In our series My 6-Figure Paycheck, women making more than $100,000 open up about how they got there and what exactly they do. We take a closer look at what it feels like to be a woman making six-figures — when only 5% of American women make that much, according to the U.S. Census — w ith the hope it will give women insight into how to better navigate their own career and salary trajectories.
Job: Physician (Internist/Hospitalist)
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Degree: Bachelor of Science, Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
First Salary: $51,000
Current Salary: $200,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"I always knew I wanted to be in the science field since elementary school, whether it was being a veterinarian, physician, or some 'crazy scientist.' During high school, I was drawn to marine biology and wanted to pursue a career in it. It was not until college that I decided to be a physician. I was fascinated by how the human body functioned as a whole."
What did you study in college?
"I took the typical pre-med route by majoring in biology. I also minored in molecular cell physiology, which helped me during my first semester of medical school, since the material was very similar."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"Yes, a lot! I was fortunate to have my parents pay for undergrad, which was not cheap since I went to a private university. All of my loans came from medical school, which is a little over $400,000. They are student PLUS and Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized, as well as a couple private loans. I am currently doing income-based repayment on my federal loans (fingers crossed for loan forgiveness — seven years left to pay!), but the private loans are a killer."
Have you been working at this company since you graduated from college?
"Right after college, I went to medical school, and following medical school I was in residency for three years. Some people are unsure of what residency entails, but it is post–medical school training, where you are under supervision by an attending physician. So you are pretty much a doctor and student at the same time."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"My role is an academic hospitalist. I take care of a variety of patients who are admitted to the hospital with general medical issues. Every day is different, and it depends on how healthy or sick some patients may be. My main focus on a daily basis is providing excellent patient care and teaching the resident team."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"I did not, since this is my first job out of residency. I signed on to work in academic medicine, where the salary tends to be less than private-practice physicians, and there is less flexibility to negotiate. The salary does go up the more clinical experience you have."
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"Of course! I absolutely love what I do. Being a physician is so rewarding, and seeing patients and their families so grateful is what drives me. I have to admit there are some days that take a toll on me, especially if a patient passes away when it was not expected."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"I love working in academic medicine and would love to work more closely with a medical school. However, there is a part of me that would like to work in hospital administration, so I am currently debating getting an MBA."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"There are two pieces of advice for my younger self. First, becoming a physician is not an easy road. My father did tell me this prior to me starting medical school, but I did not realize how difficult it would be. It is definitely a challenging path, but being able to touch so many lives is well worth it.
"Secondly, don't be afraid to be open-minded. I went into medical school thinking I wanted to be a general surgeon, and no one could change my mind. I was absolutely dreading my internal-medicine rotation, but ended up loving it way more than my surgery rotation!"
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