Physician Scientist Salary in USA

I find it beyond me to understand the immense pride and ego a few physicians display about their their 'clinical knowledge', without themselves having contributed anything to the body of medical science ;-). Most of all we know as medical students and physicians is the work and legacy of thousands of researchers and inventors that has been handed down the ages.

A "Physician Scientist", as the words convey, is both - a physician and a scientist/researcher, but mentions research as the primary profession.

The income levels of Physician Scientists average from $80,000 a year at the initial levels to around $200,000 a year at very senior levels.



The physician scientist salary usually depends on:

- the seniority
- the type of institution (academic university versus corporate labs)
- the source of funds at the institution and importantly,
- the amount of the grant funds the researcher can pull for the organization.

Usually the salary is derived from two or more sources - the institution, an attached service hospital and the grants.

Do Physician Scientists Have Clinical Practice ?

These days, a physician scientist has become more of a researcher with administrative duties, while the physician part is diminishing, thanks to the increased pressure of grant writing and pulling research funds.

As Dr. Andrew Marks in his article "Physician scientist, heal thyself..." writes: "Calculations showed I may actually spend more hours per year at mandated training courses on hand washing, Medicare/Medicaid billing, record keeping, etc. than I do seeing patients in the approximately one month each year when I serve as an attending physician".
He also writes that junior physician-scientists get yanked from the laboratory to cover for senior physicians on weekends and holidays !

What's the Difference Between Physician Scientists and Medical Scientist ?

Medical scientist is a broader term and also includes those people working in clinical research (usually PhD degrees) who do not have medical school training. Thus every physician scientist is a medical scientist but every medical scientist may not be a physician scientist. Non-Physician Medical scientists salaries are usually much lesser than the MD scientists.


How to Become a Physician Scientist in USA ? 

There is no fixed single route to become one - if you feel the calling for research, you can work your way to become one. You can either get formally trained as a physician scientist to begin with, via a MD/PhD Program, while some people 'switch over' after working in clinical practice and participate in ongoing research at their facility to take on positions based on experience, or get into physician scientist residencies / research fellowship programs.

The most prestigious academic route to be a physician scientist begins with a MD/PhD Programs (also known as the Medical Scientist Training Program - MSTP) - which is a medical school training combined with a graduate school PhD program in research methods. An MD/PhD or MSTP program usually lasts for about 7 to 8 years. The next step is a research -track residency program and finally research fellowships that pay about $75,000 a year.

The competition for MD/PhD programs is intense and the brightest usually make it to such programs. As an example, check out the ultra-competitive Washington University MSTP prgroam at St Louis, Missouri.

IMGs may find it tough to enter above programs since the training funding usually comes from the NIH (National Institute of Health), which is usually reserved for US Citizens and Permanent Residents.

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Useful books:
1.The Complete Guide to the MD/PhD Degree
2.Physicians in the Academic Marketplace: (Contributions to the Study of Education)
3. Faculty Health in Academic Medicine: Physicians, Scientists, and the Pressures of Success