If you’re in the process of deciding on a specialty, earning potential is probably high on your list of considerations. While you’re in for a lucrative career regardless of what specialty you choose, some doctors have a higher salary than others. If you’re curious about which are the lowest paid physician specialties, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve counted down the lowest-paid doctors by specialty and looked at a few other factors you should consider, like work-life balance and job satisfaction.
10 Lowest Paid Doctors
To identify the lowest-paid physician specialties, we relied on data from Doximity’s 2023 Physician Compensation Report, which surveyed more than 190,000 doctors in a variety of specialties nationwide.
This is one of the most comprehensive and widely used data sources in the healthcare industry. Before we get into the details, here’s a snapshot of the 10 lowest-paying medical specialties and the average physician salaries reported in the survey.
|10. Family Medicine
|8. Pediatric Pulmonology
|7. Medical Genetics
|5. Pediatric Nephrology
|4. Pediatric Hematology and Oncology
|3. Pediatric Rheumatology
|2. Pediatric Infectious Disease
|1. Pediatric Endocrinology
10. Family Medicine
Annual Salary: $273,040
Coming in 10th place, family medicine pays an average annual salary of $273,040 and typically requires a 40-hour week.
Family medicine doctors can provide care throughout all the stages of their patients’ lives. They offer acute and preventive care, as well as helping patients manage chronic conditions.
For example, they might test for high cholesterol and diabetes, screen for cancer, help patients quit smoking or make healthier diet choices, and provide resources to cope with mental health issues.
Research suggests that practicing family medicine could be good for your wellbeing, too. According to Medscape’s 2023 Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report, family medicine physicians reported having some of the happiest marriages in the medical field, at 83%.
Annual Salary: $270,396
Often shortened to med-peds, this specialty combines internal medicine and pediatrics. These primary care physicians can provide care to both children and adults.
Like family medicine doctors, med-peds may offer anything from flu shots and wellness checkups to treatments for injuries and sudden illnesses.
This specialty has a lot of overlap with both pediatricians and internal medicine specialists. However, med/peds tend to involve more clinical training in hospitals than internal medicine does. Research published in the National Library of Medicine showed that med-peds have one of the lowest attrition rates.
While the average salary is on the lower end of the spectrum, it’s higher than other pediatric specialties. And med-peds provide unique opportunities to work with patients from childhood onward.
8. Pediatric Pulmonology
Annual Salary: $263,742
Pediatric pulmonology ranks as the eighth lowest-paid specialty, according to Doximity’s survey results.
This pediatric specialty involves evaluating and treating infants, children, and adolescents who suffer from respiratory conditions like pneumonia, asthma, cystic fibrosis, and sleep apnea.
One of the more rewarding elements of this specialty is that pediatric pulmonologists often get to care for their patients from the cradle to college, forming close relationships with patients who suffer from chronic conditions.
There are currently fewer than 1,000 pediatric pulmonologists in the US, and research suggests that the subspecialty is trending toward a shortage.
While pediatric pulmonology doesn’t have the highest pay in the medical field, it’s a rewarding job with versatile opportunities, and the demand is higher than ever.
7. Medical Genetics
Annual Salary: $244,107
According to a congressional report from the GAO, there were around 1,240 certified medical geneticists in the US in 2020, with a growing demand.
Medical geneticists play a unique but critical role in the medical field, one that allows them to combine research and hands-on patient care.
Clinical geneticists diagnose and treat genetic conditions, factoring in advances in genetics and genomics. They also provide genetic counseling and work with patients of all ages, including at the prenatal stage.
In her American Medical Association profile, geneticist Mary-Alice Abbott, MD, PhD, said she works 40-50 hours in an average week and is available by pager 24/7. One of the most rewarding aspects of the job, in her words, is getting to “practice at the cutting edge of science during an incredible time in the history of medicine.”
Annual Salary: $242,832
Pediatrics is another of the lowest-paid specialties, with the average reported salary falling at $242,832.
Pediatricians provide a wide array of medical services to children ranging from their infancy to young adulthood.
These doctors administer vaccinations, diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, track their patients’ development, and manage ongoing health conditions.
Unfortunately, pediatricians were among the top 10 most burned-out specialties in Doximity’s 2022 Physician Burnout and Depression report, with 49% experiencing burnout on the job.
But a 2016 survey from the AAP Department of Research found that 83% of “early-career” pediatricians were satisfied with their job, and the ones with a strong network of support from colleagues cited higher satisfaction and less burnout.
5. Pediatric Nephrology
Annual Salary: $238,208
Pediatric nephrologists were the fifth lowest-paid doctors featured in Doximity’s income survey.
Pediatric nephrologists diagnose and treat children’s kidney injuries and illnesses. They may biopsy kidneys, provide care surrounding transplants, and manage dialysis, including renal replacement therapy.
Like the other pediatric subspecialties on the list, pediatric nephrology gives doctors the opportunity to change young patients’ lives and form close bonds with families that last through years of treatment and care.
And it provides another noteworthy advantage. As the Council of Pediatric Subspecialties highlights, “the subspecialty appeals to those who are procedure-oriented without the lifestyle sacrifices often required in procedure-dominated subspecialties.”
4. Pediatric Hematology and Oncology
Annual Salary: $237,005
Coming in at number four on the list, pediatric hematology and oncology is a vital specialty that cares for children and adolescents with cancer and blood disorders.
Pediatric oncologists provide an array of services for their young patients, working with them at every stage from diagnosis to treatment and long-term care.
Because oncology is an ever-evolving field with groundbreaking developments, this is one of the most research-heavy specialties, one that merges clinical and academic work.
Treating cancer and blood disorders is also a team effort, and pediatric oncologists often find themselves leading a team of doctors and nurses to execute on a course of action for treatment.
In a 2018 assessment, the American Board of Pediatrics estimated there is around one pediatric hematologist or oncologist for every 38,300 people under the age of 21 in the US.
3. Pediatric Rheumatology
Annual Salary: $218,266
The third lowest-paid doctors are pediatric rheumatologists, who earn an average of $226,186.
Pediatric rheumatologists diagnose and treat disorders and diseases affecting children’s joints, bones, muscles, and tendons. This often includes caring for diseases like juvenile idiopathic arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma.
These doctors mostly practice in an outpatient setting but also see patients who are hospitalized and can work in academia as well. Like pediatric oncologists, rheumatologists get to form lasting relationships with their young patients and collaborate with other specialists on treatment plans.
While the pay is considerably lower than some specialties, pediatric rheumatologists enjoy a healthy work-life balance, with fewer emergencies calling them in outside of traditional work hours.
2. Pediatric Infectious Disease
Annual Salary: $221,126
Coming in at number 2 on the list is pediatric infectious disease, where doctors earn an average of $221,126 per year.
True to its name, this specialty involves preventing, diagnosing, and treating infectious diseases in children and adolescents.
It opens the door to a variety of job settings, from academia to private practices to the pharmaceutical industry and public health. With so many job options available, the pay for this specialty can vary depending on your role, geographical area, and the type of setting where you practice.
Despite being one of the lowest-paid specialties. Doximity reported that pediatric infectious disease doctors had the second-highest annual salary increase year-over-year, at 4.9%.
1. Pediatric Endocrinology
Annual Salary: $220,358
Number one on the list of lowest-paid specialties, pediatric endocrinologists earn $218,266 annually. As a point of comparison, endocrinology for adults is also one of the 15 lowest-paid specialties, with an average salary of $276,548.
Peds endocrinologists specialize in detecting and treating illnesses related to the endocrine system, like diabetes, growth disorders, and hormonal issues.
Pediatric endocrinology presents unique challenges that differ from adult endocrinology, as children and adolescents may face hormonal issues that impact their growth and development.
In a 2020 survey published by Endocrine Practice, 77% of peds endocrinologists said they were satisfied with their work environment. 97% said the intellectual stimulation was the biggest benefit of the job, and 84% said the pay was the least favorite part of their specialty. Bottom line—pediatric endocrinologists love the work but would appreciate higher pay.
Frequently Asked Questions
What doctors make the most and least money?
In their 2023 survey, Doximity found that neurosurgeons make the most money of any specialty, and pediatric endocrinologists make the least.
Of the doctors surveyed, neurosurgeons outearned pediatric infectious disease doctors by an average of more than $500,000 last year.
What is the dropout rate for doctors?
The dropout rate for doctors ranges from 4.1% to 18.4%, depending on the length of their program. The longer the program is, the less likely medical students are to drop out, based on data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Why do people quit med school?
Here are some of the most common reasons people drop out of medical school:
- Burnout/mental health
- Student loan debt
- Change in priorities
- Poor work-life balance
- Academic rigors of medical school
Which doctors have the highest burnout?
Based on Medscape’s 2022 Physician Burnout and Depression Survey, these are the top 5 most burned-out doctor specialties:
- Emergency medicine
- Critical care
- Infectious disease
- Family medicine
More than half of the doctors surveyed in each of these specialties reported experiencing burnout at work.
Do most doctors regret their career choices?
Medscape found that 73% of doctors would still choose a career in medicine if they could turn back time. Of the physicians surveyed, dermatologists were most likely to make the same career choice, at 99%, followed by orthopedic surgeons, plastic surgeons, and gastroenterologists.
As you can see from the survey data, interviews with specialists, and day-to-day job duties, there’s a lot more to choosing a specialty than income.
While it’s definitely important to factor into your decision, finding a specialty that aligns with your passions and skills and meets your needs for work-life balance is equally important.
Whether you choose one of the highest-paid doctors’ specialties or the lowest, you can count on a meaningful and rewarding career as a physician.