Entertainment And News

The Job With A Higher Salary Than A Doctor With Medical School Debt — And It Doesn’t Even Require A College Degree

Photo: Lance Reis via Unsplash / Billion Photos and Bianca Marie Arreola via Canva
smiling man and hands holding money

Between the exorbitant cost of a higher education and the instability of the corporate job market, today's workforce and young people coming of age are faced with quite a conundrum when it comes to how to get ahead. But what if the solution — or a solution, anyway — is right under our noses?

Plumbers make a higher salary than a doctor — and almost no one seems to realize it. 

Between the crushing cost of student debt, wage stagnation and the often punishing process of trying to find even an entry-level corporate job, the traditional advice that going to college is the ticket to a comfortable life is beginning to seem more and more absurd — and it's already resulting in declining enrollment.

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This incredibly difficult situation has led to lots of despair, especially among Gen Z young people (as well as their parents) as they prepare to launch their lives and careers.

But if financial success and comfort are the goal, we really might all be barking up the wrong tree, because skilled trade jobs like a plumber pay far more than any entry-level job — and in some cases more than even prestigious careers like medicine.

Podcaster Jered Williams recently did the math in a video on TikTok, where he's known as @thejeredshow. He showed not only just how long it takes for doctors to reach those coveted $200k+ salaries, but also how little they make along the way once the six-figure student loan debt that medical school requires is factored in.



As Williams showed, plumbers routinely start their careers making about $60,000 a year — roughly what a doctor makes in residency while also paying down hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And for many, even once they're making those coveted upper-range doctors' salaries, they're still kissing hundreds if not thousands of dollars in debt payments goodbye every month. 

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Plumbers, on the other hand, can make $40-$50 per hour to start — with no college degree or student debt required.

Blue-collar jobs have long been stigmatized as unsophisticated, the province of those who don't have the smarts for a white-collar job or the education required to get one. That incredibly classist and — well, for lack of a better word, gross — attitude has never been accurate. But nowadays? Well, it's downright absurd. You can call yourself a smarty-pants for having a fancy degree all you want, but if you have to pay hundreds a month in student debt for 40 years to get it, who's actually smarter? You, or the guy who went to trade school, became a plumber or electrician, and started his career making $50 an hour?



Because it turns out that Williams' estimate of $60,000 to start isn't even accurate nowadays — the wages for skilled professionals like plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other blue-collar jobs have skyrocketed in recent years for one very important reason.

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There is a massive shortage of skilled workers like plumbers, electricians and carpenters, and it is reaching crisis level.

There is a massive shortage of skilled tradesmen, in part because we've spent decades preaching that a college degree is the only path to success and looking down our noses at these kinds of jobs as lacking in prestige. And as anyone who's tried to hire a plumber or electrician recently can tell you, it's creating a full-on crisis in construction, an industry that includes everything from building skyscrapers to remodeling your bathroom.

This is in part because older workers are hanging onto their jobs longer due to the state of our economy. But the biggest problem is that there are so few younger professionals to take over for older plumbers, electricians and carpenters. With no one to pass the torch to, many are staying in their careers.

This is the end result of several decades of reformatting our education system to steer students towards college rather than labor. Most school systems no longer even have job training in high school, which used to be standard — as it should, since we literally can't live without these workers' skills.

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The real value of a college degree is rapidly declining at the same time as pay for skilled trades is increasing.

Though college graduates statistically earn more than those who skip getting a degree, that benefit is now offset, if not erased entirely, by the staggering amount of debt required to get a degree in the first place. And that's if you can even get a decent job once you've graduated. A 2022 study found almost half of recent graduates stopped applying for entry-level jobs because the job descriptions said they were unqualified.

Meanwhile, another force has begun erasing that college degree advantage: Wages for degree holders have actually been declining in recent years. Pay for skilled trades like plumbers, on the other hand, has gone through the roof, in large part because the shortages have driven up prices.



All this combined with the fact that it's becoming nigh on impossible to even get into a good college anymore, it's no wonder that for the first time in decades, nearly half of parents say they don't even want their kids to go to college.

If prestige is what you want, then by all means go have that college experience. But unless you're one of the elite few, prestige isn't gonna pay the bills. You simply can't say the same for a certificate from the local trade school, and it's time we all start taking that seriously.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.