Most medical residents are dissatisfied with their salaries. Here's how much more they want to be paid

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.

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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).

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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.

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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."