Edited by: Atif Zafar, MD
Everything You Need to Know about Doctor Salaries & Lifestyles.
Updated: Nov 25, 2021
Doctors (Physicians and Surgeons) spend more years in school and training than most if not all other professional fields. Over the years, doctor salaries have either slowly creeped down or kept the same, compared to other professions such as Product Managers, Software Engineers, AI specialists, investment bankers that have continued to see crazy bump in their salary structures the last decade.
That being said, doctors continue to be one of the higher paid professions all across the globe. In the US and Canada, physicians and surgeons are among the top 10% of the earners consistently over the years.
This article summarizes everything and anything you need to know about physician salaries, ranges based on practice setting, comments on lifestyles, and other relevant areas of your interest. Important Disclosure: I am a physician who is socially very active and am business-savvy, so these numbers are reflective of real-life representation (as of 2021/2022) in addition to considerations from Doximity and Medscape reported data. In short, there will be some element of error and doubt, so please take it with a grain of salt.
As you can see below, there is variation on how much each specialty physician or surgeon can earn. This is based on how many procedures you will perform, or patients you will see in a day or a week. It is also based on any leadership role you will attain in that practice you are based in. Payments model range from partnership to share to bonus-above-minimum RVUs reached. So various factors play a role in how much you will earn and what your practice will look like. It is also important to mention that if you are a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon who decides to shape his or her practice in a non-trauma setup with minimal call schedule, the salary range can drop to 300-350k based on super specialization. Unless you are a spine surgeon with an extremely busy practice. Similarly, I know of family doctors who have a busy practice, and they have physician assistants or NPs in their practice, while working 8am-8pm without any night calls, are making up to 400k-500k a year.
That is why I recommend medical students to shape their career based on their lifestyle needs and personal passion towards a field, rather than money. If you read my book, "Why Doctors Need To Be Leaders", it will give you a real-life-perspective and guidance on why many factors beyond lifestyle and earnings will impact your life and career.
Here is the list (within brackets, I have placed expected lifestyle divided into light, moderate, intense level of work):
Academic Salary in USD: This is reflective of salary for doctors practicing in academic hospitals.
Non-Academic Salary in USD: This is reflective of median salary in non-academic settings such as teaching & non-teaching community hospitals or private practice models.
Plastic Surgery (mod)
Cardiothoracic Surgery (intense)
Orthopedic Surgery (intense)
Radiation Oncology (mod)
Vascular Surgery (intense)
Interventional Cardiology (intense)
Interventional Neuroradiology (intense)
General Surgery (intense)
Critical Care (intense)
Emergency Medicine (moderate)
Hospitalist Medicine (moderate)
Infectious Disease (moderate)
Family Medicine (moderate)
The above data should help you understand that there is a cap where a specific specialty would peak at. For example, you can not expect non-procedural specialties to make more than half a million dollars even in the busiest and most lucrative practices. But as a surgeon or an interventionalist, I know a few colleagues in private practice or doing locums who make one million or a little more than that by working like dogs year after year.
Again, you can compare the numbers above to doximity and medscape salary reports to get more accurate results.