Before choosing a medical specialty, it’s important to cover all your bases – including what type of doctor makes the most money. Here are the highest-paid doctors in the US in 2023.
In 2023, it’s safe to say that becoming a doctor will secure you a healthy annual salary. However, some doctors are making wages that far exceed the national median of $208,000 per year. But what exactly is tipping the scales in their favor?
The highest-paid doctors make more money on average due to a number of factors, including medical specialty, location, and more. Here is our complete breakdown of the highest-paid doctors in the US.
Calculating which doctors are paid the most can be challenging. We've formed our list using Doximity's Physician Compensation Report:
Neurosurgery encompasses surgery of the brain, spinal cord/column, and peripheral nerves. Aspiring neurosurgeons must complete at least a seven-year residency. The average annual compensation for neurosurgeons is $788,313, putting them at the top of our list.
Thoracic surgeons perform surgery on organs located in the chest, including the heart, lungs, and esophagus. Cardiothoracic surgeons diagnose and treat many conditions, including lung disease, heart failure, and congenital heart defects. Thoracic surgeons make an average annual salary of $706,775.
These types of surgeons treat a variety of conditions related to the skeletal system, muscles, tendons, and joints. Orthopedics has risen to the top of the heap in terms of physician pay in recent years. The average annual income of a US orthopedic surgeon is $624,023.
Plastic surgeons perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries on almost every body part. Plastic surgery residencies are one of the longest to complete, taking six years. The average annual compensation for a plastic surgeon is $571,373.
Vascular surgery is “an umbrella term for a range of open surgeries and minimally-invasive procedures involving your blood vessels.” Vascular surgery treats conditions such as blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, and aneurysms. Vascular surgeons can expect an average salary of $557,632 yearly.
While this is actually a dental specialty, oral and maxillofacial surgeons treat diseases, defects, and injuries in the face, neck, head, jaws, and surrounding area. These surgeons can expect to make an average annual salary of $556,642.
Radiation oncologists specialize in treating cancers using radiation therapy. They oversee the patient’s care and ensure they understand the benefits and drawbacks of radiation therapy. Radiation oncologists make $547,026 annually, on average.
Cardiology focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases in the cardiovascular system. Cardiology is generally a high-earning specialty, which can increase depending on your area of expertise. A cardiologist’s average annual salary is $544,201.
Urology focuses on the study, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in both the urinary system and the male reproductive system. As of 2023, the average salary for urologists is $505,745 annually.
Radiologists are doctors who interpret medical images, such as X-rays, CT, MRI, and PET scans, to diagnose and treat illnesses. Radiologists can expect to earn an annual average salary of $503,564.
Gastroenterologists treat and diagnose illnesses affecting the digestive system, including ailments impacting the stomach, esophagus, rectum, colon, small intestine, pancreas, bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver. On average, gastroenterologists make $496,667 annually.
Otolaryngologists specialize in head and neck disorders (commonly those affecting the ears, nose, and throat). Otolaryngologists make an average annual salary of $488,536.
Dermatologists specialize in conditions impacting the skin, hair, and nails. The four main types of dermatologists are general/medical, aesthetic, surgical, and inpatient dermatologists. The average annual salary of a dermatologist is $468,509.
Anesthesiologists care for patients before, during, and after surgeries. They are doctors who are experts in pain management and critical care medicine. The average annual salary of an anesthesiologist is $462,506.
General surgery “is a discipline of surgery having a central core of knowledge embracing anatomy, physiology, metabolism, immunology, nutrition, pathology, wound healing, shock and resuscitation, intensive care, and neoplasia.” General surgeons can expect to earn an average annual salary of $451,489.
Ophthalmologists specialize in vision and eye care; they are eye doctors with extensive surgical/medical training. Ophthalmologists can expect to earn $449,315 on average annually.
Oncologists focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer. They discuss options and treatment plans with patients, oversee their treatment, and provide post-op care. Oncologists can expect to make an average annual salary of $447,312.
Colorectal surgeons (formerly known as proctologists) treat conditions impacting the lower gastrointestinal tract (the large intestine). These surgeons can expect to make an average annual salary of $445,685.
A pulmonologist diagnoses and treats respiratory system diseases, including emphysema, COPD, and lung cancer. Pulmonologists can expect to earn an average annual salary of $400,650.
Nuclear medicine is a type of radiology that involves introducing radioactive material into the body to help doctors assess organ function and diagnose diseases. Nuclear medicine radiologists can expect to earn an average annual salary of $392,196.
When determining which doctors are the highest-paid, there are several factors to consider.
Firstly, the largest pay gap is between medical specialties. According to Doximity & Curative’s recent report, the top-paying positions in medicine are typically in “surgical and procedural specialties treating adult patients.”
However, the increase in pay doesn’t stop at the medical specialty. Job location can also impact how much a doctor takes home in a year, as well as seniority. Furthermore, the individual benefits of the employer can also take a doctor’s salary up a notch.
When it comes to the best-paying states and cities for doctors in the US, you may be surprised to find out that Wisconsin, Indiana, and Georgia are at the top of the list.
Of course, a physician’s specialty can also have a major impact on which state may be the highest paying for their specific role. That said, below is a table of the highest-paying states for physicians in the US, according to Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report.
Here are the highest-paying cities and states for physicians, according to Doximity:
Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the highest-paid medical specialties in the USA.
The highest-paid doctors in the US are in surgical and procedural specialties such as neurosurgery, thoracic, and orthopedic surgery. These physicians earn an average annual salary of $600,000 or higher.
The highest-paid doctors are neurosurgeons who report earning above $780,000 per year on average.
Generally, MDs and DOs are paid the same; however, multiple sources state MDs are more likely to specialize, thus earning higher salaries.
This is a challenging question to answer, but it may be in part due to primary care residencies being one of the shorter, less specialized residencies.
Neurosurgeons are the highest-paid surgeons.
By this point, we’ve learned that the highest-paid doctors in the US specialize in surgery on adults. However, it’s important when you’re choosing a medical specialty to not only consider the highest pay.
You should consider primarily your comfort, passion, areas of interest, and the location you want to live in. Job satisfaction should always take priority over salary, especially in the medical field. Good luck with your search!