In our series Salary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.

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Age: 36
Location: Australia
Current industry and job title: Paediatric doctor on maternity leave
Current salary: £74,000
Number of years employed since school or university: 12

Starting salary: £21,000 in 2010. I was straight out of university, having studied for six years. I was a foundation doctor so doing all the jobs of a doctor on medical wards, surgical wards and in paediatrics but at a basic level, with many people above me to ask and defer to when needed.

Biggest salary jump: £30,000 to £39,000 in 2011. This jump was going from one foundation year to the next and reflected extra experience and extra out-of-hours work. The responsibilities were similar. This year I worked in the emergency department, paediatrics and intensive care. 

Biggest salary drop: My salary dropped to £0 per month but with a £300 living stipend during voluntary work in east Africa in 2016. This was during some time out from being an NHS doctor.

Biggest negotiation regret: Although not strictly salary, my biggest regret is not negotiating my time and going part-time (80% of full-time would be an average of 40 hours a week rather than 48). I am a believer that time is money, that money can buy you time and that time is one of your most precious resources. At one point in my career, I really hoped to work 60 or 80% of full-time, which would have meant a reduction in salary accordingly. I contacted the department about this and did not receive a reply. I tried again and again and still nothing. I then worked out that 80% meant working two or three less shifts a month but for a lot less pay. I felt awkward about my request, knowing that attitudes towards less than full-time working are not always positive, so I emailed to rescind my request. Within 10 minutes I got a response saying: “Perfect.” That summed up the attitude of some (but not all) of my colleagues, in my opinion. I regret not pushing to work less than full-time as I became burnt out and exhausted, and childcare costs increased as I had to have my child in full-time childcare just in case I had to work certain days. Most disappointingly and importantly, time with my child and for myself was exchanged for a couple of extra thousand pounds a year (if that) after childcare, which to me is not worth it. 

Best salary advice: Salary should not purely be seen as take-home pay. Some people are lucky enough to get extra benefits such as private healthcare (I don’t) or company cars so that’s one thing. For all of us, salary includes the amount of time you are working i.e. not with your family or resting or enjoying hobbies. Time you can’t get back. So consider the financial cost of your time, your physical and mental health, the hours you work, the days off you have — not just what you see on your payslip at the end of the month.

You apply for this job in a huge pool of others graduating. You are ranked based on scoring systems and with this they match you to your preferred job or area. I was lucky as I got exactly what I wanted and where so I didn’t have to move area. The salary was £21,000.

My pay increased to £29,000 three months after starting as I began working nights and weekends on medical wards. This was part of the yearlong rotation I had been ranked and assigned to.
In 2011 I became a foundation year two doctor. Again, I got this job based on a scoring system and matched to my preferences. Again, I was lucky as I got my first choice and worked as a doctor in intensive care, in emergency medicine and in paediatrics. My pay increased as per an expected increment in line with government guidelines to £39,000.
In 2012 I became a speciality doctor in training as a paediatric doctor, which I got through application and interview, gaining merit for any projects or extra work I had done in foundation years. My salary was £42,000 and the increase was an expected increment as per government guidelines — an increment you get each year based on experience post-graduation.
I continued as a paediatric doctor with the official title of speciality trainee doctor and received £44,000 with the expected increment as per government guidelines. I had moved hospitals as was required and had slightly more expected of me than the previous year.
In 2014, as a speciality two trainee doctor in paediatrics, I had increments to £47,000 — the expected annual increment as per the national pay circular for doctors. With each year came new hospitals and increased responsibility (albeit with a similar job title) and I worked nights and weekends on neonatal intensive care units. 
In 2015, as a speciality three trainee doctor, I had an additional incremental increase to £48,000. This is also the expected annual increment as per the national pay circular for doctors. 
I then had six months without pay as I volunteered in Africa, working in a rural hospital. I had a £300 per month stipend, with weekends mostly free.
In 2016 my salary was £56,000 when I restarted work, on a higher increment to previously as per the pay circular.

This job again came with more responsibility than the last and I was known as a speciality trainee in paediatrics year four, reflecting four years in paediatrics but six post-graduating. This used to be known as ‘registrar’ and I was able to make more complex decisions independently, manage some doctors who were more junior to myself and see patients in clinics independently.

In the following years I worked my way up through the years as a specialist trainee in paediatrics and I sub-specialised in a niche area of paediatrics, which I got based on interview. I was fortunate as I was able to get my first-choice location; many others have to move across the country. 

So my salary was £59,000 in 2017, £62,000 in 2018 and £65,000 in 2019, all in line with government pay circular. 

In 2020, 10 years after graduating from university and with 10 years of experience as a doctor, I finally finished my speciality training, making me eligible to be a consultant in paediatrics. Following completion of this training, I had what was accidentally a perfectly timed period of maternity leave, receiving eight weeks full pay, 18 weeks half-pay and 13 weeks statutory maternity pay of £156 per week.
On returning to work in 2021, I moved across the country for a fellow post and my salary was £72,000. The title ‘fellow’ reflects the increased responsibility you get from finishing training but you’re still a junior doctor. I took this job as there is an expectation that you need more exposure before being a consultant in my field and I also felt I needed this extra time, particularly after maternity leave.

It did involve a move across the country but to a place with a fantastic reputation, which I hope will serve me well when I apply for consultant jobs. I was able to make decisions a consultant would make — albeit with support if I needed it — and also did some non-clinical behind-the-scenes things such as answering complaints and bidding for funding for equipment. Since this job I have gone on to have another period of maternity leave.

I am currently in Australia, about to start another fellow post. I chose here as it’s been a lifelong dream to come to Australia and work and it’s semi-expected for me to have worked abroad before getting my final consultant job. I will be earning the equivalent of £86,000 but in a job role that’s technically a step down from what I was doing in the UK. I will get extra tax-free benefits on childcare, food and living expenses and a generous study budget to spend on courses. I am considering staying long-term, which will require extra exams. All of that comes at a high financial and time cost but the lifestyle and ultimately the resultant pay will make it worthwhile. I am not staying because of the higher salary but it definitely makes it more attractive.

I’m not in a speciality that has any private work and I would not do private work in the UK but out here, doing private work is the norm for most (in the UK it is not). This means doctors in Australia are some of the highest earners. 

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