While medical schools can cost more than $100,000 a year, research discovered those who will benefit from the financial reward of being a doctor are men while women would benefit more from becoming a physician assistant.
A study conducted by M. Keith Chen and Judith Chevalier, both who are faculty members of the Yale School of Management, revealed men will make a significant amount more compared to women as physicians.
According to both Chen and Chevalier, the two contributing factors causing the income difference are 1) the wage difference among men and women and 2) women do not work enough hours to outweigh the expense of becoming a physician.
The study collected data from thousands of doctors and physician assistants, which included wages and hours worked for both men and women in both professions, from the Robert Wood Johnson Community Tracking Physician Survey and the American Academy of Physician Assistants. From the data Chen and Chevalier utilized the net present value (NPV) formula, which is the same formula economists use to determine if the gain of long-term endeavors outweighs the cost.
The NPV for men who become a doctor is calculated to be around $2.3 million whereas the value for becoming a physician assistant was $1.9 million. The NPV for women who become a doctor was estimated to be $1.67 million while becoming a physician assistant was about $1.68 million.
The discrepancies between men and women arise as a result of women working fewer hours compared to men. In the initial stage of their careers, the hours average out to be the same, but as median ages (31-35) approach, men work 50 hours per week while women work 10 hours less.
According to Chen and Chevalier, the results of this study suggest women are “overinvesting” on professional degrees that they do not completely take full advantage of.
"There are lots of reasons the decision to be a doctor could be rational but for the median woman, it doesn't make financial sense," Chevalier says.