How much does working on Wall Street really pay?


So, I'm a high school senior going to a target undergrad next year, and I've been looking into my career options. I've pretty much narrowed it down to medicine and doing-something-in-finance. As you can tell by the ambiguous wording of my latter choice, I have only a very small idea about careers on wall street.

I don't necessarily have a burning passion for medicine, but I have a lot of experience interning and shadowing with various physicians, and can see myself being quite happy and moderately fulfilled in that role for the rest of my life. With the specialties I'm considering, I'd make about 300k starting out, and I'm sure I can get that up to 500k in five years or so if I start my own practice/join as a partner in a group practice.

Seeing as I do enjoy medicine, the only reason I would consider finance is is I was sure I could make a significantly higher amount than if I was a doctor (i.e, a million plus per year).

So for my question:
How many people actually end up making a million/year coming out of target and having a good work ethic? At what age would this happen? And I'm talking with any career trajectory...IB/PE/HF" ...getting an MBA at some point...
I know the ceiling is obviously much higher in finance than in medicine, but what does the average smart kid make? I know its hard to answer this question, but even anecdotal responses are much appreciated!

Comments (24)

May 20, 2016 - 5:51pm

lmao no one makes a mil right out the gate

there's a bunch of info here if you use the search function, this question has been asked many times

you should also consider the debt loads of the two options. maybe this is a good opportunity to learn about 'internal rate of return'

May 20, 2016 - 7:10pm

Thanks for your response! I wasn't asking about making a million right out of undergrad- I was talking about more when I'm 35, and I've had years of experience, which is the same time I'll be making 500k as a doctor. But I'll look through other threads.

And I'm not taking any student loans for undergrad or med school, so the only difference will be not earning anything for 4 years (med school), and then making 50k for another 4 years (residency).

May 21, 2016 - 11:50am

Use google's website search: " {insert naive keywords here}". Comp and career progression has been done to death on here.

If you think you'll be making $500k at 35 in medicine, you're mistaken. I'll use my cousin as a case study - he has just finished his med stint: 4 years UG + 4 years MD + 5 years surgical residency + 2 years fellowship -> first year attending neurosurgeon at ~$200-300k starting.

In no way will your income scale to $500k within 2 years. Add in med school debt, UG debt, malpractice insurance and you're left with not much at all. The only real way to scale your income in medicine is to either be in an extremely rare speciality working on extremely rare cases or by doing private practice.

Best Response
May 25, 2016 - 2:17am

The only way you can make a million bucks/year at young age is through either owning or starting something yourself, or being a world class salesman (which often goes hand in hand with the first option).

Pay in the medical field is more consistent and predictable, pay in finance is a mix of salary and bonuses. The latter part is obviously more unpredictable.

HOWEVER: You can start making money in finance a lot earlier than you can in medicine, and you'll most likely have much less debt. It's pretty much 4 years vs 4 years + med school + residence + potential specialized we're talking 4 years VS 10-15 year. If you've been consistent in your career climbing, you could be anything from a VP to MD after 10-15 years in Finance.

Either way, the real money doesn't come before you've passed 30. It's all hard work before that.

May 25, 2016 - 5:24pm

You're a senior in high school. Don't be afraid to explore your options; A.W. Jones (founder of the first hedge fund) was a sociologist. The salary you earn shouldn't be determinant of your career path. Wall Street is full of "smart kids." The difference between those that make it big and those doing "Equities in Dallas" (Liar's Poker reference) is their work ethic. This applies to any industry, and how hard you work is partially determined by your passion for whatever you're doing. Do what interests you, not something based on what people have historically made doing it.

May 27, 2016 - 6:53am

Your baseline is 35. If you can make it through 13 years of banking you better be pulling in more than 500k. Meanwhile in medicine if you're 35 you've only been practicing for 3-5 years and unless you're a neurosurgeon or you're actually Dr. Gregory House, you're not touching 500k and you have about 300k in loans. Not to mention every single MD (doctor) I know has told me to avoid medicine at all costs because it's about 30% working with patients and doing something worthwhile and 70% paperwork.

May 30, 2016 - 11:31pm

Between finance and medicine, you probably have a very similar expected value when you consider predictability and also age of retirement over your lifetime. Both fields are at risk of structural decline in terms of compensation. What will ultimately bring you the outsized checks are doing what is consistent with your interests/motivation and lots and lots of luck. Also consider the flexibility you have as a doctor to relocate, which may not seem like a big deal at the moment.

If you're absolutely torn, consider doing your core requirements for medical school and also testing finance with a summer internship. If that's not sufficient, go into a two-year IB analyst program and then proceed to medical school if unsatisfactory. It's tough to make the call while in undergrad not having experienced either before so give yourself some options/latitude to decide a bit later.

Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

September 2020 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (17) $704
  • Vice President (45) $323
  • Associates (257) $228
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (37) $203
  • 2nd Year Analyst (142) $153
  • Intern/Summer Associate (134) $141
  • 1st Year Analyst (566) $129
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (547) $82

Leaderboard See all

Jamoldo's picture
LonLonMilk's picture
Secyh62's picture
CompBanker's picture
Addinator's picture
Edifice's picture
redever's picture
frgna's picture
NuckFuts's picture
bolo up's picture
bolo up