What Physician Specialties Pay the Best

Posted on: September 30, 2021

written by

Tayla Holman

What Physician Specialties Pay the Best?

As a physician, deciding which specialty you want to choose can be a big decision. While it’s important to consider what interests you—for example, do you like working with children, or are you fascinated by the human brain and how it works—it’s also important to consider how much you will earn.

According to the 2021 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, physician salaries by specialty break down as follows:

Specialty

Compensation

Plastic surgery

$526,000

Orthopedics and orthopedic surgery

$511,000

Cardiology

$459,000

Urology

$427,000

Otolaryngology

$417,000

Radiology

$413,000

Gastroenterology

$406,000

Oncology

$403,000

Dermatology

$394,000

Ophthalmology

$379,000

Anesthesiology

$378,000

Surgery, general

$373,000

Critical care

$366,000

Emergency medicine

$354,000

Pulmonary medicine

$333,000

Pathology

$316,000

Ob/gyn and women’s health

$312,000

Nephrology

$311,000

Physical medicine and rehabilitation

$300,000

Neurology

$290,000

Rheumatology

$276,000

Psychiatry

$275,000

Allergy and immunology

$274,000

Internal medicine

$248,000

Infectious diseases

$245,000

Diabetes and endocrinology

$245,000

Public health and preventive medicine

$237,000

Family medicine

$236,000

Pediatrics

$221,000


Between October 2020 and February 2021, Medscape surveyed about 18,000 physicians across nearly 30 specialties for their compensation report. Not only did they look at salary, but they looked at job satisfaction and challenges, hours worked, and impact due to COVID-19. So it is important to note that some of these salaries may have been affected by the pandemic. There may have been a decrease in elective procedures, or an increase in cosmetic procedures due to constant video meetings, according to Medscape.

Physicians may have also seen fewer patients or worked fewer hours during the pandemic—nearly 13% of physicians surveyed said they had months where they earned no income. More than a third of primary care physicians and specialists (39% and 42%, respectively) said they expect their income to return to pre-COVID levels in the next year, while 43% of PCPs and 41% of specialists said they expect it to take two to three years for their income to return to normal.

What Other Factors Should You Consider?

In addition to considering salary, you may also want to look at the supply and demand for your chosen specialty. According to new data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. is facing an estimated shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034.

Specialty

Shortage range

Primary care (family medicine, general pediatrics, geriatric medicine)

17,800 to 48,000

Non-primary care specialties

21,000 to 77,100

Surgical specialties

15,800 to 30,2000

Medical specialties

3,800 to 13,400

Other specialties

10,300 to 35,600


Part of the reason for these shortages is that a large portion of the physician workforce is nearing retirement age, according to the AAMC. Not only that, but nearly half of practicing physicians felt burnt out at least once a week prior to the pandemic—and that burnout is likely to have increased since the pandemic.

Salary can also vary based on geographical location. According to Medscape’s compensation report, the top-earning states for physicians were:

State

Salary

Alabama

$348,000

Kentucky

$340,000

Oklahoma

$338,000

Indiana

$337,000

Missouri

$332,000


The lowest-earning states were:

State

Salary

Oregon

$304,000

Connecticut

$303,000

Massachusetts

$300,000

New York

$298,000

Minnesota

$296,000


How Can Locum Tenens Help with Salary?

If your chosen specialty doesn’t quite meet your preferred salary range, fear not. Taking on locum tenens assignments can help you earn more, especially if you live in or are willing to travel to an area that has a shortage of your particular specialty. You can take on as much or as little work as you want to meet your income goals. Conversely, you may decide to become a full-time locum tenens provider. Whichever path or specialty you are leaning towards, be sure to weigh the pros and cons first to make sure everything aligns with your goals and values.

Want to learn more about locum tenens with Barton Associates? Fill out the form and one of our representatives will reach out to you!

About Tayla Holman

Tayla Holman is a Boston-based writer and editor, specializing in health and technology. She received her B.A. in print journalism and English from Hofstra University, and her M.S. in health communication from Boston University. You can find her at taylaholman.com or @TaylaHolman on Twitter.

More Content Like This

​ ​