Highest Paying Physician Careers

These medical specialties earn the most

Most doctors make a nice living, but some medical careers are much more lucrative than others.

For example, primary care physicians, the general doctors who see patients for a range of care and check-ups, tend to make less than specialists who work in a particular field, according to a 2020 report from the Medical Group Management Association.

If you are considering a physician career, and if money is a key factor in your decision, these top-paying medical specialties may be of interest to you.

This article lists the 10 highest paid physician careers based on a 2020 compensation report from the medical network Doximity, which is based on data reported by 44,000 physicians from 2019 and 2020.

Surgeons analyzing report together in clinic
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Top-Paying Physician Careers

In addition to the current compensation information, you should also consider current and projected trends in health care to determine what may be the most lucrative and in-demand physician careers when you finish training.

Note, however, that changes in medical insurance are having a significant impact on medical careers, and those changes are increasingly difficult to predict.

Some of the top-paying careers are also the most demanding. Not surprisingly, of the top 10 medical professions by salary, more than half are surgeons.

According to Doximity's report, the top 10 highest earners in the medical profession are as follows.

Keep in mind that due to the intricacies of how physicians are compensated, salaries are affected by a variety of factors including supply and demand, geographic location, overhead costs, and insurance reimbursement rates.

#1 Neurosurgeons

Neurosurgeons, also known as neurological surgeons, perform brain and spine surgeries.

Average annual salary: $746,544

#2 Thoracic Surgeons

Thoracic surgeons perform chest surgeries. They operate on organs and structures that include the heart, lungs, esophagus, and trachea.

Average annual salary: $668,350

#3 Orthopedic Surgeons

Orthopedic surgeons specialize in surgeries of the bones and joints, including sports-related injuries, trauma, and joint deterioration from arthritis.

Average annual salary: $605,330

#4 Plastic Surgeons

Plastic surgeries are procedures to reshape or restore areas of the body for reconstructive or cosmetic purposes.

Reconstructive surgeries may be done to address birth defects or traumatic injuries, such as deformities from accidents or burns.

Cosmetic surgeries, also called aesthetic procedures, are used to try to enhance certain features, such as changing the size or shape of breasts or liposuction to suction out fat tissue from certain areas.

Average annual salary: $539,208

#5 Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons focus on reconstructive surgeries of the face, head, neck, and jaw.

These surgeries can include complex dental procedures that involve the jawbone and facial reconstruction after traumatic injuries.

Average annual salary: $538,590

#6 Vascular Surgeons

Vascular surgeons treat diseases of arteries and veins.

Procedures can help restore blood flow and can include angioplasty to open a blocked blood vessel or removal of plaques in diseased arteries or veins.

Average annual salary: $534,508

#7 Cardiologists

Cardiologists diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the heart and circulatory system, the system of blood vessels that transports blood to and from the heart.

Average annual salary: $527,321

#8 Radiation Oncologists

Oncologists specialize in the treatment of cancer. Radiation oncologists treat solid tumors using radiation.

Average annual salary: $516,016

#9 Gastroenterologists

Gastroenterology, like oncology and cardiology, is a sub-specialty of internal medicine.

Gastroenterologists specialize in the treatment of digestive and gastrointestinal disorders and diagnosis of cancers and disorders of the digestive tract.

Most gastroenterologists also treat diseases of the liver, with additional training in hepatology, the area of medicine that focuses on the liver.

Average annual salary: $485,817

#10 Radiologists

Radiologists use medical imaging technology to diagnose and sometimes treat medical conditions, disorders, and illnesses.

Average annual salary: $485,460

Disparities in Pay

Sadly, careers near the bottom of the pay scale include pediatrics and family medicine. These are careers that have become increasingly popular among women, which contributes to gaps in pay between the sexes.

Pediatricians, who specialize in treating children, earn an average of $243,253 per year and family medicine physicians earn $261,536, which is below the overall physician average of $383,340.

Doximity's report found a 28% wage gap between male and female doctors. It found that physicians who identify as male earn $116,000 more on average than their female counterparts with the same qualifications.

Doximity's report could not find a single medical specialty in which physicians who identified as women earned the same or more than those who identified as men. The largest wage gaps also included some of the highest-paying specialties.

For example, male orthopedic surgeons earned $614,447 on average, whereas female orthopedic surgeons earned an average annual salary of $491,770.

Summary

Surgical specialties accounted for the top six highest average physician salaries in a 2020 report by the medical network Doximity. Neurosurgeons were the highest paid.

Even among the the highest salaries, the report identified wage gaps of about 28% between male and female physicians with the same qualifications.

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2 Sources
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  1. Medical Group Management Association. New MGMA research finds physician compensation increased in 2019.

  2. Doximity. 2020 Physician Compensation Report: fourth annual study.