Do software engineers make more than doctors?

If you are tossing up medicine and software engineering it is important to understand whether software engineers make more than doctors Long-term financial stability is an important consideration when choosing the career you want to pursue. It’s important to think hard about the type of lifestyle you’ll be able to afford with the job you pick. 

Software engineers initially make a lot more money than doctors, who only earn between $46,390 to $69,584 on average as interns, while junior software engineers make  $82,051. However, doctors will eventually go on to earn a lot more than software engineers, and doctors have much higher lifetime earnings than software engineers.

However, doctors spend more than a decade training and require a lot more specialization than software engineers who can get started in a matter of months. It means that recent tech graduates get off to a far quicker start earning money than their medical counterparts. 

We’ll take a look at whether software engineers make more than doctors and the different factors which can affect earnings. Let’s explore the average salaries of these two popular professions differ – and the reasons behind it.  

Why do doctors initially earn less than software engineers?

Being a doctor is still one of the most highly paid professions in the world, despite the increase in high-earning careers like software development. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of doctors in 2022 in the US is over $ 180,000. 

However, some professions, such as software engineering, have caught up to these high salaries and now offer employees handsome salaries. These salaries sometimes exceed the average salaries paid to doctors. So why is that the case? Why do doctors earn less?

One reason for doctors earning relatively less than software engineers or any other specialized profession is demand. Doctors who specialize in disciplines where there’s less demand are likely to be paid less. If there are many medical professionals in an area for a certain specialization, then their salaries will be low.

In addition, becoming a doctor is a long and laborious process that requires plenty of hard work and determination. Graduating medical school takes a lot of effort and perseverance. Moreover, the pay is initially low and the working hours are long.

Doctors also have to start paying off their medical school debt which can eat up a significant chunk of their earnings. In fact, medical and dental school graduates are known for having the highest average student debt among other professions.

However, as doctors start to progress through their careers their earning skyrocket. Once the medical debt has been paid off and they start to become renowned in their chosen specialization, doctors earn a lot more than your average software developer.

On average, a senior developer is paid $147,059 in the United States which is more than $30,000 less than a senior doctor. 

Doctors VS Software engineers earning

The table below shows some basic differences between a doctor and a software engineer in our quest to answer the question: Do software engineers make more than doctors?

Assume from the age of 18 to the age of 65, a person can work for 47 years. At age 18, all roads diverge; some people decide to take a break before starting school, while others simply start working. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll assume that a prospective doctor or software developer will begin his or her education right after high school.

Let’s also assume that everyone lives on a budget of $1,500 per month, regardless of income or level of education, and that over time, these figures are adjusted for inflation. In this manner, we are merely comparing the variations in income and student loan debt for the two disciplines.

 DoctorsSoftware Engineers
Study DurationMore than 6 years4 years
Student Loan Debt$183,000$37,172
Net Worth at Retirement $10.1 million $7.1 million 
Work from HomeNot possibleEasily possible 
Guaranteed success?YesYes

As shown in the table above, a doctor, after almost 11 years of education and training, earns higher than a software engineer who does start earning relatively early. Many final outcomes depend on the smaller investments and expenses that go into the years of training and gaining professional experience. 

Career Progress

Mentioned below is a simple list that shows the progression in a career with age, assuming life goes in an ideal way for both the Software Engineer and the Doctor. Also, assuming both individuals lead frugal lifestyles and incur the typical amount of debt while starting their jobs, a doctor will likely have a higher net worth at retirement than a software engineer.

  • Around year 24, or age 42, the physician reaches $1 million in net worth.
  • Around year 22, or age 40, the software developer’s net worth reaches $1 million.
  • Around age 47 or the year 29, the doctor’s net worth reaches $2 million.
  • Around age 47 or the 29th year, the software developer’s net worth reaches $2 million.
  • The doctor’s net worth then surpasses that of the software engineer significantly.
  • In year 4, the software developer’s maximum debt is $61,000, compared to the doctor’s debt of $390,000. (year 8).

Are software engineers richer than doctors?

Overall it is hard to compare whether software engineers are richer than doctors because income and expenses can vary widely depending on factors such as location, level of experience, and specialization.

However, both software engineers and doctors have the potential to earn good money.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for software developers was $110,140 in May 2020. Meanwhile, the median annual wage for physicians and surgeons was $206,500 in May 2020.

So based on historical data, we can say that doctors are richer than software developers. But there are many different types of doctors, and salaries can vary widely depending on the type of practice and specialty. For example, primary care physicians typically earn less than specialists such as surgeons or anesthesiologists.

Both software engineers and doctors have the potential to earn high salaries, but the amount can vary based on various factors such as location, experience, and specialization.

Which is the better career choice? 

Do software engineers make more than doctors? The careful evaluation shows that while a healthcare professional may be a low-paid job initially, they will eventually make much more money than a software engineer. However, a doctor’s net worth won’t surpass a developer’s until working for a considerable amount of time.

Moreover, we must take an unbiased look at these figures. The previous figures might not be wholly accurate because it’s common for people to incur more debt when they enroll in more courses. Additionally, studies demonstrate that individuals who earn more adopt a more extravagant lifestyle, which causes them to spend a greater proportion of their income.

Each job choice has its own perks and pitfalls. For instance, doctors may fail their board exams and be saddled with debt. Or the software engineer can land in a position that degrades their skill set, pushing them well behind current trends and causing their pay to stagnate. Additionally, doctors run the danger of being sued for malpractice.

Due to age discrimination in the industry and rapidly evolving technology, software developers may not be able to expect to work until they are 65 years old realistically. On the good side, debt forgiveness schemes exist for doctors, which would be a significant windfall. For some fortunate software developers, their stock options go public and increase in value to millions of dollars.


This guide provided a thorough analysis of the difference in earnings between doctors and software – and the reasons behind it. While pursuing professions with higher salaries is tempting and understandable, one should pay heed to their true calling and follow their heart.

Opting for a career because of any other factor than internal happiness and the pursuit of satisfaction is bound to bring a lifetime of longing and lasting dissatisfaction. For this reason, it is important to analyze all aspects of a career before making such an important decision.