Everyone knows that doctors live a pretty comfortable lifestyle. But is it because they are paid well or work extended hours? Looking at the salary of a doctor and the pay for different specialties is important when answering such questions.
What doctors make in a day
The average US-based doctor makes about $500-$800 per day. These figures are based on an average salary of $260,000 annually, where specialists earn about $368,000 per year.
But if you’re interested in the specifics of doctors’ pay, and which types of doctors make the most per day, then read on. We’ll get into all that in this article.
Which doctors make more per day: specialists vs primary care
According to Medscape’s report for 2022, the average physician’s primary care salary is $260 000 annually and $368 000 for specialists. These are impressive average figures, translating to about $500 to $800 daily when factoring in full-time (40-50 hour weekly) work schedules.
Primary care physicians have seen their salaries increase by about 33%, while specialists have seen theirs increase by 30%. On a national level, the average salary for physicians increases year on year.
According to the same report, cardiology and orthopedic surgeons are among the top of the list of best-earning specialties for the past five years. Family medicine, pediatrics, diabetes, and endocrinology are at the bottom.
However, all specialties have seen an increase in their average earnings.
The specialty breakdown is as follows:
|Specialty||What they earn annually/daily|
|TOP FIVE SPECIALTIES|
|Plastic surgery||$576K ($800+ per day)|
|Orthopedics||$557K ($800+ per day)|
|Cardiology||$490K ($800+ per day)|
|Otolaryngology||$469K ($800+ per day)|
|Urology||$461K ($800+ per day)|
|Gastroenterology||$453K ($800+ per day)|
|Dermatology||$438K ($800+ per day)|
|Radiology||$437K ($800+ per day)|
|Ophthalmology||$417K ($800+ per day)|
|Oncology||$411K ($800+ per day)|
|Anesthesiology||$405K ($800+ per day)|
|Surgery and General||$402K ($800+ per day)|
|Emergency Medicine||$373K ($700-$800 per day)|
|Critical Care||$369K ($700-$800 per day)|
|Pulmonary Medicine||$353K ($700-$800 per day)|
|Ob/Gyn||$336K ($700-$800 per day)|
|Pathology||$334K ($700-$800 per day)|
|Nephrology||$329K ($700-$800 per day)|
|Allergy and Immunology||$298K ($600+ per day)|
|Rheumatology||$289K ($600+ per day)|
|Psychiatry||$287K ($600+ per day)|
|Internal Medicine||$264K ($600+ per day)|
|Infectious Diseases||$260K ($600+ per day)|
|BOTTOM FIVE SPECIALTIES|
|Diabetes and Endocrinology||$257K ($600+ per day)|
|Family Medicine||$255K ($600+ per day)|
|Pediatrics||$244K ($600+ per day)|
|Public Health/Preventative Med||$243K ($600+ per day)|
A graduate (resident) doctor would earn $87,195, which translates to about $41.92 per hour (and about $360 per day for an 8-9 hour schedule). This figure depends on your training specialty, year of training, and which hospital you work at. After you complete a residency, your salary can grow near to the figures shown in the table above.
Doctors between the ages of 40 and 69 (attendings having completed residency) make more money on average than younger physicians.
Doctors’ Earnings Vary by State
How much a doctor gets paid is also influenced by where they work.
For example, although there are many medical centers and job opportunities in the Northeast of America (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Sloan Cancer Center, etc.), the higher-paid physicians typically come from the South and the Midwest.
As of 2022, the state with the highest average salary for doctors was Kentucky, with $364 000. Other states in the top-ten annual earnings included Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Oregon, Indiana, North Carolina, Connecticut, Texas, and Florida.
Do Doctors With Their Own Practice Earn More?
Multiple surveys and studies show that private doctors earn more than salaried doctors.
But despite the higher pay, the job satisfaction rate isn’t all that different (72% for employed doctors and 73% for private doctors, according to Medscape).
Salary satisfaction, on the other hand, is vastly different. 54% of employed doctors report being more satisfied than private doctors in terms of pay.
A little surprising!
Even though private doctors have more scope to maximize their earnings, their income is also subject to patient volumes and expenses. Because of that, it’s no guarantee they always make more.
Is There a Wage Gap Between Male and Female Doctors?
Doximity’s 2019 report studying doctors’ incomes in the US, found that male doctors earned an average of $1.25 for every $1 a female doctor earned.
Medscape also reported a similar trend, finding that male specialists earn 33% more than female specialists and that male primary care providers earned 25% more on average.
Both reports also indicate the gap in pay is narrowing each year.
Why Do Some Doctors Get Paid More?
A doctor’s income is influenced by demand, skillset (where you specialize), level of training, and age/experience.
There are also other reasons.
These reasons are not as well-known as the above factors, but highest paid physicians also have these traits:
They see more patients
Quality of training is important, but the quantity of service provision is also important. In the health care sector, the more patients you attend to, the more income you can make.
They use their specialization for other revenue streams
Many specialist physicians provide services beyond clinical care. With knowledge and expertise, there’s an opportunity for medical consulting services and expert legal testimony for people who want advice after an illness or accident. Appearances in the media as an expert on a specific topic can also be a good source of income.
They negotiate better rates
Physicians in hospitals, clinics, or other specialist medical service settings have contracts. Top earning physicians are also efficient negotiators, able to work with their employers to agree to productivity bonuses and stock options.
They retrain or subspecialize
Some physicians who start their practice in a specialty that ranks on the lower end of earning scale change specialties or subspecialize to move upwards. An example switch would be from general practitioner to cardiologist.
Should You Choose Your Specialty Based On Pay?
Choosing where to specialize as a doctor is a very personal decision. Some people factor in lifestyle over pay, while others feel a particular calling to a specific area of medicine.
Although the annual salaries noted in the table above may help you compare potential earnings in one area of medicine over another, it’s important to use them as a rough estimate only.
As we’ve already discussed, there are many ways to make money as a doctor — and not all income streams are dependent on the time traded for money sacrifice of direct care!
Our suggestion is to explore medical specialties (and your future career options as a doctor) holistically. Looking at potential earnings alongside multiple other factors like personal interest, lifestyle, schedule, working conditions, technological interruptions, etc.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.