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You probably have a friend who’s highly skilled but can’t find a job. Or maybe you’re in this situation. It makes no sense. When we were kids we learned expertise commands a big salary. That’s why my mother (and grandmother) wanted me to be a doctor, lawyer, or accountant. But today ability alone may not buy you anything. As an example, for six years in a row the unemployment rate for law school graduates has increased, standing at 15.5% in 2015. What used to be a sure track to a six-figure income isn’t any longer.
Plenty vs. Scarcity
Doctors are in much better shape. The unemployment rate for physicians and surgeons is under 1%. While I couldn’t find statistics for medical school graduates, you can bet with such a low rate for the profession graduates aren’t struggling too much.
Doctors are scarce. Medical schools enroll 20,055 doctors a year. The number of spots is supposed to increase by 30% over the next few years but that’s only an extra 6,000 MDs. With our aging population, demand is increasing faster.
By contrast, the demand for lawyers has been decreasing since 2007. Law schools enrolled a record 52,000 students in 2010, though the number have declined since then to 40,000. Still there are plenty of attorneys.
Further, when you’re sick you want help. Generally legal needs are not urgent.
Making Scarcity and Urgency Work for You
Among elite professionals, scarcity and urgency lead to a higher income. On average a surgeon makes 62% more than a family doctor. Both require four years of undergraduate school and four years of medical school. Surgeons train for another three to seven years. Family doctors go through a three-year residency. So education is not the factor leading to such a large income disparity.
Surgeons assume greater risk, right? As an indicator, malpractice insurance rates for a surgeon are four times higher than for a family doctor. Still they’re only around $20,000 a year. The extra $15,000 is about 10% of the $122,000 difference in their incomes. Surgeons are scarcer. And when you need surgery you can’t wait, even if you would put off your annual checkup.
You can make scarcity and urgency work in your favor. You don’t need to get more schooling.
Gain in depth knowledge of your industry to make yourself a rare commodity. Learn everything there is to know about the problems, challenges, changes, and players in your field. In this respect more certifications won’t help. They deal with such recognized issues there’s routine training to deal with them. You’ll have to be more forward thinking. When you command greater expertise than 90% of the people in your business, you’ll get a top salary.
Focus on the emergent issues. There are new challenges and urgent problems in your field. Be the one with solutions to the critical ones.
You don’t need to spend seven years in medical training to join the sparse ranks of doctors. You can create scarcity and urgency in any field you choose. By putting them to work, you’ll put yourself in demand and secure a high-paying job.
What prevents you from being the top person in your field? Please comment below.