Technologists vs. Lawyers vs. Doctors: Who Earns More?

You can earn a lot of money as a technologist, especially if you specialize in a highly sought-after skill set such as machine learning or artificial intelligence (A.I.). But even with skills and experience, how does a technologist’s salary match up against that of a lawyer, doctor, or even someone in finance?

Before we plunge into the data, it’s important to emphasize the extreme variability in salaries for technology, medicine, finance, and the legal profession. A software developer who specializes in autonomous-driving technology at Google will almost certainly make more than a first-year analyst at an investment bank, for example. But that aside, we can still calculate the averages for various professions and draw some conclusions.

In order to obtain those numbers, we first turn to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Based on mid-2019 data, here’s how lawyers, physicians, and surgeons stack up against software and web developers, database administrators and architects, network and systems administrators, and other computer-related occupations:

(One slight caveat here: The BLS excludes certain roles from its surgeon and physician categories; for instance, it breaks out oral surgeons, physical therapists, anesthesiologists, and some other specialized roles. However, the BLS surgeon and physician categories seem to encompass the vast majority of U.S. medical jobs, so we’re confident in just focusing on those.)

Based on this data, it’s clear that lawyers and doctors make more than technologists, at least based on mean hourly and annual salary data. Putting aside the BLS data for a moment, we can also revisit this crowdsourced spreadsheet that drew a lot of attention at the beginning of the year, which shows that folks at top financial firms (such as Goldman Sachs) and consulting firms (such as McKinsey) can earn substantial salaries that match or surpass what even top earners make in medicine and management consulting.

Here’s a chart of that spreadsheet’s data, courtesy of Dice’s sister site eFinancialCareers; it takes debt from schooling into account when it comes to medicine and the law:

But this isn’t the whole picture, of course; technologists with the right experience and skills can earn compensation competitive with anyone in other professions. For example, at Google’s L7 level (i.e., senior staff software engineer), annual salary can top more than half a million per year—$256,059 in salary, coupled with $286,176 in stock options and a bonus of $83,294 (according to levels.fyi). Meanwhile, salaries for some A.I. specialists could drift into the millions of dollars per year. 

Bottom line? You can earn quite a bit in a range of professions… but you may need to up-skill in order to get there.

12 Responses to “Technologists vs. Lawyers vs. Doctors: Who Earns More?”

  1. The IT Salaries listed are false. Apparently, Indians that took jobs from Americans are getting paid well. My first 4 tech jobs paid less that $42,000 a year. All 4 outsourced positions to India which we all had to train to take our position because it was no longer needed. The American Developers that I know make $40k to $60k a year. When I applied for Development positions in New York City, companies offered only $60k. So, where is this $100k plus for Software Developers are coming from?

    INDIANS ARE LIVING AMERICAN DREAM, NOT AMERICANS. This will continue to happened in Biden wins the election.

    As I struggled to find work and live in my vehicle owing $148,000 in student loans, more and more Indians were coming to America purchasing $400k to $1 million homes off the H1-B Visa. After several years of crying and wondering what was wrong with me, I decided to switch my policltical party to Republican to support President Trump in hopes of demolishing immigration. Because of what he have done thus far, I have my first career making a good salary.

    Thank you President Trump!!

    • I am sorry for your earlier situation and happy it has improved. Note however that this happened because American companies found that Indians were WILLING to accept low salaries on H1B visas in America. If you knew more American programmers willing to tell you their actual salaries you probably never would have accepted the early cheap salaries. As for the reason for your increased salary, that is a discussion for another article. Best of luck.

    • There must be something wrong with your skillset if you were offered such low salaries in NYC. There are plenty of areas paying those salaries and more for qualified software engineers with the right skillset. If you want the big bucks then get the right skills. It never ceases to amaze me how people vote based on 1 issue. You are happy you are making more money and attribute that to Trump. What about the 200K dead people? How do they feel about Trump? No wonder we have the electoral college.

    • Blaming others is the easiest of all tasks , Go to any decent American university and the entire class of students in computer sciences and related disciplines you will find Indian and Chinese students, almost all of them international students paying double and sometimes 3 times the tuition. The issue is Americans don’t want to study computers and are pretty happy flipping burgers in MacD. As far as paying less and people taking jobs are concerned why do you go Wallmart and hunt for deals and coupons, the same holds true for companies , everyone wants to save a buck for themselves, the whole issue is simple more and more Americans should study STEM ( but sorry they wont) and not to forget these Indians pay taxes like everyone( often a higher amount as they are working in high paying jobs) , enjoys no social security benefits( though paying social security taxes) or any other benefits ( so virtually when they leave its all free money for US economy ). Good candidates still get a comparable amount and for a company if you prove you are worth something they will give you .

    • None of that makes any sense. My firm in Pittsburgh pays both US citizens and H1b workers $80-120k, and has a very hard time getting the people we need. If Trump shuts the H1b visas out, we’ll have no choice but to move jobs to Canada. Others are already doing it.

      I was offered $140k for NYC.

    • You’re getting paid so low because you accept it and something is lacking in your skillset/personality. Even starting out, I rejected those low offers and found a company that was willing to pay standard engineering wages and I’m a newbie and not even in the top of the compensation band. If you’re good, companies will hire you.

    • Greg,
      There has never been a shortage of developer jobs. That is the biggest corporate lie, along with “Americans don’t have the skills”. I’ve been doing this since the 90’s, when the outsourcing started, it was all about the corporations making more money. What you don’t seem to know, is that these corporations were already bringing in millions or billions of dollars, so it wasn’t like they were starving.

      And that extra money they made, do you know where it went? The top brass got it. Instead of making 500k a year, they gave themselves raises upward to 2.5 million.

      The reason why politicians say that Americans have no skills? Well, I could answer that, I’ve seen it, several times, they got donations from these corporations. How much do you ask? Ready….
      Set…
      To eliminate the American workforce, a representative got…
      Oh, around $7000.

      Back in 2001 when this mess got started, I had 12 computer related certifications, I could anything from here to the moon, and my resume was lost in a stack of thousands of out of work IT workers. I lost my car, and almost lost my house. It had nothing to do with skills.

      Do you see what’s going on now?
      H1B needs to go away. It’s a scam, and Americans are being lied to and paying for it.

  2. I read the general consensus here as recognizing that H1-B’s have harmed your job prospects and income. We know H1-B’s are restricting the income and job prospects of Doctors, Nurses and IT workers. But I must ask the question: How many of you will be voting for Trump vs Biden ? Trump is the only president in 30 years to recognize that H1-B’s are destroying one of the few success areas of the US economy since the 90’s. (In 2016 I was making less than I made in 1998). Biden hugged the factory workers of the mid-west, then returned to DC to ship their jobs overseas. Biden tried to do that unsuccessfully with the 90’s IT off-shoring attempts — they failed (youngsters are too young to remember). That is how we got the H1-B program. Biden has received millions from India corporations — using his family as the money launderers — that means he will undo Trump’s reduction of H1-B imports and undo Trump’s increases of H1-B salaries. Because of Trump’s temporary H1-B shutdown, even in the midst of this pandemic, I am fielding multiple offers for IT work. My graduating son will even have a job if Trump is re-elected. This is only because Trump disrupted the H1-B program – I would prefer to see it eliminated, but that requires congress and no Democrat will vote to reduce foreign workers taking American jobs. Please remember who is looking out for you on November 3rd and vote for yourself by voting against Biden.

  3. 1. As a Manufacturing Quality Consultant in Med device and Pharma, i’ve always said that Lawyers are the only ones that make more than I. Yes, perhaps cardiac surgeons might make more, but i don’t pay 40k/year for insurance.
    2. 200k people DID NOT DIE OF COVID!! There is NO COVID! Its all been a HOAX, there has been no virus cell identified, no more people died in this country or others, than died the year before, wouldn’t it have increased? Stop being a non-thinking sheep with a dirty mask over your face.

  4. Chris A. Willner

    Ive been working a STEM engineering job since the 70s and have a PhD. Its all very simple, the chinese, indians, and other asians have been sucking off the American people for over 50 years and the evil corporate greed-mogering companies and so-called business leaders love it. The highest corporate cost is the the labor force. initially it was lower wages that drove the totally fake H1B visas, but now its the desire to have indentured (loyal?) slaves who themselves are totally greedy and who abuse the totally brain-dead system that the brain-dead democrats support. We graduate thousands of college graduates every year (not just liberal arts degrees but STEM degrees as well). The system is as fake as fake news and we need to eliminate all H1-Bs as well as the “high need” visas and start training Americans to do American jobs with the money used. We need to stop the ‘anchor babies’ as not only are the wages going to foreign workers, but companies are finding ways to outsource the work to foreign companies. This was started by the liberal democrat universities and has now infected the entire business environment in this so-called united states.