Residency & Beyond

How much do doctors make? By Specialty, State & Gender

Becoming a doctor requires rigorous training and specialized education. All the hard work that yields a career in a highly regarded profession and a lucrative salary. 

We want to caution premeds against making a life decision based on money alone, but it is good to start planning your future finances after taking on medical school expenses. It is good to set healthy expectations regarding salary. 

How much a doctor makes varies depending on specialty, location, experience level, and (unfortunately) gender.

Overall, there has been a decrease in physician pay in recent years. There are fears that these salary cuts will negatively impact the healthcare system. Even with these cuts, the national average salary of a physician in the United States is over $200,000 a year.

What is the average doctor’s salary?

According to Indeed, the average doctor’s salary for an MD physician is $201,918 per year. For DO physicians, the average annual salary in the United States is $163,908 annually. 

These figures are averages that do not reflect experience level, specialty, or a doctor’s location. Specialists typically pay more than generalists, and MD physicians are more likely to specialize.

How much do most doctors make per year?  In 2021, primary care physicians earned approximately $255,000 annually, while specialists earned $344,000. 

How much does a doctor make per hour? According to national averages, doctors earn anywhere from $74-128 per hour.

Average Physician Salary By Specialty

An Infographic of Average Annual Physician Compensation, broken down by specialty and salary.

Wondering how much physician pay has changed in recent years? Check out this graphic of average annual physician compensation salaries in 2020. In just 3 years,

  • Plastic Surgery Specialist make $97,000 more
  • Cardiologist salaries have risen 10%
  • Allergy and Immunology fell by $1,000 a year on average

Here’s Where Physicians Make the Most In the United States

The metro areas with the highest average compensation in the US, according to Doximity’s Physician Compensation Report, are:

  • Charlotte, North Carolina — $430,890
  • St. Louis, Missouri — $426,370
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — $425,096
  • San Jose, California — $418,600
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota — $411,677
  • Sacramento, California — $411,257 
  • Phoenix, Arizona — $409,185
  • Indianapolis, Indiana — $408,199
  • Salt Lake City, Utah — $408,044
  • Atlanta, Georgia — $407,863

The metro areas with the lowest compensation are:

  • Washington, DC — $342,139
  • Baltimore, Maryland — $346,260
  • Boston, Massachusetts — $347,553
  • San Antonio, Texas — $347,692
  • Raleigh, North Carolina — $351,732
  • Providence, Rhode Island — $354,342
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia — $354,587 
  • Denver, Colorado — $357,010 
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania —  $358,443 
  • Birmingham, Alabama — $361,483 

Intraspecialty Variations In Physician Salary

Intra-specialty salary range variations refer to the differences in salaries between doctors in the same specialization. 

The differences in pay between doctors in the same specialty have a higher degree of variation from 10th percentile earners to 90th percentile earners. The variations in income within the specialty tend to be greater than variations in pay from one specialty to another. 

If you search on job boards like Merritt Hawkins, you’ll see cardiologist listings with income potentials ranging from $450,000 to $1,000,000 per year. But Leap Scholar states that first to third-year cardiologists can expect an average of $289,711. 

That number gap may make the average salary numbers slightly less reliable than looking at the mode. 

Meanwhile, specialties with lower standards, like family medicine, seem to have smaller income potential gaps. This makes the average number a more reliable benchmark.

Gender Pay Gap

The latest Doximity report revealed that the gender pay gap for physicians decreased slightly.  Women earn an average $2 million less over their career lifetime than men. 

The MedScape Physician Compensation Report states that the specialties with the most significant gender pay gaps include:

  • Otolaryngology
  • Geriatrics
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Research
  • OB/GYN

Specialties with the least wage inequality include:

  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Hematology
  • Urology
  • Colon/Rectal Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine

The AAMC Faculty Salary Survey confirms that the gender wage gap is the main factor in wage disparities but also sheds light on race and ethnicity salary gaps in medicine.  White men had a higher median salary than men of other races and ethnicities. 

What impacts a doctor’s income potential?

  • Location: Where you settle down and start a practice or build a patient list will greatly impact your potential income. The cost of living in your local area determines each provider’s salary and patient fees. A place with a lower cost of living will equate to a lower wage. That’s a tradeoff to consider, as your cost of living is also lower, so it may be worth the pay cut you see on paper.
  • Specialty:  As you can see from the above results, your chosen specialty will significantly impact your future income potential.
  • Ownership: When you’re a partner in your practice, your income can be substantially higher. But this also comes with the risk of all the costs of running your own business, so it’s another tradeoff where you’ll need to consider risks and rewards.
  • Reimbursements: In recent years, programs including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act have not adjusted or decreased their reimbursements. Unless a doctor is willing to spend more hours seeing more patients (or spend less time with each person), this almost always leads to a drop in pay. You can explore the Physician Fee Schedules on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.
  • Performance: Yes, this should be very obvious… but how well you do your job will impact your income potential, just as with any other career. Better patient outcomes, more satisfactory reviews, and fewer malpractice cases equate to higher income.
  • School Debt: This factor is another tradeoff. You may spend more on a high-quality medical school or premed degree, which takes more money to pay off. However, success at prestigious institutions may also increase your likelihood of landing a high-end entry-level doctor’s salary.

Physicians feel the impacts of inflation, too.

It is easy to look at the extra zeros on a doctor’s salary and assume they are safe from economic pressures. Doctors are not immune from student loan payments and rising everyday costs.

Physicians are also trying to earn an honest living as patients, governments, and employers race to make cuts and adjustments. 

To adjust, 33% of surveyed physicians reported that they pursue a side gig, and 14% have reported increasing their patient caseload work hours. This puts a strain on our healthcare workers, speeding up burnout. Ultimately, everyone needs more medical attention than a physician can provide. 

Is a career as a physician right for you?

Money isn’t everything. While salary is an essential factor, so are other considerations as you make your medical journey toward becoming a physician. Doctors need a work-life balance, too. 

Here are key aspects you’ll want to consider when selecting a specialty that will impact your work-life balance from when your career starts as an intern into your life as an attending.

Medical Training Requirements

Specific residencies, such as pediatrics, require a three-year residency. Other specialties, such as neurosurgery, require a seven-year training program. During residency, you’ll work long hours and days, committing many of your prime years to honing your skills. 

Competitiveness of Medical Specialties

Fill ratios are used to determine the number of applicants per position available. The closer that ratio is to 1, the closer there is to 1 spot for every applicant. The farther you deviate upwards from that number, the harder it is to land a spot.

Take interventional radiology as an example: There are 1.86 applicants for every 1 position available, and only 136 openings are available per year. In contrast, anesthesiology has 1.09 applicants for each position open and 1,804 openings per year. 

Do you have the time and dedication to be a competitive applicant?

Learn about how our Physician Advisors can walk you through the medical school admissions and application process for your best shot at getting into the school of your choice.

Your Patience for Patients

Most physicians practice some form of clinical medicine. A lot of that time is spent seeing the patients, charting the patients, and the mental effort going into thinking about your patients. Just because you physically leave work doesn’t mean you can mentally leave. 

There is also the consideration of being “on-call.” A specialty like dermatology is largely outpatient-based without much on-call activity. 

Then, you have specialties like cardiology that may be tied to the hospital. There will be times when you have to be on call, in the hospital, doing rounds, and seeing patients in an outpatient scenario. Do you want to wear a pager all the time, or not?

The Job Site

Medical practice environments differ.  There are excellent, cozy office settings in rural clinics and busy hospitals in major medical centers. Would you rather have your full-time job in a high-stress operating room or a quiet exam room? 

Medical doctors working in critical care units, endocrinology, internal medicine, oncology, or infectious diseases will often have a higher stress position. Medical doctors who work in private practice, psychiatry, or orthopedics often feel less stressed. 

Academic Interest

Solid academic pursuits in research will impact the number of publications, presentations, conferences, and research you do throughout your career. Does this type of work excite you as much as patient work? 

Keep Your Finances in Check

Many applicants have undergraduate debt and medical school debt. They may be deferring that debt while they’re still studying. The salaries you earn in residency generally range between $40,000-$70,000. 

Residency is a lot of years to make a relatively small amount of money for a physician while simultaneously having so much debt to pay back. Remember, the longer you’re in your residency, the less income you will have to pay back your loans. Once you are out of residency, your salary will increase.

Is being a doctor more lucrative than a blue-collar job?

We built out a chart showing how much doctors earn over their career versus a respectable “traditional” trades job – say, an electrician. The break-even on net income between the two positions is 26 years! Yet, a doctor can expect to make $12 million more in their career. 

Can you wait that long for a return on your educational investment?

Electrician vs. Physician Salary

Note: This chart assumes that a pre-med will have spent $75k+ per year for 4 years of undergrad school, $50k a year for 2 years of post bacc, $75k+ a year for 4 years of medical school, and then earned $50k+ for a gap year, and somewhere south of $100k per year for up to 7 years as a resident. Only then do individuals start earning like an attending, and even then, they begin at a lower-than-average salary. Inflation and annual wage increases are incorporated into these metrics.

After all these considerations, 78% of physicians stated that they would choose medicine again if they had to choose a career from the start.

Remember that just because you’re a general surgeon doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy life outside of the OR. If you specialize in plastic surgery, it doesn’t mean you’re making tons of money and kicking back with celebrities all the time. 

Physician Compensation by Specialty Table

What is the Salary of a Doctor?SpecialtyAverage Annual Physician Compensation
How much does an orthopedist make?Orthopedics$557,000
How much does a plastic surgeon make?Plastic Surgery$576,000
How much does an otolaryngologist make?Otolaryngology$469,000
How much does a cardiologist make?Cardiology$480,000
How much does a radiologist make?Radiology $437,000
How much does a gastroenterologist make?Gastroenterology $453,000
How much does a urologist make?Urology $461,000
How much does a dermatologist make?Dermatology $438,000
How much does an anesthesiologist make?Anesthesiology $405,000
How much does an opthalmologist make?Ophthalmology $417,000
How much does an oncologist make?Oncology $411,000
How much does a general surgeon make?Surgery, General $402,000
How much does an emergency medicine physician make?Emergency Medicine $373,000
How much does a critical care physician make?Critical Care $369,000
How much does a pulmonary medicine physician make?Pulmonary Medicine $353,000
How much does a pathologist make?Pathology $334,000
How much does a physical medicine & rehabilitation physician make?Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation $322,000
How much does an OB-GYN make?Ob/Gyn $336,000
How much does a nephrologist make?Nephrology $329,000
How much does a allergist and immunologist make?Allergy & Immunology $298,000
How much does a neurologist make?Neurology $301,000
How much does a psychiatrist make?Psychiatry $287,000
How much does a rheumatologist make?Rheumatology $289,000
How much does a internal medicine physician make?Internal Medicine $264,000
How much does a infectious disease physician make?Infectious Diseases $260,000
How much does a diabetes and endocrinologist make?Diabetes & Endocrinology $257,000
How much does a family medicine physician make?Family Medicine $255,000
How much does a public health & preventive medicine physician make?Public Health & Preventive Medicine $243,000
How much does a pediatrician make?Pediatrics $244,000

Are you considering a medical career? We’re here to help.

Becoming a doctor requires a lot of time, effort, money, and dedication to the career. Being a physician is a rewarding career path for those passionate about helping others. 

If you are considering a career in medicine, schedule a free consultation with our friends at MedSchoolCoach to see how to increase your chances of matching into the residency of your choice. 

David Flick MD

David graduated Magna Cum Laude from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California with a BS in biology where he was heavily involved in high school and university level tutoring. He then moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand where he worked as a high school mathematics teacher at an international baccalaureate school. In the two years prior to starting medical school, he volunteered in seven different countries throughout Asia with international medical aid programs. David attended medical school at UC Irvine after receiving the Army health professions scholarship. He served on the admissions committee for four years including working on the selection committee board. He completed a family medicine residency program in Oahu, HI and served on the residency admissions committee. He is board certified in family medicine and now works as a flight surgeon for the Army.

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