Is being a doctor overrated?

It is according to’s evaluation of the “Most Overrated Jobs of 2011.”

The article summarized’s evaluation of professions that tend to be highly regarded, but when examined more closely have hidden costs that make them less desirable.  The top 12 overrated professions identified, in order, beginning with the most overrated, reads like this:

  1. Senior Corporate Executive
  2. Surgeon
  3. Physician
  4. Psychiatrist
  5. Airline Pilot
  6. Attorney
  7. Architect
  8. Stockbroker
  9. Real Estate Agent
  10. Photojournalist
  11. Flight Attendant
  12. Advertising Account Executive

Some big professions, to be sure.  And notice that three of the top four involve an MD degree!  (Strangely, they chose to think of surgeons, physicians, and psychiatrists as different professions, when in reality they are all physicians.) 

Their rationale for dissing doctors?  In short, being a physician involves:

  • A high degree of job stress (much responsibility for patient health and welfare)
  • Long hours (including physical fatigue, in particular for surgeons)
  • Increased regulation
  • Decreased compensation (pay)

They made no mention of the burdensome debt that new physicians incur in order to join the profession, and the years it often takes to pay it off.

The PA profession isn’t immune to some of these problems.  But clearly being a physician assistant gives you a modicum of balance that’s rarely available to physicians.  So being a physician isn’t what it used to be.  But is it that highly overrated?

I say yes.

Bringing this article up could definitely sound like a fox-and-the-sour-grapes tale, as if I believe being a physician is overrated because I am not a physician.  But I’m not sour on doctors.  Rather, I chose to become a PA in large part because I saw what being a physician would do to my relationship with my family – I have three young children. isn’t the first to make the assertion that being a physician is overrated.  Just a few years ago, US News and World Report came to a similar conclusion.  And if you google this topic, it won’t take you long to find  internet forum debates among medical students and even physicians on the subject.

Hear me now, readers: I have no axe to grind.  My father and grandfather were both physicians.  They loved medicine.  But it was a different era.  Today’s high cost of medical care, the litigious nature of modern American culture, and the exploding population of patients needing care (the Baby Boomers) have made being a physician something less than it once was, and it often seems to me that the physicians are the only ones who realize it.

So why does the public continue to lionize doctors?  Much of the praise is deserved – the work of doctors will always be crucial to the health and well-being of our society.  And it takes serious time and diligence to become a doctor.

I think the public has a poor understanding of just what a doctor’s daily life has become in recent years.  They see the good – glory, the authority, the salary – and rarely think to get familiar with the harder facts: missing time with family; debt and overhead of an office; the pressure to see more and more patients; the weight of charting and other documentation; the struggle to balance the needs and wants of patients with their own needs, and the readiness of the American medical legal system to capitalize on their failures.

What do you think?[subscribe2]