There’s no denying surgeons can earn high salaries. But those specializing in a branch of medicine often make more, and an orthopedic surgeon is no exception. Responsible for treating injuries and diseases of the bones, joints, muscles and even nerves, these medical professionals bring home salaries of about half a million a year, on average. However, certain factors can affect earnings, especially when it comes to practice setting and gender.
As of 2011, physicians and surgeons averaged $184,650 a year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Since it's an average, low salaries can skew this number, and median wage is often a better reflection of earning potential. About half of all physicians and surgeons earn at least $187,000 or more a year. But both figures don’t differentiate between physicians and surgeons, nor do they break out salaries by medical discipline. A surgeon specializing in orthopedics is paid a much different scale than, let’s say, a general surgeon or a neurologist.
While the highest salary reported was $700,000 a year, the average pay of an orthopedic surgeon was $521,000 a year in 2011, according to Merritt Hawkins, a national placement firm for medical professionals. The median wage, however, was closer to $502,000 a year, according to a survey by the American Medical Group Association. The lowest reported salary was $300,000 for a year of work.
Where an orthopedic surgeon chooses to set up shop has a bearing on her earning potential. The AMGA found that orthopedic surgeons in a hospital setting earn about $90,000 less than those in private practice. For 2011, a hospital-based surgeon in orthopedics averaged $251,000 a year, while those in private practice earned $340,000 a year.
In addition to practice setting, gender affects salaries. Even with the same credentials, a woman makes less than a man. According to the AMGA survey, a female orthopedic surgeon can expect to earn $240,000 a year. A male, on the other hand, earns roughly $86,000 more than this, averaging $326,000 a year in orthopedics.
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