The medical field is one of the highest-paying industries in the nation, and physicians lead the pack. While you can expect to make six figures as a doctor, your specialty and other factors can have a pretty drastic impact on how much you earn.
So who are the highest paid doctors?
In this guide, we’ll unpack the latest research on physician’s salaries to show you what medical specialties have the highest earning potential.
We’ll also look at the highest-paid doctors by factors like location and workplace setting.
Top 10 Highest Paid Doctors
Neurosurgeons are the highest paid doctors, earning an average salary of $773,201 per year.
That’s based on Doximity’s fifth annual Physician Compensation Report, which surveyed more than 160,000 licensed physicians in the US about their earnings.
The table below shows what the top ten highest paid doctor specialties are, based on Doximity’s survey results:
|2. Thoracic Surgery||$684,663|
|3. Orthopedic Surgery||$633,620|
|4. Plastic Surgery||$556,698|
|5. Vascular Surgery||$552,313|
|6. Oral and Maxillofacial||$545,471|
|7. Radiation Oncology||$544,313|
According to Peter Alperin, the Vice President of Product at Doximity,
Medical professionals’ responsibilities, hours, and stresses grew dramatically during the pandemic and, as a result, we’ve seen an increase in burnout.
While increased hours, pressure, and burnout are unfortunate, last year also brought a positive increase—in income.
The most recent release of the Medscape Physician Compensation Report found that every specialty across the board experienced a pay increase in 2022, at an average rate of 3.8%.
This is the 11th annual release of the survey, and it’s the first time since its inception that every specialty has enjoyed higher pay.
While it didn’t make the cut as one of the ten top-earning specialties, otolaryngology had the highest income growth last year, jumping 13%.
Here are the top 6 specialties with the highest increases in income in 2022:
- Otolaryngology: +13%
- Gastroenterology: +12%
- Dermatology: +11%
- Pediatrics: +10%
- Opthalmology: +10%
- Plastic surgery: +10%
Highest Paid Doctors by State
Your location can significantly impact how much you earn in many industries, and the medical field is no exception. Medscape’s compensation report pinpointed which states are home to the highest paid doctors.
Based on their findings, Kentucky is the state with the highest paid doctors—physicians in the state earn an average of $364,000 per year.
The graphic below highlights the ten states with the highest pay for doctors:
While you might expect the largest and most heavily populated states to have the highest pay for doctors, data suggests that isn’t always the case.
As you can see from the list, states like New York and California don’t even make the top 10. Neither do many of the states with the highest cost of living.
Both of these types of areas tend to have more healthcare options available. The more practices there are, the fewer patients each physician has to take on. And many of the states with the highest pay for healthcare providers have more limited resources, creating a higher demand for local physicians and their services.
Additional Factors that Affect How Much Doctors Make
Your location and specialty aren’t the only factors that determine how much you earn as a doctor.
Income data suggests that these factors impact your earning potential, too:
- Type of Workplace
Let’s take a closer look at each one below.
Type of Workplace
The setting you choose to practice in can impact your compensation. Doximity’s survey found that single specialty group practitioners made the most in 2021, bringing in an average income of $4442,024.
Here’s a breakdown of the average compensation for each type of medical practice:
- Single Specialty Group: $442,024
- Multi-specialty Group: $424,312
- Solo Practice: $415,678
- Hospital: $399,282
- Pharmaceutical and Industry: $395,560
- Health System, ACO, or IDN: $394,538
- Health Maintenance Organization: $374,571
- Academia: $350,232
- Urgent Care Center or Chain: $267,516
- Government: $264,546
Medscape’s 2022 income survey results echo Doximity’s. The study found that self-employed doctors outearn employed doctors by more than 20%.
Data suggests that the gender pay gap is alive and well in the medical field. Doximity cites the gap was over 28% in their 2021 survey, with male physicians earning an average of $122,200 more per year than their female colleagues.
Using data from their last five surveys, they projected that male doctors earn $2 million more than their female colleagues over the span of their careers.
The gap is higher in some specialties than in others. Oral and maxillofacial surgery, allergy and immunology, and otolaryngology (ENT) have the largest gaps.
When it comes to specialists, Medscape reported a 31% gap between male and female doctors’ compensation in 2022. That gap has narrowed by 6% over the last five years.
Whether you have an MD or DO attached to your name, your earning potential as a doctor is high. In fact, income data shows that medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine who are posted in the same position tend to earn close to the same incomes.
However, MDs are more likely to pursue more competitive and lucrative specialties and have a higher match rate in those medical jobs. For example, here’s a comparison of match rates for MD and DO seniors who ranked a specialty as their only choice in 2022:
|Specialty||MDs Matched||DOs Matched|
As you can see from the National Residency Matching Program’s 2022 report, more doctors match for competitive specialties than DOs. Whereas the playing field is more even in specialties like family medicine, where 1,386 MDs and 1,228 DOs matched.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of doctor gets paid the most?
Neurosurgeons get paid the most of all doctor specialties, on average. A Doximity survey found that neurosurgeons earn an average of $773,201, followed by thoracic surgeons and orthopedic surgeons.
What is the lowest paid doctor?
Survey data shows that pediatricians earn the least out of all doctor specialties. In Doximity’s Physician Compensation Report, pediatric specialties made up the top five lowest-paid specialties in the medical field. However, pediatricians typically have to work fewer hours than some higher-paying specialties.
Do you get paid during residency?
Yes. Doctors do get paid during residency. As a new practitioner, your annual salary will be lower than what you eventually earn with more experience under your belt.
Resident salaries are usually based on what year of the program you’re in, rather than what your specialty is. Each institution sets its own resident salaries, so compensation can vary depending on where you train.
What is the job outlook for doctors and surgeons?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 3% growth rate in employment for doctors and physicians through 2031. The BLS also estimates there will be around 23,800 new job openings for physicians each year through 2031.
Income data can be a useful tool, whether you’re just starting to consider medical school or it’s time for residency applications and you’re trying to decide on your specialty.
There are a lot of factors to consider as you decide on your career path as a doctor. Do you want to start a private practice or work in a hospital? Should you practice in a rural area or the city?
Do you want to be a cardiologist or dermatologist? One of your chief decisions will be choosing a specialty that fits your passions, interests, and skills. While earning potential shouldn’t be the only driving factor in your decisions, it’s certainly worth considering as you weigh your options.