Which specialties make the most in 2022 (and why)

By Jules Murtha | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published May 5, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Physicians in 2022 earned an average of $339,000: Specialists took the lead at $368,000, followed by primary care physicians at $260,000.

  • The highest-earning specialties—which remain unchanged since 2017—are plastic surgery, orthopedics, and cardiology.

  • The lowest-earning specialties include public health and preventative medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine.

Are you curious about how your salary compares with physicians in other specialties? How about against physicians of other genders, or those who practice in different locations?

Medscape.com and Physiciansthrive.com published 2022 physician compensation reports detailing several components affecting physicians' salaries throughout the US.

Defining factors include specialty, gender, race, and location.

Salary by specialty

On average, physicians’ salaries range from $243,000–$576,000, depending on specialty.

According to Medscape.com’s 2022 Physician Compensation Report, the top-earning specialty is plastic surgery (consistently since 2017), punching in at $576,000/year.[]

Immediately following is orthopedics, at $557,000, then cardiology at $490,000. Otolaryngology, urology, gastroenterology, and dermatology are next in line, averaging $438,000–$469,000.

Physicians who earn salaries that are above $400,000 per year are radiologists, ophthamologists, oncologists, anesthesiologists, and general surgeons.

Crossing into the high $300,000s are doctors in emergency medicine, critical care, and pulmonary medicine. OB/GYNs, pathologists, nephrologists, doctors in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and neurologists make between $301,000 and $336,000.

Allergists and immunologists, rheumatologists, psychiatrists, and doctors in internal medicine all make between $264,000 and $298,000 per year.

According to Medscape.com, the top five lowest-earning physicians are infectious disease specialists ($260,000/year), endocrinologists ($257,000/year), family medicine doctors ($255,000/year), pediatricians ($244,000/year), and public and preventative health doctors ($243,000/year).

It’s also reported that hematologists, oncologists, family medicine specialists, OB/GYNs, and gastroenterologists are among the country’s most-recruited physicians.

While specialty dictates a decent portion of your income, it’s not the only factor at play.

Location, location, location

Another influence on physician income is where in the country you’re practicing.

A 2022 Physician Compensation Report published by Physiciansthrive.com reveals that the top 10 highest-earning states for physicians are Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Indiana, South Carolina, and Georgia.[]

Physicians in Georgia earn an average of $330,000 per year, while those in Kentucky reach up to $340,000.

Overall, midwestern and southern states lead in physician income, while states on the east and west coasts come in last. This is largely because a much higher concentration of qualified physicians live in the eastern US.

How intersections of identity play a role

Other defining factors of physicians’ income include race and gender.

Physiciansthrive.com indicates the gender pay gap is sticking around.

In primary care, women earn an average of $211,000 per year. That’s 22% less than their male counterparts, who earn $269,000 per year.

An even greater gap exists between male and female specialists. Male specialists earn an average yearly salary of $376,000, while females earn $283,000—a 25% pay decrease for the same work.

A similar gap exists for physicians of different races, according to Medscape.com: Caucasian and White doctors remain the top-earning physicians, punching in at an average $346,000 per year.

The second highest-earning racial group among physicians is Asian Americans, who make $329,000 per year. Trailing closely behind are Latinx or Hispanic doctors, with a $328,000 average salary.

Black and African American doctors make the least amount of money, averaging $313,000 per year.

While all racial groups have seen their average income increase over the past 5 years, there are still existing racial disparities among US physicians.

What this means for you

According to reports on physician salaries, the top three highest-earning specialties are plastic surgery, orthopedics, and cardiology;the three lowest-earning specialties are public health and preventative medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine. There is a considerable pay gap between men and women physicians: In primary care, women tend to make 22% less than their male counterparts. This gap grows to 25% for specialists. Finally, if you’re a hematologist, oncologist, family medicine specialist, OB/GYN, or gastroenterologist—among others—you’re among the country’s most-recruited physicians.

Related: Four ways physicians can become more financially literate
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