The Top 10 Highest Paying Medical Specialties in 2021 - JournoMed (2023)

Highest Paid Doctors/Physicians

Highest paid doctors: According to Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report 2020, the average pay for doctors in the US had risen for both primary care physicians as well as specialists. Although, this was before the pandemic hit the world and America moved into quarantine like the rest of the countries. This is why the predictions made by Medscape for the average salary of doctors are likely to decrease because of the epidemic.

The Medscape surveyed exactly 17,461 doctors across more than 30 specialties for this report on types of doctors and salaries. The duration for this survey was around five months, starting from the 4th of October, 2019, it went on till the 10th of February, 2020. The doctor’s responses that were recorded to know the highest paying medical specialties, were then weighted based on the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) physician distribution – which is a specialty, gender, and state.


The doctors provided information about their total compensation received from the hospitals to treat their patients. All the physicians that were employed, reported their salaries, bonuses/incentives, and incomes from any profit-sharing arrangements. While the physician partners and those that practice individually, reported their earnings before factoring in income tax, business tax, and deductibles.

What Impact has COVID-19 had on Doctor’s Income?

According to the report made by Medscape:

  • All the medical practices reported a decrease of 55% in their revenue and 60% in their volume of patients since the pandemic started.
  • All the hospitals and doctors across the USA have implemented layoffs, pay cuts, and furloughs.
  • By March 2020, at least 43,000 healthcare workers lost their jobs.
  • The independent practices have suffered tremendously, at least 9% of them have reported shutting down, even if temporarily.
  • Engagement with patients in remote areas has increased by 225%.

What’s the Future of Physician Income in 2020?

The senior vice president at Merritt Hawkins, Travis Singleton has made his statement that “private practices will start to see huge drops in their revenue systems. Once that happens, many of these practices will be in great trouble because they lack a financial cushion.”
“Yes, due to COVID-19, the privacy practices and hospitals were in a panic mode and they were focused on dealing with their present conditions. However, now because the COVID-19 rates are becoming more stabilized, the hospitals and practices are deciding how they want to get back into the business.” – said David N. Gans, the senior fellow at MGMA.

The Medscape survey respondents reported their compensation and only full-time salaries were made to include in the final results. The responses were recorded from more than 17,000 physicians in over 30 specialties. It is obvious from the overall results of the report, that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, doctor’s income was on a constant rise. Although in last year’s report by Medscape, the primary care physicians (PCPs) had an average earning of $237,000 and compared to this year’s average, which is $243,000, it is a hike of 2.5%. While physicians who are specialists made average earnings of $341,000 last year and compared to this year’s earnings on average which is $346,000, it is an increase of 1.5% as well.

Now, more importantly, is there a discrepancy between the two genders in primary care doctors? Who gets to earn more – men or women? For the past 10 years, the Medscape Physician Compensation Reports continue to show that men do earn more than women. Especially when it comes to primary care physicians, men had an average earning of about 25% more than women, which was around the same percentage as it was in 2019. As for the exact figures, the average earnings per year for male doctors is estimated at $264,000 while for women doctors, the estimate is $212,000 per year.

Highest Paid Surgeons

Highest paid surgeons: According to the 2020 physician compensation report by Doximity, the recordings show that there has been minor growth in the earnings of physicians compared to the last year’s compensation report. Doximity surveyed around 44,000 full-time US physicians as their respondents for the compensation growth between 2019 till 2020. The results were found to be at an increase of 1.5% in the overall earnings, and the average earnings for the highest paid surgeons have been depicted below:

1. Neurosurgery: $746,544
2. Thoracic surgery: $668,330
3. Orthopedic surgery: $605,330
4. Plastic surgery: $539,208
5. Oral and maxillofacial surgery: $538,590
6. Vascular surgery: $534,408
7. Cardiology: $527,231
8. Radiation oncology: $516,016
9. Gastroenterology: $485,460
10. Radiology: $485,460

According to the survey responses by Doximity also found a wage gap based on gender, which has increased even further compared to last year’s study. The recordings show that the wage gap has increased to 28% in 2020 whereas in 2019 it was estimated at 25.2%. The female surgeons reported that their average earnings are $116,289 less than their male co-workers.

Doctor Salary by Specialty

Highest paying medical specialties: According to Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report 2020, the Highest paying medical specialties in 2020 is orthopedics. They are the highest-paid doctors with an average earning of $511,000, per year, while the other highest-paid surgeons for doctor salary by specialty includes Plastic surgery and Cardiology which has an average earning of $438,000 per year. Whereas Public health and Preventive medicine, Pediatrics are tied at the lowest-paying specialties, with only an average earning of $232,000.

Prior to this, in the 2018 version of the Medscape Physician Compensation Report, the Primary Care physicians in the US had an average earning of $237,000, while the specialists earned on average a sum amount of $341,000, per year. So based on these markings, there has been an increase of about 21.5% for primary care physicians and about a 20% increase for specialized doctors.

Also, according to a new report by Medscape, the average earnings of a resident doctor has also increased in 2020 which is now $63,400, increased from a total sum of $61,200 which was the average earnings in 2019. This data was based on a survey that had more than 1,600 residents in 30+ specialties between the 3rd of April to 1st of June, 2020. Although, this data doesn’t reflect the fact that some residents are at a higher training level. Also, the survey respondents could also be in different postgraduate years, which is a factor that determines their earnings.

The highest paying medical specialties are:

  1. Orthopedics – $511,000
  2. Plastic surgery – $479,000
  3. Otolaryngology – $455,000
  4. Cardiology – $438,000
  5. Radiology – $427,000
  6. Gastroenterology – $419,000
  7. Urology – $417,000
  8. Dermatology – $411,000
  9. Anesthesiology – $398,000
  10. Ophthalmology – $378,000
  11. Oncology – $377,000
  12. General surgery – $364,000
  13. Emergency medicine – $357,000
  14. Critical care – $355,000
  15. Pulmonary medicine – $342,000
  16. Pathology – $318,000
  17. Physical medicine & rehabilitation – $308,000
  18. OB/GYN – $308,000
  19. Nephrology – $306,000
  20. Allergy & immunology – $301,000
  21. Neurology – $280,000
  22. Psychiatry – $268,000
  23. Rheumatology – $262,000
  24. Internal medicine – $251,000
  25. Infectious diseases – $246,000
  26. Diabetes & endocrinology – $236,000
  27. Family medicine – $234,000
  28. Public health & preventive medicine – $232,000
  29. Pediatrics – $232,000

Types of Doctors and Salaries

Types of doctors and salaries: According to ZipRecruiter, the average wage of a medical doctor in the US is estimated to be at $209,044. While the 2020 estimates for doctors’ salaries show at an average of $209,044, with a few discrepancies.

It is a given that the minimum and maximum thresholds for doctor’s salaries will vary distinctly, the lowest estimated to be at $45,500, whereas the highest estimate is $359,000. Keeping both these estimates in mind, it is crucial to know that the data is based on a national level, which factors in the wide gap between the different salary thresholds for medical doctors. Also, knowing that different cities and states have their own living standards, it is bound to affect the salaries as well.

Highest Paid Medical Jobs

Highest paid medical jobs: According to data recorded from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care jobs are expected to grow by 15% between the time period of 2019 till 2029, which means that it’s expected for at least 2.4 million new jobs to come out, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. According to The Atlantic, it is a known fact that in 2018, for the first time in history, the healthcare industry was the largest source of employment in the US.

The difference in types of doctors and salaries is largely dictated by the doctor’s specialty, their number of experience, and the state in which they choose to practice. To state an example, a surgeon’s salary in North Carolina would be at a 2% hike compared to the national average, a dentist’s salary in New York will be 10% higher compared to the national average, etc.

Here are the highest paying medical specialties for the year 2020:
1. Physicians and surgeons – $208,000 per year or more
2. Dentists – $159,200 per year
3. Pharmacists – $128,090 per year
4. Podiatrists – $126,240 per year
5. Nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners – $115,800 per year
6. Optometrists – $115,250 per year
7. Physician assistants – $112,260 per year
8. Veterinarians – $95,460 per year
9. Physical therapists – $89,440 per year
10. Radiation therapists – $85,560 per year

Read More: Click here to find jobs for doctors or to know how to find verified physicians.

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