We all know that becoming a doctor requires us to invest at least a quarter of our lifetime and forces us to take out hefty student loans which we’ll probably pay for the rest of our lives. We make all these sacrifices and sometimes we just can’t help but think, how much does a doctor make, anyway?
In this post, I am going to break down for you how much doctors really make in general and by their respective specialties. Let’s get to it!
What Is An Average Salary Of A Doctor?
The team at Medscape asked physicians and specialists for their annual compensation for patient care including salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions. As for partners, they were asked to provide a report on their annual compensation which includes earnings after taxes and deductible business expenses before income taxes.
All these reports were aggregated into the Medscape Physician Compensation Report released in 2019. Here are some of the findings stated in the report.
There is a disparity in the overall earnings of primary care physicians and specialists. In the 2015 report of physician compensations, physicians earned an average of $195,000. Specialists, on the other hand, earned an average of $284,000.
In the span of 4 years, there has been an increase of 21.5% for physicians and 20% for specialists, with increased average annual compensations of $237K and $341K, respectively.
According to Career Explorer, the annual compensation of doctors has something to do with seniority, as well. Starting level doctors earn $68,922 a year. This increases as they rank up and become more experienced in their respective fields. On one hand, the earnings of top-level doctors start at $352,975 per year.
The diagram below describes how much doctors earn depending on their seniority.
Do Doctors Actually Make A Lot Of Money?
Ask a medical student why they want to be a doctor. Nobody in their serious and sane mind will answer you that the reason they want to be a doctor is for them to make a lot of money.
Of course, making a living out of your job is common sense and human nature in its simplest form. However, becoming rich is the last thing a doctor would become. Why is this so?
Could it be because the money they make does not compensate for the amount of effort they have dedicated to be in this profession?
Hey, don’t get me wrong. Doctors do significantly earn more than the common U.S. resident. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the second quarter of 2017, the median household income in the United States is $50,752.
Based on my calculations, there’s a massive disparity of 144K between the income of the average U.S. resident and a primary care physician.
To answer your question – yes, doctors actually do make a lot of money. Well, maybe not a filthy amount of money like the CEO of Amazon makes. Even the top-level specialists make nowhere near what a CEO of a rich company makes.
If this is the case, why are there still people who believe that doctors should make more? Why is it that medical health practitioners are paid less than what they should earn?
Med students dedicate all their time and money to become a doctor and it is one of the professions that takes the longest amount of hours to acquire licensure. But you’ll be surprised to know that doctors actually should make more than what they are normally making!
Best Medical Degrees compared the amount of money that doctors and teachers make, and they found out that doctors make 3 cents less per hour than high school teachers.
Okay, why is this such a big deal? You may be thinking it’s only 3 cents, what am I making a fuss about?
Let’s take a look at this infographic by Best Medical Degrees. Click on it to see an enlarged version!
The time and money spent on becoming a doctor are significantly beyond the amount of time and money invested in becoming an educational practitioner.
Once they have entered the profession, doctors will pay more of their loan debts for 20 years. They will also most likely be clocking into the hospital early in the morning and a few hours before their next shift starts, leaving them with almost no quality time for themselves – especially in their residency years!
Despite this polarity in terms of time and money invested in their respective fields, we still find doctors hustling more but earning less.
We are in no way degrading teachers, let’s get that out of the way first. Being a teacher to children is not the easiest job in the world. In fact, we salute you for imparting your knowledge to succeeding generations to create more professionals in varying fields.
My point is if we are taking into consideration the investments put into becoming a medical health practitioner – then the salary is validated and some even can argue that they deserve more than what they are receiving now.
Average Doctor Salary By Specialty
Naturally, the amount of money you make as a doctor varies depending on your specialization. Some specialties make more, while some specialties make less. We are again taking a look at the Medscape Physician Compensation Report of 2019 to see the discrepancies in the salaries across all specialties.
Who Earns More?
2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Report
2019 Medscape Physician Compensation Report
For the year 2019, Orthopedics, Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Cardiology, and Dermatology are the highest-earning specialties. It’s remarkable to note that Orthopedics, Cardiology, and Plastic Surgery are still included in the top five earning specialties from 2018 up until 2019.
On one hand, Gastroenterology and Radiology, though significantly earning more than they were in 2018, ranked lower in 2019 and were replaced by Otolaryngology and Dermatology.
Orthopedic surgeons earn the highest with a whopping average annual salary of $482K! We then see Plastic Surgery next on the list, earning $471K in 2019!
Plastic surgeons used to be the 1st place in the highest-earning specialties, now it scores the 2nd spot. They experienced a significant decrease in their average annual salaries coming from $501K to $471K.
Anyway, orthopedic surgeons took Plastic Surgery’s crown in 2019, though they also experienced a decline in their average annual salaries dwindling from $497K to $482K.
Conversely, at the bottom part of the pyramid, we see the primary care doctors in the specialties of Infectious Diseases, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, and Public Health & Preventive Medicine.
Public Health & Preventive Medicine remains in the rear end, ranking the lowest as they were in 2018. The field did experience a surge in average annual salaries in 2019 from $199K to $209K, but this doesn’t change anything when we look at the rankings.
Internal Medicine used to be in the top five lowest earning specialties, now being replaced by Infectious Diseases.
Though these fields did increase their average annual increases from 2018, this increase was not enough to rank them up and escape the bottom of the structure.
Which Specialization Is The Happiest?
Despite the unjustifiable compensation that doctors receive, I guess it’s more important to note how these physicians feel about their salaries – probably one of the reasons why these medical healthcare professionals have stuck out for so long in this field.
Public Health & Preventive Medicine feels the most fairly compensated for their expertise, with 73% of respondents expressing their satisfaction. It’s remarkable to note that this is the same field that is earning the least across all specialties. Wow, something’s wrong here. Don’t you think?
How about orthopedic surgeons? It looks like only half of the population of orthopedic surgeons are satisfied with their salaries. For being the highest-earning specialty among others – honestly, what more do they expect?
Should we even get started with plastic surgeons and cardiologists? Only more than half of these specialists are pleased with their incomes even though they have been subsequently included in the top five earning specialties for years on end now.
Public Health & Preventive Medicine is then followed by Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Radiology, and Pathology in this ranking of which physicians feel fairly compensated.
Dermatology and Radiology are some of the highest-earning fields in 2019 that feel the most fairly compensated. Glad to know some people appreciate what they have that others can’t put their hands on.
Emergency Medicine, Pathology, and Psychiatry are among the specialties who neither belong to the polar regions of the average annual salary pyramid but are the same fields who have physicians that feel fairly compensated for their work.
Of course, this satisfaction is not solely factored by the amount of money they make. What drives their happiness and contentment is also driven by the relationships they make with their patients, seeing people’s gratitude, feeling good and competent by finding answers and diagnoses, and knowing that they make the world a better place. Perhaps why only half of the population of physicians and specialists in the highest-earning fields are delighted with their salaries is because of the increased pressure, longer hours of work, and additional paperwork that other low-earning specialties do not experience as much.
The Medscape team also solicited responses regarding what physicians and specialists think is the most challenging part of their job. A lot of them think that having so many rules and regulations, having to work with an EHR system, and having to work long hours among other aspects of their job are the most demanding and draining parts of their profession.
Regardless, most of the respondents would gladly choose medicine and their specialty again if they were given another chance.
The top five specialties that would choose medicine in general again are Infectious Diseases, Cardiology, Oncology, Nephrology, and Dermatology.
While on the other side we have Radiology, Allergy & Immunology, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Plastic Surgery, and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation who have a relatively larger amount of doctors who would rather do something else. But keep in mind that survey is limited to only that replied. Thus there may be both inappropriate representation as well as selection bias in this survey.
What Does State, Gender, Or Ethnicity Have To Do With A Doctor’s Salary?
Oklahoma is the highest-earning state with its physicians being compensated $337K on an annual basis. On the polarized end of this ranking is Indiana earning $322K. Indiana used to earn $334K and wore the crown for being the highest-earning state in 2018 but submerged to the lowest depths of the ranking in 2019.
We see an increase in the average annual earnings of physicians and specialists from Oklahoma, going from $330K to $337.
Wisconsin and Louisiana were among the top-earning states back in 2018, but were eventually replaced by Tennessee and Georgia in 2019 earning $323K and $322K, respectively.
We’re sure to expect some discrepancies in the earnings of doctors in the United States if we take a macroscopic look at their race and ethnicities. It’s 2021 already, but discrimination inside the medical workplace is still relatively present.
As we can see from the table above, Caucasian/white physicians earn significantly more than other races. Here we see a large disparity from the earnings of Asian and African American/black physicians.
What is also notable is that 75% of the specialized doctors are Caucasian and only 25% of them are primary care physicians.
When it comes to gender, of course, there’s still inequality in the salaries between men and women. This is evident not just in the medical workplace, but across all workplaces in the U.S.
Among primary care physicians, men earn profoundly more than women, earning $258K and $207K, respectively. Though, if we look at the rate of increase in average annual earnings between the two sexes from 2018, you will see that both sexes earn more than the preceding year.
However, the rate of increase in male physicians (from $239K to $258K) is significantly higher than women (from $203K to $207K). Thus, the gap remains and becomes wider as the years go by.
Among specialists, on the other hand, men still earn more with $372K while women earn $280K for the year 2019. 2018 wasn’t that much different, though. There’s an increase in the earnings for both sexes, but just like in the case of the physicians, the rate of increase in income with male specialists (from $358K to $372) is still higher than the increase of income in female specialists (from $263K to $280K).
But just to clear the air, Medscape differentiated the number of hours per week spent seeing patients between men and women. Male primary care physicians spend 40 hours while women spend 36 hours per week to see patients. It’s the same with specialists except female specialists spend an hour more per week seeing patients than female primary care physicians.
Senior Vice President of Merritt Hawkins told Medscape that among the physicians they have worked with, male physicians value income and control over certain aspects of their practice. Thus, it’s reasonable why they spend more hours seeing patients and why they earn more than women.
Conversely, female physicians value the quality of life and flexibility with their schedule. He states that “quality of life” doesn’t necessarily mean taking care of their children, but it could include just doing the things they love to do.
Here are answers to some of your burning questions if ever I haven’t addressed your questions in the preceding sections!
How Much Do Doctors Make A Week?
To become a doctor, one must spend 21,760 hours to get a Bachelor’s degree and to graduate medical school. The amount of hours in completing residency varies depending on the specialty, but you can expect it to be between the range of 12,000 to 28,000 hours.
I haven’t included here the amount of time you have to spend to pass all three parts of the USMLE and to become a board-certified specialist, so, take a wild guess.
Anyway, doctors use up 40,000 hours of their life for training. Adding all these up, it’s equivalent to 20 years of full-time work. For the remainder of their careers, they will work 59.6 hours per week.
Based on these numbers, if we do the math, doctors earn an average of $3,000-5,000 every week.
This number is going to vary on taxes, expenses, and your line of training. Thus the range can be lower or much higher.
What Is A Typical Doctor Salary Per Month?
Doctors make $3,000-5,000 by the week, multiply this by 4 and we can infer that doctors make an average of $12,000-20,000 per month.
Again similar to above, this number can vary for many reasons.
How Much Does A Doctor Make Per Hour?
Doctors only make about $80-130 per hour.
Doctors who are in procedure heavy fields such as surgery or doctors who may see a lot of patients quickly will tend to be at the higher end.
How Much Do Doctors Make After Residency?
Residents make an average of $50,000-60,000 during residency. The number can be higher in some parts of the country with higher costs of living.
After residency the salary will depend on the specialty the residents select to go in to.
How Much Do Doctors Make After Taxes?
Taxes for doctors can really paint a picture of how much doctors really make. Being one of the highest income generators in the US, they also will be in the highest tax brackets.
So how much do doctors make after taxes? The number will depend on the state you’re interested in and whether they have their own state income tax.
For example, if you use this calculator at SmartAsset.com, here are the numbers you would get for a doctor making $250,000 in Texas.
If you take our sample $7,408 take-home pay every two weeks, that would amount to about $180,000 take-home salary for a $250,000 initial salary.
This number can be offset by other forms of tax write-offs and deductibles, but this gives you a rough estimate.
I hope your questions regarding how much does a doctor make were answered by this blog post.
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Until next time my friends…