Exploring Medical Specialties by Salary in 2024


The decision to pursue a particular medical specialty is influenced by many factors, with salary considerations ranking high among them. Understanding the earning potential across different medical specialties sheds light on the financial rewards of each path and aids aspiring medical professionals in making informed career choices. In 2024, the landscape of medical specialties by salary continues to exhibit a broad spectrum of earning potentials, reflecting the diverse nature of healthcare roles. 

This blog post explores the variance in wages across various medical specialties, organizing them into three primary categories:  highest paying, moderate paying, and lower paying medical specialties. Furthermore, we delve into the regional salary discrepancies within these specialties, acknowledging how geographical locations influence earning potentials in healthcare.

Understanding the Factors Influencing Medical Specialty Salaries


A myriad of factors influences the salaries within different medical specialties, each playing a significant role in shaping compensation differentials:

  1. Demand and supply – Specialties experiencing high demand often command higher pay scales due to the scarcity of practitioners. Conversely, specialties with an oversupply of professionals may see lower compensation rates.
  2. The level of training – Specialties demanding extensive training, such as surgical disciplines, tend to offer higher salaries to compensate for the rigorous education and expertise required. 
  3. Geographic location – Wages vary significantly based on regional cost of living, population demographics, and healthcare infrastructure.
  4. Differences in healthcare systems – Varying reimbursement models, government funding, and healthcare policies influence compensation within different specialties.

Understanding these multifaceted factors is essential for medical professionals to navigate their career paths and make informed decisions about their chosen specialties.

Highest Paying Medical Specialties

In healthcare, specific medical specialties stand out for their reputation of offering the highest salaries, reflecting both the demanding nature of their work and the specialized expertise they require. These prestigious specialties include:

  • Neurological surgery ($675,701): Neurosurgeons are highly specialized physicians who diagnose and surgically treat central and peripheral nervous system disorders.
  • Orthopedic surgery ($540,200): Orthopedic surgeons specialize in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Interventional radiology ($459,200) and diagnostic radiology ($459,183): Radiologists in these fields perform intricate procedures using advanced imaging techniques or interpret diagnostic images to diagnose diseases and conditions.
  • Radiation oncology ($456,120): Radiation oncologists specialize in radiation therapy to treat cancer.
  • General surgery ($436,200): General surgeons perform various surgical procedures, often focusing on abdominal organs and systems.
  • Plastic reconstructive surgery ($436,141): Plastic reconstructive surgeons focus on restoring form and function to damaged or abnormal body areas.
  • Non-invasive cardiology ($432,800): Cardiologists in this field diagnose and treat heart conditions using non-invasive methods such as echocardiography and stress testing.
  • Anesthesiology ($430,600): Anesthesiologists administer anesthesia during surgical procedures and manage patients’ pain post-operatively.
  • Gastroenterology ($420,200): Gastroenterologists specialize in diagnosing and treating digestive system disorders.
  • Urology ($419,630): Urologists focus on the urinary tract and male reproductive system.
  • Otolaryngology ($415,247): Otolaryngologists, also known as ENT (ear, nose, and throat) physicians, diagnose and treat disorders affecting the ears, nose, and throat, as well as perform head and neck surgeries.

These specialties tend to have higher earning potential due to several factors:

  1. They require extensive and specialized training, often involving years of rigorous education and residency programs.
  2. The procedures performed within these specialties are often complex, delicate, or high-risk, necessitating higher compensation for the practitioners’ expertise and responsibility.
  3. The demand for these services remains consistently high, driven by factors such as population aging, advancements in medical technology, and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases.

Moderate Paying Medical Specialties

Certain medical specialties offer moderate salaries, balancing compensation and the profession’s demands. These specialties include:

  • Dermatology ($383,500): Dermatologists diagnose and treat skin, hair, and nail conditions.
  • Emergency medicine ($371,500): Emergency medicine physicians provide immediate medical care to patients in urgent situations, such as trauma or severe illness.
  • Critical care ($365,218): Critical care physicians specialize in managing patients with life-threatening conditions, typically in intensive care units.
  • Hematology/oncology ($338,278): Hematology/oncology physicians focus on diagnosing and treating blood disorders and cancer.
  • Ophthalmology ($326,738): Ophthalmologists specialize in diagnosing and treating eye disorders and diseases.
  • Obstetrics and gynecology ($317,201): Obstetricians and gynecologists specialize in women’s reproductive health, including pregnancy, childbirth, and reproductive system disorders.
  • Pulmonary medicine ($300,923): Pulmonologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases affecting the respiratory system, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Pathology ($307,113): Pathologists diagnose diseases by examining tissue samples, blood, and bodily fluids under a microscope.

Several factors influence the salary levels in these specialties:

  1. The level of specialization and expertise required plays a significant role. While these specialties do require specialized training, they may have comparatively shorter duration and lower intensity of training than higher-paying specialties.
  2. The demand for services in these fields may vary based on geographic location and population demographics. For example, there may be a higher demand for primary care physicians in rural or underserved areas, leading to potentially higher salaries.
  3. Reimbursement rates from insurance companies and government healthcare programs also impact salary levels in these specialties.
  4. Lifestyle considerations, such as work hours and job flexibility, may influence salary negotiations for physicians in these fields.

While these specialties offer moderate salaries, they provide fulfilling career opportunities and play vital roles in healthcare delivery systems worldwide.

Lower Paying Medical Specialties

Finally, some medical specialties typically command lower salaries than others. These specialties include:

  • Neurology ($284,300): Neurologists specialize in diagnosing and treating nervous system disorders, including the brain and spinal cord.
  • Allergy and immunology ($280,056): Allergists and immunologists focus on diagnosing and treating immune system disorders and allergic reactions.
  • Nephrology ($277,205): Nephrologists specialize in diagnosing and treating kidney diseases and disorders.
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation ($260,650): Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians focus on restoring function and improving the quality of life for patients with disabilities or injuries.
  • Endocrinology ($256,386): Endocrinologists specialize in diagnosing and treating hormone-related disorders, such as diabetes and thyroid conditions.
  • Rheumatology ($254,180): Rheumatologists diagnose and treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases affecting the joints, muscles, and bones.
  • Psychiatry ($252,991): Psychiatrists specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders.
  • Infectious disease ($247,022): Infectious disease physicians focus on the diagnosis and treatment of infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.
  • Internal medicine ($243,300): Internists, or internal medicine physicians, specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases in adult patients.
  • Family medicine ($228,127): Family medicine physicians provide comprehensive healthcare services to individuals of all ages.
  • Pediatrics ($224,200): Pediatricians specialize in the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents. 

Potential reasons for the lower earning potential in these specialties may stem from various factors:

  1. Primary care specialties such as family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics often have lower reimbursement rates for services compared to procedural specialties.
  2. The demand for primary care services may not be as high as in other specialties, leading to lower compensation.
  3. Some specialties within public health, such as preventive medicine and infectious disease, may prioritize community health and disease prevention over high salaries, reflecting a broader societal focus on public welfare.
  4. Certain specialized areas with limited patient populations or research funding may offer lower salaries due to decreased demand or financial constraints within the healthcare system.

Despite lower earning potentials, these specialties are essential in promoting population health and providing comprehensive healthcare services to diverse patient populations.

Regional Variances in Medical Specialty Salaries

Geographic location significantly influences the disparities in salaries for the same medical specialty. These variations can be striking, with professionals in one region earning substantially more or less than their counterparts in another area. For example, a neurologist practicing in a metropolitan area may command a significantly higher salary than one practicing in a rural community. 

Similarly, certain regions may offer higher average salaries for specific medical specialties due to the cost of living, population density, healthcare infrastructure, and demand for specialized services. For instance, areas with higher living costs, such as major cities or affluent suburbs, often offer higher salaries to attract and retain healthcare professionals.

Conversely, regions with lower costs of living or limited access to healthcare resources may offer physicians lower salaries despite the same level of expertise and workload. Additionally, regional differences in reimbursement rates from insurance companies and government healthcare programs can influence salary levels for medical professionals. These regional variances in medical specialty salaries highlight the complex interplay of economic, demographic, and healthcare system factors shaping compensation within the healthcare industry.

The Bottom Line

It’s essential for individuals embarking on a medical career to consider salary alongside personal interests, job satisfaction, and lifestyle preferences. In examining medical specialties by salary in 2024, we’ve uncovered a spectrum of earning potentials across various healthcare fields. From high-paying specialties like neurosurgery to moderate and lower-paying ones like family medicine, we’ve highlighted the multifaceted factors influencing salary levels. 

For further exploration and career guidance, resources such as medical career counselors and professional associations like the American Medical Association (AMA) can provide invaluable insights and support in making informed career decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there any trends or changes in salary expectations for specific medical specialties in recent years?

Yes, there have been trends and changes in salary expectations for specific medical specialties in recent years, influenced by factors such as healthcare policy reforms, shifts in demand for certain services, and regional economic conditions.

Can factors like experience, specialization, or additional certifications affect salary potential within a specific medical specialty?

Yes, factors like experience, specialization, and additional certifications can significantly impact salary potential within a specific medical specialty. Professionals with more experience, advanced training, or specialized expertise often command higher salaries within their respective fields.

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