Authors: Ian Andrew Eisenberg; Shabbar Danish, MD; Thomas Prusa, PhD (Tenafly, NJ)

Introduction:

We examine the income and wealth consequences of a neurosurgeon's delayed entry into the workforce. Our analysis focuses on the financial trajectories of a variety of career paths for a college age student and examines the effects of subsidized medical education.

Methods:

We characterized the schooling and training for multiple career paths. We computed income, student debt, and return on savings for each possible career path. We used data from the BLS, Forbes and the AAMC, and utilized benchmark economic variables in our analysis. We compared the age at which a neurosurgeon breaks even with alternative careers in terms of the present day value of cumulative earnings.

Results:

Neurosurgical careers match the cumulative income of MBA careers between their mid-30's to mid-40's. However a neurosurgeon's net worth does not match that of MBA-healthcare and MBA-finance tracks until ages 45 and 51 respectively. Neurosurgeons who pursue a year of research will match the wealth of the MBA-healthcare track at age 53 and never match the wealth of the MBA-finance track. If both research and fellowship are pursued, a neurosurgeon will never match the wealth of either MBA track. Subsidized medical education has little to no effect on lifetime income and wealth.

Conclusion:

The analysis shows neurosurgeons do not match the income or wealth accumulation of high pay alternative careers until their early-50's, if ever. The time and cost of a neurosurgeon's education and training delays their ability to build wealth. Even when the cost of medical education is subsidized, there is little effect on wealth and income. This analysis suggests that the decision to pursue a career in neurosurgery requires extreme patience, as the economic returns will not be realized for several decades, if ever.