Average Salaries for Different Medical Specialties

August 17

Table of Contents

Becoming a doctor typically requires 12 to 15 years of training, residencies, and fellowships. High earning potential is the payoff for those years of arduous work. 

While most people would agree that all doctors make a decent living, there is a significant wage gap across various medical specialties.

But in terms of numbers, how much does it amount to? What is the actual cost of achieving that aim, more importantly? Is everything worth it, too?

This article focuses on the average salaries for the different medical specialties. Please keep reading. 

How are Doctors Paid?

This is a complicated question. It isn't easy to comprehend and justify how doctors are paid in the United States. 

Their compensation is based on several factors, including their job, state of practice, and, of course, their specialty.

The American healthcare system is constantly changing due to new laws, regulations, and institutional reforms like the Affordable Care Act.

The various elements affecting a doctor's income are listed below.

Private vs. Employed

According to the American Medical Association, the main difference in how much doctors make depends on whether they are employed by a corporation or have a private practice. The difference is in how doctors create a living, not revenue per se.

For instance, doctors who work in clinics, hospitals, and other businesses sometimes identify their wages as their primary source of income. 

Private professionals may also be paid, albeit considerably fewer independent doctors are. 

Private-practice doctors' compensation typically depends on how well they perform. This does not imply that employed doctors' salaries are not affected by productivity but rather that this influence is much less pronounced than it is for their private counterparts. 

Less than the predicted proportion for private physicians, only a few practice owners claimed that their compensation was primarily based on financial performance. 

Like any other private business owner, a self-employed doctor's income can be determined after all other business-related expenditures and expenses have been paid. Patients are seen in the doctor's office, their appointments are noted, billed, or their insurance companies are billed, and money is collected.

Private practices should aim to see as many patients per day as possible. Their revenue is significantly impacted by the number of patients and bills they see daily. As a personal doctor's office sees more patients, their income declines.  

However, there is also a lot of focus on effectiveness and quality. The value of care delivery will therefore consider more than just the number of patients. As you may imagine, finding this balance is extremely difficult. 

Like many other company models, productivity is the primary factor determining pay in the healthcare sector. Nevertheless, The goal of the healthcare compensation reform is to link pure production with high-quality care.

Income Variation by State

The state of practice affects a doctor's income as well. The states with the most residents would be expected to pay doctors the most significant salary, but this is not the case.

Notably, states like New York and California do not even appear in the top 10 list of states with the highest salaries for doctors. There could be several reasons behind this. There are many options available to patients when choosing a healthcare professional. Thanks to the wide range of healthcare choices provided by substantial and prosperous states like New York and California. 

This suggests that there are typically fewer patients per physician. Payments are based on the number of patients served in the U.S. healthcare system. As a result, average physician wages are lower in areas with large populations and various healthcare providers. 

Difference in Income by Specialty

So why does a doctor's pay rely on their area of expertise? 

Certain occupations require more education and experience than others. Orthopedics, cardiology, radiology, and plastic surgery are among the surgical specialties where physicians earn some of the highest salaries in the United States.

Following medical school, many procedure-based specialties require an additional 5–6 years of resident training. 

Furthermore, these specializations usually need fellowship-style post-residency specialized education. As a result, these specialists get paid more. 

Primary care specializations, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, etc., require less education. One can begin practicing as a family doctor after completing six years of medical school (4 years and two years of residency).

Doctors who work in these specializations consequently earn less money. The advantage is that they can enter the workforce more quickly and with less student debt because they spend less time and money on specialized training. They may begin paying off their debt earlier, which results in less debt overall.  

When selecting a specialty, demand in the healthcare sector should be considered. An increase in wages or profits based on a thing typically signals a shortage in that profession.  

Comparison of Salary Between MDs and DOs

Doctors specializing in the same field, such as DOs and MDs, earn comparable salaries. 

However, DO physicians have a little bit fewer options for specialization. 

You should be aware that DO representation in surgical, competitive specialties has dramatically increased, despite a disparity in the numbers. 

Most of this can be attributed to changes in accreditation standards for residency programs. 

Osteopathic and allopathic residencies previously had accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Since the ACGME has accredited both DO and MD schools, osteopathic residency programs now share the same status and prospects as allopathic programs. 

The same accreditation system allows DOs to enroll in MD programs (provided they meet all requirements, including passing the US Medical Licensing Exam) as well as MDs to enroll in programs with an "Osteopathic Recognition" designation (again provided they meet all requirements, which vary by program).

Simply put, the unified accreditation system has helped to narrow the gap between DO and MD residency programs. 

Over time, the population disparity between DO and MD residents will likely narrow. But remember what DO stands for; DOs subscribe to a particular ideology that drives them to pursue primary, non-intrusive medical care specialties.

Even though DOs can become surgeons, their beliefs impact the specializations and regions in which they practice. The salary disparity between DOs and MDs may still exist, according to this.  

Average Salaries for Medical Specialties

Medical professionals can earn a lot of money, particularly those in in-demand or complex medical disciplines. 

Nevertheless, whether you are a pre-med or high school student, you should exercise caution when making life decisions based only on finances. 

Getting there requires a significant investment of time, effort, and money.

For your reference, here is a list showcasing the average salaries for the different medical specialties.


Medical Specialty

Annual Hourly Salary

Annual Average Salary




Orthopedic Surgery (Except Pediatric)


Thoracic Surgery


Pediatric Surgery




Surgeons (All Other)


Emergency Medicine




Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery


Ophthalmology (Except Pediatric)


Obstetrics and Gynecology








Physicians (All Other)


Family Medicine


General Pediatrics


General Internal Medicine




Nurse Anesthetists




Healthcare Diagnosing or Treating Practitioners (All Other)


General Dentistry


Dentistry (All Other Specialists)








Medical Dosimetry


Nurse Practitioners




Nurse Midwives


Physician Assistants




Physical Therapy


Occupational Therapy




Radiation Therapy


Speech-Language Pathology


Orthotics and Prosthetics


Genetic Counseling


Nuclear Medicine Technology


Registered Nurses


Dental Hygiene




Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technology


Diagnostic Medical Sonography


Radiologic Technology


Respiratory Therapy


Diet and Nutrition


Therapy (All Other)

10 Reasons Some Doctors of the Same Specialty Earn More (or Less)

Physicians frequently ponder why certain medical peers or friends appear to be so much wealthier. Others are making more money than some doctors, although others may be extravagant spenders.

Nevertheless, one doctor might say, "I look around at what some of my colleagues have, and I'm thinking, 'What did I do wrong?'

Wealth and income levels vary significantly among doctors in the same specialty. These ten factors explain why some doctors make more money than others.

Your Status or Reputation Draws Clients, Donors, or Investors

Employed physicians can still receive multimillion-dollar salaries, but these fortunes are only given to the "rainmakers" who can generate revenue for the hospitals and healthcare systems they work for. These physicians are anticipated to improve the organization's standing and bring in a vast influx of new patients.

You Have Accepted a Position in the Administration

Physicians now make more money in the C-suite than in practice because administrative positions have grown more profitable.

A recent study found that the compensation disparity between hospital administration and doctors has widened over the past ten years. Compared to hospital CEOs, orthopedic surgeons now make one-sixth of what pediatricians make.

As soon as a doctor transitions into administration, the organization may agree to keep them whole so that they will never earn less than their clinical income but will not earn more. Bonuses make up a sizable portion of administrators' salaries. 

You Have Taken on More Patients

Most doctors' most significant contributor to higher pay is treating more patients. In a survey of family doctors, the main contributor to income disparities was the number of patients treated. However, seeing many patients does not necessarily entail working longer hours. 

Doctors who operate slower will still need to put in significant hours (60–80 hours per week) to see more patients. Still, they will not necessarily be burned out.

Physicians' income is also impacted by the patients they serve. For instance, those who see a lot of patients typically make less money.

Your Ideas Bring You Revenue

A straightforward approach to gaining more money than your peers is through entrepreneurship, which involves developing profitable ideas.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, the creator of well-known cancer medicine and the founder of two pharmaceutical firms, is the wealthiest individual doctor on the Forbes list of billionaires, with a net worth of $8 billion.

As you move down the ladder, you will find that many doctors have built up fortunes of several million dollars through businesses like ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), small for-profit hospitals, and inventions. 

You Have Become a Part of a Big Practice

Because of economies of scale, doctors in large practices typically make more money than small ones.

Physicians are paid less in hospitals and health systems than they would be, even though these institutions have the potential for even more significant economies of scale. Physicians who are employed have less motivation to work harder.

In the family physician study stated above, having a more considerable practice was the third best indicator of income. 

The three most powerful indicators in that study, such as taking payer negotiations seriously, taking part in improvement programs, and handling billing and collections in-house, were similarly associated with larger practice sizes.

You Avoid Venues with Lower Paying Rates

Academic institutions and community health centers (CHCs), which include Federally Qualified Health Centers and rural health centers that serve low-income populations, offer the lowest pay to physicians.

The low compensation in academic institutions is caused by a more significant proportion of Medicaid and uninsured patients and a reliance on erratic research funding. It pays less, but the pace can be less hectic than in private practice, and it's more fulfilling if you love to teach or do research. 

You Can Discover New Practice Niches

Doctors have recently branched out from conventional practices and established niches that provide more specialized services. Although their main goal is to find employment they enjoy doing, in certain situations, they are making more money than they were.

These doctors are the new entrepreneurs. They continue to think outside the box despite not earning the money a device inventor does. 

Examples are treating a specific kind of diabetes, providing food and nutrition advice, or offering executive wellness services.

You Have Relocated to a New Area

Where you practice has a significant impact on your income. For example, a neurosurgeon may make 11% more money moving from Maryland to South Carolina. An anesthesiologist could make 61% more money moving from Massachusetts to Wisconsin based on average pay by location.

In general, less populated places with relative physician shortages have higher incomes. While smaller locations may be able to provide more outstanding wages, fewer expenditures, and a friendly lifestyle, doctors frequently avoid them in favor of moving back to the large cities where they received their training. 

Employed physicians' incomes are impacted by supply and demand. Still, independent practices are affected by reimbursements, which favor urban locations. In urban regions, Medicare reimbursements are increased to reflect higher practice costs.

With more than 100 geographic payment zones spread across the nation, this system is still in place today and is essentially unchanged. Physician salaries in locations like CHCs tend to be rather constant within each region except for lower pay.

More Ancillary Services are Provided by Your Practice

The ability to provide supplementary services used to be a significant source of income for doctors, but prospects have decreased. Supplying a comprehensive range of services, such as doing rounds at the hospital and providing obstetric services, was the second-best predictor of income in a poll of family doctors.

Similar services are provided by doctors in family medicine and several other disciplines, including primary surgery, EKGs, and stress testing. Hospitals maintain control over the ancillary services provided by employed physicians, another factor contributing to the increase in doctor employment at hospitals.

In any case, providing auxiliary services does not appear to be done primarily for financial gain.

You Reached a Better Wage Agreement

Why is there a usual salary gap between males and females? 

Studies showed that women often negotiate wages less aggressively than males and are less likely to drive their employers into giving them raises by looking for outside employment offers.

According to the study's lead author for JAMA Internal Medicine, there may be another, more evident reason for the pay gap: unconscious bias towards women among some employers. He cited research that showed, for instance, that respondents gave a scientific paper's overall quality a lower rating when it had female writers.

Additional FAQs – What are the Average Salaries for Medical Specialties?

How Much Do Physicians in the US Make a Year?

In 2021, the median salary for physicians was USD 208,000. That year, the top 25% earned USD 208,000, while the bottom 25% earned USD 132,060.

How Many Physicians Are There in the US Currently?

There were 1,073,616 physicians who were actively practicing medicine in the United States as of May 2022. With over 117 thousand doctors, California has the most active state-level medical community, followed by New York.

On the other side, Wyoming has the least number of practicing doctors in the US, with just over 1.2 thousand.

What Medical Specialty Earns the Lowest?

According to a recent Doximity research, pediatricians often take home the least. The medical industry networking site has published its 2023 Physician Compensation Report, which tracks changes in physician compensation across the country.


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