Who gets paid more: a doctor or a dentist?

From a purely monetary perspective, have you ever thought “would I have been better off training as a doctor or a dentist?” It’s a question we’re asked by clients surprisingly often!

Salary comparisons between doctors and dentists

Both doctors and dentists spend a similar amount of time studying at university, incurring heavy debts. So which profession rewards you better once you’ve qualified?

Just qualified

Because a dentist is ready for action relatively quickly after they’ve qualified, their earnings potential is reached more rapidly.

As a doctor, an F1 will earn in the mid £20Ks; even with on-call pay, this only increases to the early £30K mark. The dentist, meanwhile, is likely to be earning £40K plus.

Of course, it’s not all about the money; quality of life also comes into play. The dentist will probably be working more civilised hours compared to the doctor who’s pulling night shifts and working weekends.

Mid-career point

After only a few years as an Associate, the dentist could be earning a comfortable £60K-£90K. A Principal dentist could be earning a 6-figure income.

The doctors’ pay grade tops out at around £48K as an STR, with on-call potentially taking this into the £60Ks. It’s not until consultancy is reached that a doctor’s income is going to hit the circa £76K mark.

So, by my reckoning, the dentists are ahead at this point. They have had higher earnings from an earlier age and the chance to spend it due to more sociable hours.

The detractors will argue dentists spend all day looking inside people’s mouths…although I’m sure there are worst places to work! They may also quote the alleged high rate of depression amongst dentists.

Career sundown

At this point, the doctor’s and the dentist’s income are likely to be on a par. The doctor may have earned Clinical Excellence Awards and/or have a private practice, so will arguably have more scope to increase their earnings.

Dentists may have built up a practice which will form part of their retirement planning and means they’re able to sell good will.

The winner

In reality there isn’t an obvious ‘career winner’ but there is possibly a ‘retirement winner’!

The career winner: the doctor or the dentist?

Who earns the most in their career, a doctor or a dentist, could be argued either way. What is clear is that both careers will continue to evolve at a sometimes-terrifying rate, with plenty of stress along the way.

No matter which career you opted for, you’ll feel you have earned every penny…plus a few grey hairs along the way!

The retirement winner: the doctor or the dentist?

It is only in retirement that you could potentially argue that one earns more than the other.

On the 1st April 2015, all new and a majority of current doctors and dentists were moved onto the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme. Because this new scheme calculates your final pension using your Career Average Revalued Earnings (CARE), dentists who remain in the NHS could end up with a higher pension income than doctors.

As a dentist, your final CARE-calculated pension will include your higher earnings in the early part of your career. As a doctor, only your base income is superannuated for pension purposes, not your on-call income.

Obviously this is not career advice and the figures I have quoted are based on our experience, not on some precise, analytical study. Earnings in both professions can run into the millions so, whichever path you have chosen, don’t forget your income protection …make sure you keep your hard-earned money safe and your bills paid, even if you can’t work due to illness or injury!

If you had your time again, which career would you choose and why? Open wide please… Let us know by adding a comment below.

3 thoughts on “Who gets paid more: a doctor or a dentist?

  1. Peter

    Great article, thanks. Honestly if I had my time again I wouldn’t do medicine, I’d do dentistry. While there are obviously many happy doctors there are also many many miserable doctors who just can’t bring themselves to change jobs after studying for so long to get into medicine in the first place, but if they could I’m sure many would change. Even the doctors who opt for the “soft” options like GP’s can’t take it hence why the majority of GP’s are now working part time.

    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi Peter,

      Thank you for your positive feedback – it’s always very welcome. Anecdotally we have found that more and more doctors share a deep sense of frustration, with the financial side of things proving to be a bit of a tipping point for a significant number.

      Kind regards, Owen

  2. Stuart Mawson

    Interesting article
    I am over 70 and now non-clinical working for a Community Dental Surgeon. After qualification I spent 24 years in the RAF, 5 years in a NHS practice as a partner and then have been in the CDS for 23 years
    I would choose a salaried post every time. I am now on top of grade in the CDS and earn just shy of £90000.
    Good luck in your career!


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