A career as a physician, whether you’re a primary care doctor or a specialist, is a noble calling. Doctors adhere to the Hippocratic Oath, which stems from Greek medical history, and calls for physicians to swear to uphold the highest ethical standards in the service of medicine.
Besides the responsibility and obligation to the highest tenets of health care, physicians earned a good living, especially those practicing in high-demand areas.
How much can a physician earn in a thriving practice, or a hospital, clinical or other specialist settings? It depends on what skills a good doctor brings to the table.
What Is an Average Salary of a Doctor?
The numbers do vary for the average physician salary, depending on the source of the information.
Data from ZipRecruiter notes the average annual pay for a “medical doctor” stands at $224,190 in 2018, with the highest salaries in the $397,000 range and on the lower end at $23,500. Most physicians earn an annual income between $150,000 and $312,000, ZipRecruiter reports.
Separate data from Medscape’s 8th Physician Compensation Report for 2018 states that the average U.S. primary care physician earns $223,000 annually. Meanwhile, medical specialists earn an average of $329,000, as of 2018. Across all specialties, Medscape found that the average salary for physicians is $299,000.
Those numbers are up moderately from 2017, when primary care physicians average $217,000 in professional income, while specialists averaged $316,000.
Overall, though, physician annual salaries are up from $200,000 in 2011, to $299,000, on average, in 2018.
Geographic Breakdown of Physician Salaries
For physicians, where you practice medicine and wellness matters as much as what you practice, from a professional point of view.
According to the Medscape survey, there is a significant wage gap for doctors practicing in the nations’ breadbasket than in the Northeast.
In the mid-western states (especially Illinois, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin), doctors earn, on average, $319,000 annually. But in the U.S. Northeast, including states like Massachusetts and New York, where the population is heavy and health care options abundant, physicians only average $275,000 in annual income – a difference of $44,000. Those numbers aren’t an outlier – they’re roughly the same as the figures in Medscape’s 2017 physician salary study.
Here’s a geographical breakdown of physician salaries across the U.S., (from the Medscape study)
- North Central U.S. – $319,000
- Southeast U.S. – $309,000
- Northwest U.S. – $306,000
- South Central U.S. – $303,000
- Great Lakes – $303,000
- Western U.S. – $299,000
- Mid-Atlantic U.S. – $281,000
- Southwest U.S. – $277,000
- Northeast U.S. – $275,000
Let’s further breakdown physician incomes by state, with figures from Medscape:
The “Top Five” states for physician incomes
Indiana – $334,000
Oklahoma – $330,000
Connecticut – $329,000
Wisconsin – $327,000
Nevada – $323,000
Top 5 “least earning” states for physician incomes.
Maryland – $256,000
New Mexico – $261,000
Hawaii – $268,000
Massachusetts – $275,000
Michigan – $277,000
Physician Incomes by Specialty
It’s also helpful to pinpoint doctor annual salaries by specialty, as what type of medical care physician practices can sway income, as well
Here, the top income brackets for specialized medical caregivers include (but are certainly not limited to) what industry professionals call the “ROAD” specialties – radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesia, and dermatology. While they’re in the top earner list, most ROAD specialties lag behind high-end medical care practices like plastic surgery and orthopedics.
Here’s a list of the top physician salaries based on specialty, using annual incomes:
1. Plastic Surgery – $501,000
2. Orthopedics – $497,000
3. Cardiology – $423,000
4. Gastroenterology – $408,000
5. Radiology – $401,000
6. Dermatology – $392,000
7. Anesthesiology – $386,000
8. Otolaryngology – $383,000
9. Urology – $373,000
10. Oncology – $363,000
11. Ophthalmology – $357,000
12. Critical Care – $354,000
Why Certain Doctors Get Paid More
Like most income models, physician incomes are influenced by economic factors like demand, level of training, skillsets, and age/experience.
Those are the top factors in determining the difference between, for example, a cardiologist earning a bigger annual income than a primary care physician (a big difference at $200,000, based on the Medscape study.)