How Much Do Doctors Make? (2023) — Shemmassian Academic Consulting (2023)

Learn the differences in salary by specialty, location, race, and gender


If you’re interested in becoming a doctor or you’re already on the road to entering the field of medicine, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to what your life in medicine will look like. Obviously, your number one focus is on healing people and learning about the human body.

But it’s also fair to begin to plan your life on practical terms. You probably want to know how much money you’ll earn in your future profession, especially given how expensive it is to become a doctor in the first place. Between application fees for medical school and residency, medical school tuition, travel expenses for interviews, and living on a resident’s salary for several years, the costs can be substantial. The average medical student debt upon graduation is currently $215,900.

You probably have some of the following questions: What’s the average salary for doctors nationwide? Does salary vary state to state? Between specialties? Are you more likely to be more competitively paid if you work for certain types of institutions? Are there benefits to opting for certain lower-paying specialties? What jobs give you forgiveness for medical school loans? Are there wage gaps that correspond with gender and race that you should be aware of—and push back against—as you enter the job market?

We’ve taken a deep dive into the financial nitty-gritty of becoming a doctor. Here are the answers to these questions.

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Doctors’ salaries differ by specialty

Overall, the average physician salary is $260,000 annually for primary care physicians and $368,000 for specialists, according to the 2022 Medscape Physician Compensation Report. Not only are these impressive average salaries, they are also significant increases from salary averages reported by Medscape in 2015. Primary care—some of the more underpaid specialties, historically—has seen its average salaries increase 33 percent since then, and specialist average salaries have increased 30 percent. In short, average salaries for physicians have risen significantly over the past seven years on a national level.

What’s relatively consistent year to year are the highest-earning and lowest-earning specialties. In the past five years of Medscape’s reports, cardiology and orthopedics have remained at the top of the list—both landed among the five highest-earning specialties each year. By contrast, family medicine, pediatrics, and diabetes and endocrinology have hovered in the bottom five during that same span of time.

This year, plastic surgery topped the list of highest-earning specialties, with an average annual salary of $576,000. The lowest-earning specialty was public health and preventative medicine, with an average salary of $243,000. In contrast, the average American salary across all professions hovers around $53,000, and the median is even lower, around $35,000 annually.

How do this year’s lowest-earning specialty physicians feel about their financial situation? 47 percent of pediatricians surveyed reported that they felt fairly compensated. By contrast, 66 percent of surveyed plastic surgeons—the highest-paying specialty—reported feeling fairly compensated.

In addition, it’s worth noting that most specialties allow doctors to earn drastically more as they get older. Doctors between ages 40 and 69 make significantly more money than their younger-than-40 counterparts. This difference is less pronounced in primary care, either because specialists receive greater annual salary increases or because recent efforts to make primary care salaries more competitive is closing the gap between older and younger members of the field—but likely both.

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Doctors’ salaries differ by state

Where you work also influences what you’ll earn. There are many prestigious medical centers and opportunities in the Northeast, from Sloan Cancer Center to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, but the states in which physicians earn the highest salaries are actually in the South and Midwest.

In 2022, the state with the highest average salary for physicians was Kentucky ($364,000). Other states included in the list of top-ten highest annual salaries were Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Oregon, Indiana, North Carolina, Connecticut, Texas, and Florida.

In a major metropolitan area like Boston—which ranks among the lowest-paying cities for doctors in the nation—there’s a high concentration of medical schools and academic medical centers. Doctors working in research positions are often paid less; high-prestige centers attract a large workforce. Many future physicians also attend medical school in places like Boston, and then stay—leading to a surplus of doctors. This might not be the case in Alabama or Indiana.

It pays to be a self-employed physician—but there are drawbacks

According to the 2022 Medscape report, physicians who were self-employed—meaning they owned their own practice or were a partner in a private practice—made an average of $385,000 a year, while physicians employed by hospitals, universities, or clinics made an average of $320,000.

It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that if you own a practice by yourself or as part of a group—or if you’re a partner in a practice—a significant portion, between a third and half, of your revenue goes into overhead—just keeping the lights on, buying equipment, paying salaries, etc.

In 2020, less than half of practicing physicians—44 percent—owned their own practice, according to the American Medical Association. The number of physicians employed directly by hospitals, or in practices owned at least partially by hospitals or health systems, was slightly lower at nearly 40 percent.

Overall, independent physicians who have their own practice trade financial risk for higher revenue. By contrast, working at a hospital provides security, but physicians are subject to the hospital’s chosen compensation models.

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Doctors’ salaries differ by race and gender

If you’re part of a group that’s been historically underrepresented in medicine—for example, if you’re a woman or person of color—it’s worth being aware of the pay disparities that persist in medical fields.

In 2022, white physicians earned more than physicians of other races and ethnicities—on average, $346,000. Survey respondents identifying as Hispanic/Latino earned $328,000 annually; those identifying as Asian American earned $329,000 annually; and those identifying as Black or African American earned $313,000 annually.

Going back a little further, a 2016 survey conducted by the USC Census American Community Survey found that the annual median income of a Black male doctor was $188,230, compared with $253,042 for a white male doctor. Meanwhile, white female doctors’ adjusted median annual income was $163,234 compared to $152,784 for Black female doctors. In short, the difference in median income between a white male doctor and a Black female doctor was $100,000—a significant and disturbing disparity.

According to the 2022 Medscape report, women physicians earn less than male physicians across the board, regardless of race and ethnicity. In part, this is because women often go into the lowest-paying specialties such as pediatrics and family medicine (OB-GYN is the exception, with that higher-earning field being 57 percent female). In plastic surgery, 2022’s highest-paying field, only 16 percent of doctors are women.

Even taking into account the fact that women disproportionately select lower-paying fields, there’s gender pay disparity even within the specialties. Male specialists earned $402,000; women specialists, $307,000. Male PCPs earned $285,000, while their female counterparts earned $228,000. In other words, male specialists earned 31 percent more than female specialists, and male PCPs earned 25 percent more than female PCPs. The good news is: this disparity is slightly lower than it was in the past.

In short, these gaps are maddening, but they’re important to know about as you advocate for yourself in your future job. Organizations like the Time’s Up Foundation are working to solve some of these disparities.

Loan forgiveness programs for doctors

If you’re graduating medical school with loans, you may consider entering a high-paying specialty in order to pay them off more quickly. But if you’re interested in public service, there are a number of government-sponsored loan forgiveness programs that help future doctors pay off their loans without having to give up the chance to work with underserved populations.

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If you’re interested in practicing primary care in a high-need area of the country, you might enroll in the NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment Program, which pays students up to $120,000 in their final year of medical school in exchange for their post-residency commitment to work in an area underserved by health professionals.

The Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program awards up to $40,000 in loan forgiveness to students who work two years post-residency in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities.

Also available are funded medical study through the Air Force, Army, and Navy if you wish to become a military doctor.

Finally, for a list of opportunities specific to primary care—some of the lower paying fields—check out the website of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

There are also different types of federal and private loans. For federal student loan borrowers, there are income-based repayment programs available. To qualify, you must demonstrate “partial financial hardship”—most residents qualify. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, this repayment program “caps’ loan payments at 15 percent of your discretionary income, and the monthly payment is adjusted annually.” Each year the repayment adjusts based on your family size and income, and after 20 years of payment all remaining debt is forgiven (though the forgiven amount is taxable).

Overall, remember that many programs can support you financially so you can practice the kind of medicine that most interests you. You shouldn’t pursue a high-paying specialty for financial reasons only or stay out of family medicine because you’re worried about earnings.

Final thoughts

The bottom line is: no matter what specialty you choose, you’ll make a good living as a doctor. Pay does vary, however, based on the many factors described above. It’s important to go in with eyes open as you choose what to specialize in, where to work, and what kind of institution you want to work for. It’s also important to be aware of inequality in your chosen field, and be sure to advocate for yourself during salary negotiations.

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The most important thing is to stay focused on your interests. Know that whatever path you choose—the specialties or primary care, Boston or Alabama, private practice or hospital employment—there are options available to make your life financially stable, and often lucrative. Maybe you take part in a loan forgiveness program in the years out of med school so that you can pursue family medicine without debt. Or maybe you pursue your dream of working at a research hospital, but choose to practice in a part of the country with a lower cost of living.

Whatever you choose, you’ll be healing people—and you have a variety of ways to pursue that goal.


What is the highest paid doctor specialty? ›

Neurosurgeons are the highest paid physician specialists, earning an average of $788,313 annually, according to Doximity's "2023 Physician Compensation Report." The results were drawn from survey responses from 190,000 physicians over the last six years, including 31,000 in 2022.

Do academic physicians make less? ›

At the end of the day, there are many factors to consider when thinking about becoming an academic physician. While money should not be the only factor you consider, it can certainly play a large role. Despite having a “lower” salary, academic physicians have many additional financial perks that may not be as obvious.

Why do doctors make so much money? ›

The work of a doctor is often extremely demanding. They can work long, arduous shifts, and these shifts often cover topics that can be extremely emotionally draining and difficult. Because of the demanding nature of this position, doctors are often well compensated.

Why is it so hard to get into medical school? ›

Why is it so hard to get into medical school? While the overall matriculation rate to U.S. medical schools is at an all-time low, it may simply be due to a larger number of applications from less-qualified students. Therefore, it's important to know the stats with which applicants apply today relative to years past.

What type of doctor makes the most money in Canada? ›

Specialties such as ophthalmology, cardiothoracic surgery, neurosurgery, and urology are the highest earning specialties in Canada. They make an average salary of $423,000, $489,000, $521,000, and $517,000, respectively.

What is the lowest paid type of doctor? ›

Surgical specialities tend to yield the highest pay, while pediatricians typically take home the least, according to a recent report from Doximity. The networking service for medical professionals has released its 2023 Physician Compensation Report, tracking trends in physician pay nationwide.

What is more prestigious professor or doctor? ›

No, doctor isn't a higher title than professor.

Anyone who has a doctoral degree receives the honorific doctor, while you can only be called a professor if you work at a university as one.

Is being a doctor still prestigious? ›

In fact, according to data from Statista, while 90 percent of people say that they consider doctors to be prestigious, 83 percent, 80 percent, and 78 percent of people say the same of scientists, firefighters, and military officers, respectively.

What is the least competitive doctor to become? ›

Generally speaking, some of the least competitive medical fields are psychiatry, internal medicine, and emergency medicine.

Can a doctor make $1 million a year? ›

Across the board according to the 2021 physician wealth report, 56% of physicians reported a net worth of over a million. Out of family physicians, the majority become millionaires by the age of 55, with only 11% having a net worth of a million before 45.

Are most medical doctors millionaires? ›

By the time physicians reach their forties, it is very possible to achieve millionaire status, with some physicians even becoming multimillionaires. This trend continues with doctors in their fifties, with 60% of physicians' worth at least $1 million.

Why are so many doctors broke? ›

Although insurance reimbursements and medical school debt are the two biggest culprits that we don't have much control over, doctors are also going broke due to a few more factors that can be controlled. A surprising number of doctors get into financial trouble the old-fashioned way—they spend all their money.

What is the hardest year in medical school? ›

3rd year is the hardest year of med school because you're beginning your clinical rotations.

What is the hardest major to get into med school with? ›

Specialized health sciences majors have the lowest acceptance rate while physical science majors have the highest acceptance rate. Biological science majors are the most popular in terms of both applicants and matriculants, however, the acceptance rate of these individuals falls somewhere in the middle of the majors.

What is the hardest thing to study in med school? ›

The board exams

The board exams to become a certified medical doctor are universally regarded as one of the most difficult parts of medical school. The first exam, the USMLE Step 1, is one of the hardest. Luckily, your knowledge of basic medical science will be about as good as it's ever going to be at this point.

How rich are doctors in Canada? ›

By specialty — Average physician gross annual income
SpecialtyAnnual income
Physical medicine$341,008
Family medicine$331,615
16 more rows

How much do doctors make in Ontario 2023? ›

The average salary for a Doctor is $159,437 in Toronto, ON.

Is Canada in need of doctors? ›

Physicians and surgeons are integral to Canada's healthcare system. The country faces a shortage of trained doctors across many areas of medical expertise, and consequently, the demand for foreign-trained doctors has never been higher.

Which doctor works the least hours? ›

Of note, allergy and immunology physicians also spend the least amount of time on paperwork and administrative tasks out of any specialty on our list at just 14.6 hours per week. For perspective, this is a similar amount of time to dermatology which is known for being one of the best lifestyle specialties.

Which doctors are most salaried? ›

The following are the highest paid doctor jobs in the order of increasing salaries:
  1. Cardiologist. National average salary: ₹3,64,840 per year. ...
  2. Nephrologist. National average salary: ₹3,79,732 per year. ...
  3. Orthopaedic surgeon. National average salary: ₹4,78,829 per year. ...
  4. Urologist. ...
  5. Neurologist. ...
  6. Oncologist. ...
  7. Surgeon. ...
  8. Pulmonologist.
Apr 6, 2023

What's the easiest doctor to become? ›

Least Competitive Medical Specialties
  1. Family Medicine. Average Step 1 Score: 216.1. ...
  2. Psychiatry. Average Step 1 Score: 223.1. ...
  3. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Average Step 1 Score: 224.2. ...
  4. Pediatrics. Average Step 1 Score: 226.4. ...
  5. Internal Medicine (Categorical) Average Step 1 Score: 231.4. ...
  6. Anesthesiology.
Mar 21, 2023

Do professors prefer Dr or professor? ›

And although some professors might also be doctors, “Professor” is a higher rank and thus tends to be preferred.

Should I call a professor with a PhD doctor? ›

A doctoral degree (PhD) is a degree that one earns after a master's degree. A PhD entitles a person to use the title doctor.

What is the hardest doctor to study? ›

Based on our comprehensive analysis, the top most competitive specialties are as follows:
  • Plastic Surgery.
  • ENT.
  • Dermatology.
  • Orthopedic Surgery.
  • Neurosurgery.
  • Thoracic Surgery.
  • Urology.
  • Vascular Surgery.
Sep 11, 2022

What is the hardest type of doctor to become? ›

A Note for Medical Students

Apart from the top 5 specialties mentioned above, Interventional Radiology, Radiation Oncology, Vascular Surgery, General Surgery and Med/Peds are among the most difficult domains to become a doctor.

At what age do most doctors graduate? ›

Average Age Of A Medical School Graduate

You'll be at about 26 years old when you graduate from med school if you study in the US. After graduating from high school at 18, you'll spend 4 years in college and yet another 4 years in med school.

Who is the richest doctor in the world? ›

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong

What is the highest paid job in the world? ›

So, given below is an updated list of the most paid jobs in the world.
  1. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) ...
  2. Medical Professionals. ...
  3. Corporate Lawyer. ...
  4. Investment Banker. ...
  5. Data Scientist. ...
  6. Project Manager. ...
  7. Senior Software Engineer. ...
  8. Web Developers.
May 9, 2023

What is the highest paying non surgical medical specialty? ›

Highest Paying Medical Specialties
  • Cardiology (non-invasive): $447,143.
  • Gastroenterology: $441,421.
  • Urology: $424,091.
  • Hematology/Oncology: $396,000.
  • Dermatology: $370,952.
  • Radiology: $368,250.
  • Pulmonology: $351,125.
  • General Surgery: $336,375.
May 13, 2021

How much do doctors get paid in Canada? ›

How much does a Doctor make in Canada? The average doctor salary in Canada is $97,500 per year or $50 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $46,508 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $299,732 per year.


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