Salaries for Doctors Vs. Air Traffic Controllers

by Rick Suttle
Doctors' average salaries were approximately $70,000 more than air traffic controllers.

Doctors' average salaries were approximately $70,000 more than air traffic controllers.

The jobs of doctors and air traffic controllers demand high degrees of concentration and patience. Doctors must examine patients, diagnose illnesses and injuries, and prescribe treatments. Air traffic controllers monitor air traffic on radar equipment, communicating with airport response teams to keep passengers safe. While both save lives, doctors earn significantly more than air traffic controllers. You'd also spend a decade or more longer in college and training becoming a doctor versus an air traffic controller.

Average Salaries

The average annual salary of a doctor was $184,820 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while average salaries for air traffic controllers was $118,430 the same year. The top 10 percent of air traffic controllers earn close to the average salary of a doctor -- $171,340 or more. To become a doctor, you need to complete four years of college, four years of medical school and a three- to eight-year residency. Air traffic controllers who don't have experience must have a minimum of a two-year degree in air traffic management through a Federal Aviation Administration certified school, according to the BLS.

Salaries Vary by Employer

Doctors working for medical diagnostic labs earned some of the highest salaries at $228,700 in 2012, according to the BLS. Doctors in physicians' offices averaged $215,650 annually, while those in general medical and surgical hospitals made $140,060. Doctors in colleges and universities earned less than what the average at $113,230. If you worked as an air traffic controller, you'd earn the most with the federal government, based on 2012 BLS data -- $121,470. In nonscheduled air transportation, you'd make an average of $78,210. Air traffic controllers in scheduled air transportation earned $55,860 per year.

Salaries by States or Districts

In 2012, doctors earned the highest annual salaries of $236,470 in Mississippi, according to the BLS. Those in Minnesota and Maine earned the second and third highest salaries of $235,730 and $235,620, respectively. The BLS reported average annual salaries of $142,020 for air traffic controllers in Washington, D.C., which was the highest in the United States. If you worked as an air traffic controller in Washington, D.C., you'd earn more than the average doctor's salary of $134,100 in Washington, D.C., according to the BLS. New Hampshire and Illinois traffic controllers earned the next two highest salaries at $141,430 and $135,900, respectively.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects a 24 percent increase in employment for physicians and surgeons from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the 14 percent national average for all jobs. Hospitals, outpatient centers and physicians offices will need more doctors to keep up with increases in the number of medical treatments as the population of aging Americans increases. By comparison, the BLS expects the number of jobs for air traffic controllers to decline 3 percent in the same decade, citing an overabundance of hiring and strained budgets as the primary reasons for the decrease.

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