The 28 Highest Paying Specialties For Doctors

Ask a parent what they wish for their kids to become when they grow up, and they might say a lawyer, or maybe a successful businessman, but most will say a doctor.

Who doesn’t want a doctor in the family?

It’s handy at Thanksgiving, a legit bragging right and, most of all, it guarantees at least one member of the family will have some money.

OK, it guarantees they will have a lot of money.

Even the lowest earning medical specialty on our list earns $125,700 more than the national average annual income of $73,300, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

If you can afford medical school in the first place, you will more than likely earn it back and then some. But the question is, what field of medicine should you go into?

Or, let's be real: Which one pays the most?

Medscape annually compiles the highest earning areas in medicine, surveying more than 20,000 physicians currently practicing medicine in the U.S. and comparing the data was against other studies, including one from the American Medical Association.

One thing is clear: It pays to work in cosmetic surgery, which once again is one of the highest paying fields in medicine. Orthopedics, cardiology and gastroenterology are also high on the list.

Interestingly, one of the fields with the most growth in recent years is psychiatry.

“We have never seen demand for psychiatry this high in our 30-year history,” Tommy Bohannon, vice president of Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruitment firm, told Medscape Medical News.

So what other areas of medicine earn physicians top dollar? Slide through to learn what field to pressure your children to go into.

1. Plastic Surgery ($501,000)

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reports that the number of cosmetic procedures has risen 115 percent since 2000. "While more traditional facial procedures and breast augmentations are still among the most popular, we're seeing much more diversity in the areas of the body patients are choosing to address," said ASPS President David H. Song.

2. Orthopedics ($497,000)

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery reports that the top three areas of specialties for orthopedic surgeons are adult knee (34.4 percent), arthroscopy (34.3 percent) and sports medicine (33.4 percent).

3. Cardiology ($423,000)

Cardiology surgeries are on the rise. It is estimated that over 450,000 procedures will be performed annually by 2021, up from over 377,000 in 2014, reports the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

4. Gastroenterology ($408,000)

Over 63 million Americans suffer from chronic constipation, reports the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, resulting in 21 million hospitalizations per year.

5. Radiology ($401,000)

Radiologists primarily deal with x-rays and radiation treatment. More than 50 percent of all x-rays are performed on women, followed by men at 42 percent and children at 8 percent, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

6. Dermatology ($392,000)

Dermatologists don’t just deal with acne and skin cancer (although those are two very big areas): They also address psoriasis, hair loss and rosacea, among many other conditions.

7. Anesthesiology ($386,000)

Part of the reason why anesthesiologists make so much money is the risk. Putting people under is a delicate, and potentially fatal, operation. It’s rare, but the U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that the small number of deaths associated with anesthesia usually are with the elderly.

8. Otolaryngology ($383,000)

Otolaryngologists–also known as ear, nose and throat doctors–work in the oldest specialization in medicine in the United States. Areas of focus include facial and reconstructive surgery, allergy, head and neck injuries, laryngology, otology/neurotology, pediatric otolaryngology and rhinology.

9. Urology ($373,000)

Prostate cancer, a major part of a urologist’s practice, is the second most common form of cancer in men.

10. Oncology ($363,000)

Oncologists’ area of focus is cancer. In 2018, 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, and more than 600,000 people will die from the disease.

11. Ophthalmology ($357,000)

Ophthalmologists will be employed for years to come, considering cataracts affects 24.4 million Americans by age 40 and older. By 75, approximately half of all Americans will have cataracts.

12. Critical Care ($354,000)

Physicians specialized in critical care often work with patients in intensive care or in critical condition, stabilizing them for further treatment. Most critical-care doctors are trained in other areas of medicine.

13. Emergency Medicine ($350,000)

Some 140 million people visit the emergency room each year. Emergency medicine doctors are often the first line of health for millions of Americans.

14. Surgery, General ($322,000)

There’s more to surgeons than what you see on Grey’s Anatomy: Millions of Americans undergo minor inpatient procedures as well, making surgeons a highly sought-after specialty. Common surgeries include procedures on the eye, ear, digestive tract and nervous system.

15. Pulmonary Medicine ($321,000)

Pulmonary medicine focuses on diseases of the lungs, including asthma, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

16. OB-GYN ($300,000)

OB-GYNs, or obstetrician-gynecologists, are doctors who specialize in all aspects of women’s health, not just pregnancy and childbirth. More than 4,000 women will die from cervical cancer every year, and OB-GYNs play an important role in diagnosis and treatment.

17. Nephrology ($286,000)

Nephrology is an area of medicine that focuses on the kidneys. The National Kidney Foundation reports that 90 percent of people with kidney disease don’t even know they have it.

18. Pathology ($286,000)

Pathology focuses on identifying areas of diseases, specifically clinical manifestations, cause, pathogenesis (how a disease develops) and morphologic changes (the structural changes of organisms). The number of new pathologists is actually down, making this field particularly appealing for up-and-coming doctors.

19. Psychiatry ($273,000)

Demand for psychiatrists is at an all-time high. “We have never seen demand for psychiatry this high in our 30-year history,” Tommy Bohannon, vice president of Merritt Hawkins, told Medscape Medical News.

20. Allergy & Immunology ($272,000)

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. So doctors specializing in the area of allergy and immunology are increasingly in demand.

21. Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation ($269,000)

Patients are increasingly turning to physical therapy to manage and even cure chronic pain, so physicians specializing in this field have many areas they can look to for career growth. Health Services Research found that physical therapy can lower patient treatment costs by 72 percent, making demand for this type of treatment high for patients and particularly lucrative for doctors.

22. Rheumatology ($257,000)

Rheumatologists focus on joint pain and disorders, including arthritis, gout, lupus, tendonitis and osteoarthritis. The CDC reports that 22.7 percent of adults have been diagnosed with arthritis.

23. Neurology ($244,000)

The World Health Organization reports that over one billion people worldwide suffer from neurological disorders, including 50 million with epilepsy and 24 million with Alzheimer's disease.

24. Internal Medicine ($230,000)

Internal medicine covers general practitioners, a staple in the medical profession and the doctors you’re most likely to see. Internal medicine is one of the safest and in-demand areas of medicine.

25. Family Medicine ($219,000)

Family medicine is similar to internal medicine in its broad reach, but family practitioners treat both children and adults. They’re like pediatricians and internists rolled in one.

26. Diabetes & Endocrinology ($212,000)

With the rise of obesity in the United States, physicians specializing in diabetes and endocrinology are increasingly in demand.

27. Pediatrics ($212,000)

Pediatricians are among the most in-demand physicians because of who they treat: children. Access to health care is vital for kids' wellbeing, making pediatricians incredibly important.

28. Public Health & Preventive Medicine ($199,000)

The Kaiser Foundation reports that over 28 million Americans don’t have access to health care, making public health and preventive medicine vitally important.


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