Do dog walkers make more money than doctors?


I recently reported on a doctor-turned-dog-walker who says with her career switch she’ll enjoy more happiness — and income! In her own words:

Dear Pamela, Today I realized that if I become a dog walker and charge $25/hour and walk five dogs per day, I would make my equivalent salary with fewer hassles. I’m seriously considering this as a career move. I could be the most over-qualified dog walker out there with a bachelors, masters, doctorate and specialty certification! Sometimes I also dream about becoming a yogi and herbalist, maybe a part-time barista? Maybe that would be more helpful to society than the assembly-line medicine I currently participate in and I would likely be happier and healthier. What do you think? – Erika

Many rational and highly-skilled doctors are quitting medicine to start organic farms, teach yoga or move to cabins in the woods to write novels about surviving the trauma of medical training. So grab your pooper scooper and give it a whirl. Of course, if medicine is your passion, I’d love to help you launch your dream clinic. But if dog walking is your fancy, let’s analyze the facts:

A resident physician in the United States may earn (on the very low end) $45,000 caring for more than 30 or more patients each day. Given the unenforced 80-hour work limits, many doctors are working 90+ hours weekly (and yes, I get calls from doctors working 120-hour weeks). Daily wage is $123. Hourly wage $9.60. Income per patient is a whopping $4.10 (or less).

Dog walkers who walk five dogs at $25 per dog earn $125 per day. Assuming a 35-hour workweek, annual income is $45,625. Every dog walked per day beyond five would be an additional $9050/year or $54,675 (better than most residents in the country).

While resident work hours are not scalable, dog walkers could add another 10 hours per week and earn an additional $13,000 per year. If walking two dogs at a time ($50/hr) in a 40-hours/week, a dog walker makes $104,000 per year. Some dog walkers in NYC may earn up to $150,000 annually.

Dog walkers have very low liability and a high happiness index compared to physicians. And if you can handle five dogs per hour without tangling their leashes, you’ll make $125/hr or more. (Some docs in urgent care get paid $75/hour as a reference) Plus no student loans! Oh, and dog walkers are in better health than doctors. Improved fitness with lots of time to play, eat and sleep. Need academic stimulation? Listen to audiobooks while you’re walking.

So let’s recap for a reality check:

Average first-year resident physician: $53,000

Dog walkers bypass doctors (while working half the hours).

Average veterinarian: $88,000 (low end = $53,000)

Turn out dog walkers earn more than veterinarians!

Average LPN: $45,000 and nursing assistant: $25,000

Looks like it’s more lucrative to scoop dog poop after all.

Pamela Wible pioneered the community-designed ideal medical clinic and blogs at Ideal Medical Care. She is the author of Physician Suicide Letters — Answered and Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Watch her TEDx talk, How to Get Naked with Your Doctor. She hosts the physician retreat, Live Your Dream, to help her colleagues heal from grief and reclaim their lives and careers.

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