Bloomberg News has an article bemoaning what it says is the fact that brain surgeons and cancer researchers make less money than Wall Street traders. The article begins:
Wall Street traders discouraged by declining bonuses this month can take solace: They still earn much more than brain surgeons and top U.S. generals. An oil trader with 10 years in the business is likely to earn at least $1 million this year, while a neurosurgeon with similar time on the job makes less than $600,000, recruiters estimated. After a decade of deal-making, merger bankers take home about $2 million, more than 10 times what a similarly seasoned cancer researcher gets
Nothing against recruiters, but these estimates are hardly scientific. A quick search of the Web found an article about a brain surgeon who made $7.2 million a year and another who made $2.4 million, significantly higher than the Bloomberg "recruiters estimate." The Bloomberg "recruiters estimate" put pay for a law firm partner with 10 years experience at $600,000 a year, supporting the article's contention that traders make more than those in other fields. But American Lawyer reports that in 2009 average compensation for partners at the top ten law firms ranged from $4.3 million a year at Wachtell to $2.1 million a year at Milbank Tweed.
And monetary income is just one part of compensation. The cancer researcher may derive psychic income from the fact that he or she is helping to cure a terrible disease. There are also differences in job security. An oil trader who loses money year after year is unlikely to remain employed, let alone to keep earning a $1 million a year bonus. Yet lots of cancer researchers remain employed even if they fail to cure cancer.