The top 10 highest physician salaries by specialty

Doctor putting money in pocket
For doctors who want a big paycheck, orthopedics is one way to get there, a new survey says. (Getty/Niyazz)

Specialists continue to draw bigger paychecks than primary care physicians, with orthopedic salaries at the top of the list, according to a new survey.

Orthopedic doctors had the highest salary among 25 types of physicians, according to a MedPage Today salary survey. The online survey received more than 20,000 responses, including 7,753 with salary information used in the analysis.

Here are the top 10 highest paid specialties:


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1. Orthopedics: $414,283

2. Oncology: $410,941

3. Cardiology: $400,603

4. Urology: $395,000

5. Gastroenterology: $387,078

6. General surgery: $359,761

7. Dermatology: $359,519

8. Radiology: $357,292

9. Anesthesiology: $356,992

10. Critical care: $340,900

Although in high demand, primary care physicians ranked near the bottom of the salary list. Internal medicine physicians earned an average of $212,915; family medicine physicians earned $208,272 and pediatricians were last on the list at $199,616. The country could see a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030, according to a projection from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Interestingly, the average salary for physicians/surgeons dropped last year, according to the survey, from an average of $258,039 in 2017 to $250,000 in 2018.

The survey also looked at salaries for nurse practitioners and physician assistants—both of which increased last year.

The average salary for nurse practitioners went from $102,523 in 2017 to $109,000 in 2018. Those working in critical care demanded the highest pay, with an average salary of $139,964.

The average salary for physician assistants went from $108,311 in 2017 to $110,000 in 2018. Those in emergency medicine demanded the highest salary, an average of $136,352.

Asked about the best aspects of being in healthcare, 80% of respondents said it was caring for people. Asked about the worst aspects, 53% said record keeping, 50% said burnout and 46% said government interference/regulations and achieving work-life balance.

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