About six in 10 medical residents say they are not paid enough, with more than one-third saying they should be paid between 26% and 50% more, a new survey found.
The average resident salary is $63,400, up about 3% from the average salary of $61,200 last year, according to a Medscape resident salary and debt report.
The average resident salary continues to trend upward, according to Medscape's surveys from the past six years.
But nearly half of all residents (47%) have medical school debt totaling more than $200,000, according to the survey based on responses from more than 1,600 medical residents from April 3 to June 1, 2020.
Last year, about half of residents in their sixth through eighth year of residency felt fairly compensated. That has dropped to 43% this year, the survey found.
According to the survey, 81% of medical residents say their compensation doesn't reflect the number of hours worked and 77% report that the compensation is not comparable to that of other medical staff, such as physician assistants and nurses.
Many residents (71%) believe that their compensation doesn't reflect the required skill level and 42% say it doesn't meet the cost of living.
About a quarter of residents (27%) believe they should be paid 51% to 100% more and 29% think a boost in pay by 11% to 25% would be fair compensation.
The highest-paying specialties for residents include allergy and immunology, hematology, rheumatology ($69,500) and cardiology ($68,600), while family medicine residents are at the low end of the pay scale ($58,500).
More than 90% of all residents say future earnings have an influence on their specialty choice.
Amelia Breyre, a fourth-year emergency medicine resident at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, says that in some circumstances, when averaged over an 80-hour work week, intern salaries are often below $15 per hour. While that's above minimum wage, it "can still create a financial burden when considering compounded student debt," she said, according to the survey report.
About a quarter of medical residents (24%) owe more than $300,000 in medical school loans. About two-thirds of residents (64%) are in debt of $100,000 or more. Meanwhile, 23% of residents say they have no debt at all.
Medical residents are trying to help quell the COVID-19 pandemic while also honing their skills.
Three of every 10 residents said they felt unprepared to handle the global pandemic based on their training, with a similar amount unsure as cases continue to arise across the United States.
Maintaining a work-life balance remains a top challenge for medical residents no matter the year of residency, the survey found.
"The process of becoming a doctor is full of humbling, frustrating, and rewarding moments," Breyre said. "Residency has taught me how to become a better advocate for myself, for patients, and for a better healthcare system. The best part is that residency is just the beginning."