13 Highest Paid Medical Specialties


Doctors in different areas of medicine earn varying salaries, and some specialties bring in higher pay than others. Knowing which medical fields are the highest paid is important for those considering a career in medicine or curious about the field. This information helps understand the value placed on certain skills and expertise in healthcare.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the top earners divided into three groups: surgical specialties, non-surgical specialties, and other unique medical fields, to see where the highest incomes are. Read on to discover the 13 highest paid medical specialties.

List of Highest Paid Medical Specialties

In the world of medicine, doctors can earn different amounts based on their specialty. Some focus on surgery, others on treating diseases without surgery, and some on unique areas of health. Let’s explore which medical specialties are known for having the highest incomes.

Surgical Specialties

Surgical specialties are medical fields where doctors perform surgeries to fix health issues. Becoming a surgeon requires extensive training and studying to learn the skills needed for these complicated treatments. The earnings, though, are admirable.

1. Neurosurgery

Neurosurgery is a surgical specialty dedicated to treating conditions of the brain, spine, and nervous system through operations. It focuses on a variety of issues such as brain tumors, spinal disorders, strokes, aneurysms, and nerve injuries. Neurosurgeons typically enjoy a lucrative salary range, with earnings up to $447,000 annually, though this varies based on location and years of experience.

2. Orthopedic Surgery

An orthopedic surgeon deals with the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Surgeons in this field handle sports injuries, joint replacements, bone fractures, and spine disorders, aiming to restore function and mobility. Salaries for orthopedic surgeons can reach $239,200 and above per year, with variations depending on the surgeon’s subspecialty and practice setting.

3. Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery is a field focused on enhancing appearance through surgical and medical techniques, as well as reconstructing facial and body tissue defects due to illness or birth disorders. It covers cosmetic procedures like facelifts and breast augmentation alongside reconstructive surgeries. Plastic surgeons typically earn up to $327,000 a year, with potential for higher earnings in private cosmetic surgery practice.

4. Cardiothoracic Surgery

Cardiothoracic surgery is all about the surgical treatment of diseases affecting organs inside the thorax (the chest), primarily the heart and lungs. This specialty focuses on procedures such as heart and lung transplants, coronary artery bypass grafting, and lung cancer surgery. The salary for cardiothoracic surgeons depends on the surgeon’s specific focus within the field and their level of experience; however, they typically earn $406,000 on average every year.

Non-Surgical Specialties

Non-surgical specialties in medicine are areas where doctors focus on finding out what’s wrong with patients and treating them without performing operations. They use tests, medicines, and sometimes small tools to help people feel better, aiming to fix health problems in ways that don’t involve cutting into the body.

5. Radiology

This isn’t primarily a surgical field but is crucial in diagnosing conditions and guiding certain treatments with imaging techniques like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. Radiologists can perform minimally invasive procedures guided by imaging. On average, they earn $353,000 annually.

6. Anesthesiology

Anesthesiologists play a critical role in surgery by managing anesthesia and patient comfort, ensuring that surgeries can be performed painlessly. They are involved in pain management and critical care. The average salary for anesthesiologists is $302,000.

7. Dermatology

Dermatologists focus on skin conditions, and some perform surgical procedures to treat skin cancers, remove moles, or manage other skin issues. Although their work is not all surgery, it has a significant surgical component. Dermatologists earn around $327,000 annually, with those performing more surgeries potentially earning more.

8. Oncology

Oncologists specialize in cancer treatment, which can include surgical oncology. Surgical oncologists remove tumors and affected tissue. This field requires understanding both surgery and cancer treatments. Surgical oncologists earn about $315,000 per year.

9. Gastroenterology

Gastroenterologists deal with the digestive system. Some specialize in performing endoscopic procedures, which are less invasive than traditional surgeries, to diagnose or treat conditions within the gastrointestinal tract. They earn typically $388,000 annually.

Other Specialties

Medical specialties go beyond just surgery, focusing on specific parts of the body, like the heart or brain. Each area needs doctors with deep knowledge and skills, showing how much they’ve learned to help us in very specific ways.

10. Ophthalmology

Ophthalmology focuses on the eyes and vision, covering everything from prescribing glasses to performing eye surgery. Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat eye diseases, perform surgeries like cataract removal, and manage eye health. Typically, they earn up to $265,000 yearly, depending on their practice and location.

11. Urology

Urology is a medical specialty dealing with the urinary tract in both men and women and the male reproductive system. Urologists diagnose and treat conditions such as urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and prostate issues, often using surgical methods. Their average earnings are up to $340,000 every year. 

12. Otolaryngology

Otolaryngology, or ENT (ear, nose, and throat), involves treating conditions related to the head and neck, including sinus issues, hearing loss, and throat disorders. These specialists perform both medical treatments and surgeries. Otolaryngologists typically earn $363,000 annually, varying by their subspecialty and geographic location.

13. Cardiology

Cardiology focuses on heart and blood vessels, diagnosing and treating heart disease, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular conditions. While some cardiologists perform procedures like angioplasties, they mainly use non-surgical methods for treatment. Cardiologists earn up to $420,000 a year, with interventional cardiologists often at the higher end of this range.

Criteria for Determining Highest Paid Medical Specialties


When exploring what influences the highest paid medical specialties, several key factors come into play. These include the average annual income, the dynamics of demand and supply, the specialized skills required for certain medical fields, and the impact of geographic location. Each of these aspects plays a crucial role in determining how much doctors earn, highlighting the complexity behind their compensation.

Average Annual Income

The average annual income is key to figuring out the highest paid medical specialties because it shows which doctors earn the most money each year. This helps us see which fields pay the best, reflecting the demand, years of training, and the level of expertise needed in those areas.

Demand and Supply Dynamics

In medicine, how much money doctors make in different specialties is influenced by demand and supply. In simple terms, if many people need a specific kind of doctor but there aren’t many of them, those doctors can earn more. It’s about how much they’re needed and how many are available to help.

Specialized Skills and Expertise Required

Some medical specialties require very special skills and deep knowledge, which take a lot of time and hard work to learn. Because these skills are so special and not many doctors have them, those who do can earn more money. It’s like being paid more for having rare abilities, which is a no-brainer.

Geographic Location

Where a doctor works significantly affects how much they earn. In some places, doctors are paid more because there’s a greater need for them or living costs are higher. It means that the same kind of doctor might make more money in one city than in another. 

Factors Contributing to High Income in Each Specialty

In the medical field, several factors can make some doctors earn more money than others, regardless of whether they perform surgeries or not. These include having unique skills, being in high demand, working with advanced technology, and treating serious health conditions.

Surgical Specialties

Surgical specialties often pay more than other medical fields because they require very high skill levels and many years of extra training. These jobs can also be risky, as surgeons make critical decisions and perform complex procedures that can greatly affect a patient’s health. These factors together make their high income understandable.

Non-Surgical Specialties

In non-surgical specialties, doctors can also earn a lot due to their unique skills, especially if they’re good with new technologies or treatments. High demand from patients for these specialties means more work opportunities. So, their expertise, combined with what patients need and want, helps boost their income.

Other Specialties

In other medical specialties, doctors earn more for reasons like having rare expertise that’s in great demand, working in areas where there aren’t many doctors, or being really good at using advanced technology. Also, if a doctor helps with serious or complicated health issues, they often get paid more.

Challenges and Considerations

In medicine, doctors’ incomes can be affected by several challenges. One important factor is the cost of malpractice insurance, which protects them if someone sues for a mistake. This insurance can be costly, especially in high-risk areas like surgery. Another issue is reimbursement rates, which is the money doctors get paid by insurance companies for treatments; sometimes, these rates are low and don’t cover costs well. Also, some doctors choose specialties that give them a better work-life balance, even if it means earning less. These and other considerations can greatly affect how much doctors earn.


Doctors’ incomes vary a lot because of their special skills, how much they’re needed, and where they work. However, the costs of insurance and how much they get paid for treatments can change what they take home. Some doctors might choose less money for a better lifestyle. That being said, becoming a surgeon can provide lucrative financial stability and ensure high-quality living.

It’s important for doctors to think about all these things when choosing their path in medicine, balancing their passion for helping with practical stuff like income and lifestyle. With these in mind, you’re bound to succeed.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Are surgical specialties typically higher paid than non-surgical specialties?

Yes, surgical specialties are typically higher paid than non-surgical ones due to the complexity, risk, and additional training required for surgery.

Is there a gender pay gap within different medical specialties?

There is a gender pay gap in various medical specialties, with male doctors often earning more than their female counterparts.

Are there any trends or changes in income levels among medical specialties over time?

Income levels among medical specialties have shown trends of fluctuation, with some non-surgical specialties seeing increases due to technological advancements and demand.

Are there any emerging medical specialties that are expected to become high-paying in the future?

Emerging medical specialties like genomic medicine and telemedicine are expected to become high-paying in the future, driven by advances in technology and changing healthcare needs.

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