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Even Physicians Need a Side Gig: Poll of 3,500 Doctors

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With decreasing levels of reimbursement, the ballooning cost of a medical education, and increases in cost of living, physicians across the country are seeking side gigs to diversify their income. A recent poll of 3,511 physicians found that real estate investing (37%) is the most preferred side gig, with moonlighting and locum tenens close behind (22%). Other common side gigs include interviews and surveys (13%); blogging, podcasting, and social media (11%); and day trading (10%). 

A wide range of “other” side gigs (7%) include jobs such as carpentry, playing violin in a jazz band, medical writing, and even farming.

Interest in real estate is highest for physicians earlier in their careers: 44% of early-career and mid-career physicians prefer real estate investing, compared with 31% of late-career and 22% of retired physicians. Blogging and social media is of more interest to physicians later on in their career: 13% of retired physicians prioritize blogging, compared with 10% of early-career physicians. Moonlighting and locum tenens is preferred more often by fellows (27%) and retired physicians (28%) than it is for practicing physicians (21%).

Slightly more men (39%) than women (34%) prefer real estate investing as a side gig, though it remains the number one choice for women as well. More men (12%) than women (7%) prioritize day trading, whereas more women than men prioritize blogging, podcasting, and social media (14% vs. 10%), as well as interviews and surveys (18% vs. 12%).

While real estate investing is the top side gig overall, a few specialties rank moonlighting and locum tenens highest, including vascular surgery (38%), pathology (38%), and oncology (30%). Infectious disease specialists are the most likely to prefer interviews and surveys by far (28%), which can be a quick and effective way to share expertise and earn some extra income. 

Specialties most likely to prioritize blogging, podcasting, and social media are urology (19%), family medicine (17%), infectious disease (16%), and psychiatry (16%). And the specialties most likely to prioritize day trading are radiation oncology (23%) and gastroenterology (21%).

Real estate investing takes effort, but in general, may be less time-consuming than the other side gigs listed in the poll. It affords physicians an opportunity to diversify their portfolios and generate long-term wealth. Real estate investment provides one with property, tax benefits, and consistent cash flow without a full-time commitment, which may be why it ranks so highly. 

“The passive income provided by such investments [real estate] can continue flowing for your entire life, and in fact, the best investments can actually be generational — extending well beyond your own lifetime,” Jordan Frey, MD, of The Prudent Plastic Surgeon, wrote in a blog post.

Overall, the poll shows that physicians have interest in a variety of side gigs. With physician pay lagging behind inflation over the past several years — and some physicians even delaying retirement as a result — their interest in side gigs may continue to grow.

The landscape is ever-evolving, with side hustles not only serving as income generators, but also platforms for exploring passions and skills beyond one's primary profession,” Peter Kim, MD, of Passive Income MD, wrote in an Op-Med. 

Not all physicians agree that side gigs are necessary though. "I have a great full-time job, and in my free time I like to have fun — read, sing, paint, do crafts, hike, and play the piano,” said pediatrician Pippa Coulter, MD. “Don't give too much of your life to income generation."

Image by Alphavector / Shutterstock

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