What Surgeon Makes the Most Money in 2021
There is no doubt that surgeons are amongst the highest paid professionals in the medical field. In fact, in many countries, the list of top 5 highest-paid physician specialties is composed entirely of surgeons.
Let’s review the data available online and see which field of surgery has the highest paid doctors. As you will see below, the numbers vary depending on sources.
Organizations that create annual salary reports use their own methods to obtain and classify this data, hence the difference.
Top 10 highest-paid physician specialties (according to Medical Group Management Association)
In 2019 MGMA analyzed data from more than 6000 organizations and 160,000 physicians. So, how much do surgeons make?
Here are 8 specialties with the highest compensation:
10. General surgery
General surgeons are trained to perform a wide variety of procedures, including common medical issues such as appendicitis, hernias, cholecystitis, etc.
All types of surgeons begin their training as general surgeons first. According to this report, their average general surgeon salary is around $370,000
9. Orthopedic Surgeon
The numbers in this report are lower than in the previous one. According to Medscape average annual salary of orthopedic surgeons is $510,000
8. Plastic Surgeon
Plastic surgery is leading the list with average annual compensation of $526,000.
The interesting fact is that plastic surgeons’ salaries increased by an average of 10% in 2020, despite the fact they did not have as much work as in previous years – elective surgeries stopped almost everywhere during the pandemics.
7. Vascular Surgeon – $534,508
Vascular surgeons usually operate on the arteries and veins disease in every part of the body. However, they don’t focus on the veins and arteries of the heart and brain.
This profession is also a high-paying one globally. On average, a vascular surgeon earns $534,508.
In vascular surgery, the surgeons usually operate by restoring the blood flow within the human body.
It may include angioplasty which implies opening the blocked blood vessels or removing plaque within the diseased veins and arteries.
Some surgeons also specialize in particular vascular interventions, and their pay is according to their specialties and skills.
After graduation, you may need 5 years of general surgery and 2 years of vascular surgery training to become a vascular surgeon.
6. Thoracic surgeon – $ 668 350
Thoracic or cardiothoracic surgery refers to operations or surgeries that take place in the chest. It’s one of the highest-paid specialties where the highest earnings of surgeons in the USA is $563,076.
In the USA, the average earnings of thoracic surgeons are $407,577-$563,076. In Switzerland, you can earn around $ 668 350 a year through this profession.
There’s a high demand for thoracic surgeons worldwide. The thoracic surgeons are specialists who operate on the esophagus, heart, lungs, and trachea.
Thoracic surgeon candidates usually need a 4 year UG degree and a medical degree to become a thoracic surgeon.
In the USA, there are high-paying roles for a thoracic surgeon. That’s why it’s the best place to earn more in this profession.
5. Orthopedic surgeon: hip and joints – $756,000
Orthopedic surgeons specialize in things like hip and knee replacements. They mainly work with older patients.
They also need to be on call in case of accidents and usually work more than 60 hours/week.
To become an orthopedic surgeon you need at least 6-7 years after you graduate from med school. This includes a minimum of 5 years residency, plus fellowship.
Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2021
This report lists several surgery specialties among the top paid medical jobs in the US.
4. Cardiovascular surgery – $795,000
The stakes are high in cardiac surgery, as you have to deal with the heart. The intensity of work varies, but sometimes they have to perform long operations, up to 12 hours.
You need 7-9 years after you finish med school to become a cardiovascular surgeon and probably will have to work up to 80 hours/week.
3. Pediatric neurosurgeon – $818,000
In third place, we have pediatric neurosurgeons, who treat things like tumors and spinal defects in children.
This differs from regular neurosurgery since a child’s anatomy and physiology are not the same as adults. One needs to finish 7 years of residency and 1-3 years of fellowship to become a pediatric neurosurgeon.
2. Orthopedic surgeon: spine – $835,000
Orthopedic surgeons have become one of the highest paid doctors in the world. They diagnose and treat injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system.
All major sports teams in the U.S and Europe have at least one specialist on standby and pay millions of dollars annually for their services.
Spinal orthopedic surgeons focus on clinical diagnoses around spinal bones and muscles, like scoliosis.
1. Neurosurgeon – $875,000
Neurosurgeons hold the number 1 spot as the highest paid surgeons on this list, with an average reported salary of just under 1 million USD.
Considering the number of years required to become a neurosurgeon and the workload they have to deal with, this is well-deserved pay.
Annual Physician Compensation Report (Doximity)
These data were obtained from the survey responses from 135,000 U.S. doctors. Here is the list of specialties doing best in terms of annual compensation :
- Neurosurgery — $746,544
- Thoracic surgery — $668,350
- Orthopedic surgery — $605,330
- Plastic surgery — $539,208
- Oral and maxillofacial — $538,590
- Vascular surgery — $534,508
- Cardiology — $527,231
- Radiation oncology — $516,016
- Gastroenterology — $485,817
- Radiology — $485,460
- Urology — $472,941
- Otolaryngology (ENT) — $472,273
- Dermatology — $449,494
- Anesthesiology — $445,533
- General surgery — $439,824
- Colon & rectal surgery — $438,811
- Oncology — $437,280
- Ophthalmology — $424,488
- Pulmonology — $374,293
- Nuclear medicine — $367,741
Six out of ten top paid specialties are related to surgery.
Finding reliable data for Europe is even harder. The EU is composed of 27 separate countries with their own medical systems.
The income of doctors varies widely in these countries. Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium are referred to as the highest paying countries for doctors.
In general, salaries for surgeons in the EU are less than in the U.S. The same is true for physicians.
According to Medscape’s International Physician Compensation Report 2019, the average salary is twice lower in the UK and Germany than in the U.S.
According to various sources, the highest paid doctors in the U.S are working in fields of plastic, neurologic and orthopedic surgery.