Every year in the United States, around 50,000 college students apply to medical school. In the end, only around 20,000 get accepted. With the cost of medical school on the rise (we’ll get to that in a minute), many are looking into lesser-known healthcare fields. One of the most rewarding and lucrative fields in the game today is perfusion. Let’s take a look at the steps it takes for a career in perfusion vs. medical school. Both offer great careers but have very different roads to get there.
The Amount of Time Invested
If you’re thinking of becoming a medical doctor, prepare for the long haul. If you’ve already obtained your bachelor’s degree, it will take you four years of medical school and another three to seven years of residency training (depending on the specialty) and board examinations to become a full-fledged attending physician. From your freshman year in college through residency, that’s a minimum 11-year investment for training. And if you pick a more intense specialty, don’t expect to sleep much during your residency.
Training to become a perfusionist, however, can be completed in as quickly as two years if you already have a bachelor’s degree (science, biology focus). Becoming a perfusionist requires either completion of a perfusion training program or a master’s in perfusion. Once either a certificate or master’s degree is obtained, you can go for your certification through the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. Most perfusion training programs will help you prep for these courses.
Weighing Overall Costs
As mentioned earlier, medical school is very expensive. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, the median cost for med school is $207,000 for public schools and $278,000 for private schools. The AAMC also reports that the average debt balance for a graduating med school student is $183,000, with many signing up for 30-year federal loans at 7-8% interest rates to pay it all back. This continued mounting cost led to a CBS News report to describe becoming a doctor as a $1 million mistake when it comes to overall finances.
Now, let’s look at perfusion training. The average tuition for a perfusionist program is just over $32,000. To look at this another way, the cost of medical school at a public university is over six times higher than the cost of perfusion school. You can also become certified as a perfusionist within a few months of receiving your certificate. So, at this point, you might be thinking “But if I just get through med school, I’ll make more money as a doctor than a perfusionist.” Let’s dive into that.
Setting all that debt aside (for a moment) for medical school, you won’t start getting paid until your first year of residency, also known as the intern year. On average, residents are usually paid somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 annually. The salary may vary depending on the specialty. Cardiology interns, for example, earn an average of $62,000 while residents in emergency and internal medicine earn $55,000. With that said, there’s no denying that if you press on to become an attending physician of any kind, you can make a very nice living. The average salaries of each specialty are well into the six-figure range, with some in the mid to high six figures.
Let’s look at perfusion salaries. “The perfusion profession has seen a steep increase in starting salaries,” said Tom Coley, SpecialtyCare’s president of perfusion services. “We are seeing starting salaries from the low six figures up to 125,000 depending on location.”
You might be thinking “Well, it sounds like I could still make more as a doctor.” In some cases that might be true. However, there are other things to consider, such as lost income in lieu of training. Assuming it’s likely that any given med student is qualified for a perfusion program, they would be missing out on well over $1 million with a decade of income they would be earning instead of training. Take that number up even higher when considering a 401(k) plan and other long-term investments. And let’s not forget that pesky debt that may follow you for 30 years.
There is no doubt we need good doctors and surgeons and that these are honorable, rewarding professions. We also need good perfusionists, with a nation-wide shortage in the profession. If you’ve weighed your options and perfusion school sounds right for you, check out the PERFUSION SCHOOL DIRECTORY. SpecialtyCare offers annual scholarship opportunities and we have openings in some of the country’s leading hospitals. Visit our CAREERS PAGE for more information.