It should come as no surprise that physicians earn the highest salaries among medical personnel in the United States. With four years in an undergraduate program and another four to eight years in medical school, it just stands to reason. While average salaries for this occupation range anywhere from $168,000 to almost $235,000 a year as of 2012, subspecialties in medicine improve pay exponentially.
Of all branches of medicine, orthopedics is by far the most lucrative, according to Merritt Hawkins & Associates, a national consulting firm. Tasked with diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries of the bone, muscles and joints, these surgical specialists average anywhere between $519,000 and $521,000 a year as of 2011. Women, however, tend to earn less than men. Female orthopedic surgeons average $240,000 a year, while male orthopedic surgeons earn at least $326,000 or more a year.
After orthopedics, cardiology is the next highest paying medical career. But the type of cardiology has a significant effect on earning potential. An invasive cardiologist, who uses internal instruments to diagnose and treat diseases of the heart and blood vessels, earns $512,000 a year. Those specializing in non-invasive cardiology, where external instruments are used for diagnosis and treatment, earn the sixth highest-paying salary at $396,000 a year.
In the third spot, you’ll find urologists. Responsible for diagnosing and treating diseases of the female and male urinary organs as well as the male sex organs, these medical professionals earn $461,000 a year. As with orthopedics, men often earn more than women, averaging $313,000 and $253,000, respectively, according to a survey conducted by the American Medical Group Association.
Gastroenterology comes in as the fourth highest-paying medical field. As of 2012, the average salary of a gastroenterologist, who diagnoses and treats disease of the digestive system, is $433,000 a year, Merritt Hawkins & Associates reports. Being a female in this branch of medicine doesn’t pay as well as being male, with salaries coming in at $249,000 and $315,000 a year, respectively, notes the AMGA.
Diagnosing and treating diseases of the ear, nose, throat as well as the sinuses, larynx, oral cavity and upper pharynx is the job of an otolaryngologist, and has the distinct pleasure of being the fifth highest-paid medical professional. According to Merritt Hawkins & Associates, specializing in otolaryngology brings salaries upward of $412,000 a year.
After otolaryngology, you’ll find dermatology, where salaries average $364,000 a year. Following the trend of the other branches of medicine, women earn less than men. A female dermatologist averages $252,000 a year, whereas a man with same level of experience can expect to earn an average of $313,000 annually.
Just behind dermatology is oncology as the eighth highest-paying medical field. Oncologists, who specialize in treating cancer, average $360,000 a year. Again, there’s a divergence in earnings between men and women. In 2010, male oncologists averaged $276,000 a year and female oncologists averaged $224,000 a year -- a difference of more than $50,000 a year.
In the ninth slot, you can find radiologist, who use radiation to diagnose and treat diseases. On average, a radiologist earns $358,000 a year as of 2012.
Rounding out the top 10 list is the general surgeon, with earnings estimated at $343,000 a year.. A gender gap in pay affects this field, as well. Women specializing in general surgery earn an average of $223,000, while men earn $276,000 a year. That’s a $53,000 difference in pay just for being female.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.