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.
Lets 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 5 highest-paid physician specialties ( according to Medical Group Management Association)
In 2019 MGMA analyzed data from more than 6 000 organizations and 160 000 physicians. Here are 5 specialties with highest compensation:
1. Neurosurgeon – $875,000
Neurosurgeons hold the number 1 spot in this list, with an average reported salary just under 1 million USD. Considering the number of years required to become neurosurgeon and the workload they have to deal with, this is well deserved pay.
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 sport 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.
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.
4. Cardiovascular surgery – $795,000
The stakes are really high in cardiac surgery, as you have to deal with the heart. Intensity of work varies, but sometimes they have to perform really 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.
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 top paid medical jobs in the US.
6. 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. 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. 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 salary is around $370,000
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 Medscapes 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.