people who’ve dealt with the person you are considering. That is especially true if you are a physician looking for a realtor. 

The difference is in the restrictions and needs that physicians have. A realtor who is experienced in working with physicians will understand those needs.

I’ve even written about the differences in home loans for the masses versus those for physicians. It’s common that if you can’t put the 20% down for a conventional loan, you’d have to pay private mortgage insurance. 

Physician Wealth ServicesHowever, a physician can put zero percent down and doesn’t have to pay the private mortgage insurance. You might be charged slightly more for interest, but the benefits you’ll receive are more than worth the amount.

The banks understand that physicians come out of medical school with an enormous amount of debt, but they are good candidates for paying it off! That is why the program was created for physicians. 

Too many doctors have had terrible experiences while looking for homes in the early days of their careers. Something to keep in mind is that if you are in residency, the house you are looking for will probably be a short-term home. 

If you are in a neighborhood where other residents live, you’ll be able to sell it in three and five years when you move to another position.

A tip for residents is to have a little bit of extra money. That gives you some leeway while waiting for the right buyer. It makes selling your house a lot less nerve-wracking.

Anyone who has read my blog knows that my family and I personally invest in real estate. It has been my experience that sometimes buying a home isn’t your best option. 

Two things to keep in mind:

  • Weigh the pros and cons to see if buying a home is in your best interest
  • Don’t overextend yourself (you might not want to buy a home during your first job–typically new attending physicians change jobs after a few years)

There are physicians who turn the homes they buy into rental properties. My wife and I have thought about turning our prior homes into rentals. However, we’ve always ended up selling and reinvesting in actual rental properties. It’s a matter of having your realtor run the rentals in your current area for the house you want to buy. 

If you buy a house and underwrite it, and then you decide to move, you can run the comps and look at the rentals in your area to see if the amount of mortgage makes sense. 

That is not where all the work ends, there are repairs, maintenance and then acting as a landlord (that is a whole other blog topic).

This is a side hustle that doesn’t require you to use your medical degree to earn side income. However, consider it carefully before you take action. 

So there you have them…some side hustles that allow you to use your medical degree to earn side income and that you could work into your lifestyle. There are so many more to explore in a future blog. 

If you’ve tried one of these physician side hustles? Find our Physician Finance Community (a 4000+ community of physicians interested in everything personal finance). 

Ryan Inman