How much money do doctors make? $645,000 is the highest doctor pay we’ve seen. $187,000 is the national median doctor pay and $180,000 to $400,000 is a solid range. That range depends heavily on specialty.
It’s tough to answer the question, “How much money do doctors make” because there’s such a wide range across the country. That said, the table and chart below should give anyone a solid idea of doctor pay.
The median figure of $187,000 is vague, because so many doctors make so much more. Specialists like orthopedic surgeons make on average $413,000 a year. Family medicine docs might make only $171,000. Doctor pay also swings widely by region with docs in Maine or North Carolina making a median salary of $270,000 and those in Oklahoma or Ohio generally making $70,000 less than that.
Median Doctor Pay: $187,000
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the median doctor salary in the U.S. is $187,000. That’s an incredibly misleading figure. To assume that all doctors make about $187,000 a year leaves out the fact that most orthopedic surgeons make about $413,000 and cardiologists make around $350,000.
“Median” is a convenient number that condenses down a lot of different numbers into one easy-to-grasp figure. It’s just the middle of the road salary. Half the doctors in the country make more than the median and half make less. The number doesn’t say how much more or less. For a more in-depth understanding of how much doctors actually get paid, see the section below on doctor pay by specialty.
How Much Doctors Make by Specialty: $174,000 to $413,000
The table below shows doctor salaries from $174,000 to $413,000. In truth, some doctors may make $650,000 a year or more. The data in the table was compiled my Medscape, a service that provides research and medical information to the healthcare industry.
As the table shows, the median doctor pay of $187,000 a year leaves out a lot of wiggle room for doctors to make considerably more money. Most of the specialists listed below make considerably more than the median doctor pay. The ones that make less don’t make very much less.
|Critical Care Doctor||$281,000|
|Emergency Medicine Doctor||$272,000|
|Pulmonary Medicine Doctor||$258,000|
|Ob/Gyn and Women's Health||$243,000|
|Internal Medicine Doctor||$188,000|
|Diabetes & Endocrinologist||$184,000|
|Family Medicine Doctor||$176,000|
Doctor Pay By Region
Doctors may make more or less money depending on where they live in the country. The map below comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Note that we’re back to median pay levels here. Though medians aren’t the best measure of specifics, they do serve a purpose for this map. Namely, they show the regions of the country where doctors generally make more money or less.
For example, doctors in the dark blue states make a median of $260,000 to $270,000. Those areas will generally have doctors making a lot more than that, though probably not much less. Doctors in the light blue areas can be expected to make a lot less. It’s not that there aren’t some doctors in those lower paying areas making high salaries. In fact according to Salary.com, some cardiologists in Ohio make $370,000 or more.
Rheumatologists Up by 15%, Nephrologists Down 8%
Some types of specialists are making more money and some are making less. According to the Medscape study, most types of doctors have seen their pay increase about 1% to 6%. One exception is rheumatologists. Those are doctors that treat rheumatism, arthritis and other joint, ligament and muscle disease. Median pay for rheumatologists has gone up 15% in recent years. The biggest reason that field is seeing higher pay is probably increased demand caused by an aging population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the U.S. population over age 65 has grown about 12% just since 2012. However, even cases of “young people” joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are on the rise.
By contrast, nephrologists have seen their pay decrease an average of 8%. Kidney diseases are also on the rise, so it’s not clear why the decrease in pay has taken place.
Men vs Women
Do male doctors make more money than female doctors? Yes, but the gap is closing. According to the Medscape study, in 2010, male doctors made 39% more money on average than females. By 2013, that pay gap had shrunk to 31%. In 2010, the female doctors who responded to the study reported salaries averaging $162,000 a year. By 2013 their pay had risen to $204,000. That’s a 26% increase. The salaries of male doctors in the study also grew, but only by 19%. The men went from earning $225,000 in 2010 to making $267,000 in 2013.
The reason may not be a shrinkage in the degree of sexism so much as simple economics. About half of all new doctors are now women. There are also more young female doctors (under age 45) than male doctors. Another reason for the change may be the shift to “big medicine.” Larger healthcare networks tend to have more standardized pay rates across genders. There may be less room in bigger institutions for localized pockets of sexism to creep in.
The Medscape’s doctor salary numbers of $225,000 to $267,000 differ from the BLS median doctor pay figure of $187,000 because they’re from a different study. BLS data is built by economists who study news sources and existing studies. The Medscape data may be a bit more solid, since it’s derived from question and answer sessions with over 24,000 real physicians.
Medical students looking to find more accurate real time information on doctor pay by region and specialty should check out the Doximity section at the bottom of this article. Doximity.com has a completely new approach for learning how much money doctors make in a given area and field.
Are Doctors Happy with their Jobs?
One of the reasons people want to know how much money doctors make is to predict whether they’ll be happy with the career choice. Another way to learn the answer to that question is to ask it directly. According to the Medscape study, 58% of 24,000 doctors surveyed would choose a medical career again. 47% would settle on the same specialty as well. Only 26% would select the same practice setting.
The doctors who reported the highest satisfaction levels were internal medicine docs, HIV/ID docs and family medicine docs. Those doctors had about a 68% satisfaction rate. Interestingly, they also make the least money of any of the doctor types surveyed. The doctors who were least satisfied were plastic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and radiologists. Those specialists reported being about 40% to 45% satisfied. Also interestingly, those three types of doctors are among the highest paid. Orthopedic surgeons make the most, with their mean salary at $413,000 per year.
This result may not mean money makes people unhappy. What may instead be happening is that there’s a reason some doctors make a lot more while some make a lot less. The law of supply and demand dictates that when something is in short supply and high demand, its price will go up. If it’s not very fun to be an orthopedic surgeon, less doctors may enter that field. To attract more doctors to the specialty, the pay would have to go up. That extra pay probably compensates those less satisfied doctors for their decreased quality of life.
Doximity: How to Find Out How Much Money You’ll Really Make as a Doctor
Interns looking for the best place to do their residency will of course want to know how much money they might make. The choice to specialize in one area of medicine over another is a big one. Likewise, the choice to practice in one area of the country or another will be life changing. A new service called Doximity.com makes the choice a lot easier. Doximity has been likened to a “facebook for doctors.” The social site has over 500,000 doctor members. It is HIPAA secured and helps doctors in different hospitals and practices exchange info about patient care. Their career navigator gives real time salary info to doctors by specialty and region.
You have to be a doctor to use Doximity. Once inside, members can access salary info collected from 500,000 identity-protected doctors around the country. The service has an interactive map that lets interns see real time salary info by mouse-hover. If a study of 24,000 doctors is better than a vague national median, then information regularly updated by 500,000 docs is even better.