Average Doctor Salary 2019
Your salary as a doctor will depend on how you specialize, where you live, and the industry in which you choose to work.
Breaking Down the Average Doctor Salary
The average doctor’s salary varies slightly depending on who you ask. For this article, we looked at the official Occupational Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Physicians and Surgeons), as well as Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report for 2019.
Considering both reports, the average doctor salary in the United States ranges from $228,000 to $241,000 per year.
- Average Doctor Salary – Bureau of Labor Statistics: $228,000
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average doctor salary comes in at $228,000* as of May 2018.
*This figure was determined by calculating the mean of all seven average salaries shown in the table, “Bureau of Labor Statistics Average Salary by Field of Medicine,” below.
- Average Doctor Salary – Medscape Physician Compensation Report: $239,000
According to Medscape’s annual report, the average doctor salary comes in at $237,000 for primary care providers and $241,000 for specialists, for an overall average of $239,000.
Average Doctor Salary by Field and Specialty
The highest-paying specialties for doctors are orthopedics, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, cardiology, and dermatology.
The lowest-paying specialties for doctors are infectious disease, diabetes and endocrinology, family medicine, pediatrics, and public health.
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Average Salary by Field of Medicine
The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes average salary information for only eight fields or specialties (compared to the 29 included in the Medscape Report). These broader categories may correlate to the relatively low salaries, compared to the Medscape Report.
The BLS also includes data from more than 713,800 practicing physicians, whereas Medscape surveyed only about 20,000 practicing doctors.
The BLS considers annual physician salaries, as well as professor salaries. Most—but not all—reported physicians worked full-time.
Field of Medicine
National Average Salary
|3. Obstetricians and Gynecologists||$238,320|
|5. Family and General Practitioners||$211,780|
|6. All Other Physicians and Surgeons||$203,880|
|7. Internists, General||$196,490|
|8. Pediatricians, General||$183,240|
Medscape Report: Average Doctor Salary by Specialty
As mentioned above, Medscape separates each field of medicine into smaller specialties. This grouping can make the average salary for some specialties appear higher than they do when categorized more broadly.
For example, orthopedics is the highest-paid specialty according to the Medscape survey. But the salary of an orthopedic surgeon would be grouped with the larger category, “Surgeons,” within the BLS data, making it appear much lower.
The Medscape report only includes full-time salary information, which can help determine what you’ll earn working full-time as a medical provider.
Medscape considered the salaries of practicing physicians, as well as managing partners. It included earnings after taxes for partners, and bonuses and profit-sharing for physicians.
National Average Salary
|2. Plastic Surgery||$471K|
|13. Emergency Medicine||$353K|
|14. Critical Care||$349K|
|15. Pulmonary Medicine||$331K|
|17. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation||$306K|
|20. Allergy and Immunology||$275K|
|24. Internal Medicine||$243K|
|25. Infectious Diseases||$239K|
|26. Diabetes and Endocrinology||$236K|
|27. Family Medicine||$231K|
|29. Public Health and Preventative Medicine||$209K|
Average Doctor Salary by Industry
In addition to your field or specialty, the industry in which you work plays a part in your salary as a doctor. The highest-paying industry that employs general practitioners in the United States is in-patient disability, mental health, and substance abuse care.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the 5 top-paying industries for general practitioners (see the other specialties here) as follows:
- Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities – Average salary: $249,180
- Management of Companies and Enterprises – Average salary: $241,360
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services – Average salary: $226,890
- Outpatient Care Centers – Average salary: $219,460
- Ambulatory Health Care Services – Average salary: $218,370
While the above industries may be the highest-paying, the industries which employ the most general practitioners are below:
- Offices of Physicians – Average salary: $214,820
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals – Average salary: $206,440
- Outpatient Care Centers – Average salary: $219,460
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools – Average salary: $149,020
- State Government – Average salary: $212,880
These are the fields in which you are most likely to gain employment as a physician, so they can give you a better idea of the average doctor salary in the United States.
Medicine as a Business: Self-Employed vs. Employed Doctor Salaries
A key factor to consider as a medical professional is whether you should work for yourself or for someone else. As you can see in the listed top-paying industries for doctors above, management is one of the best-paid positions you can hold as a medical doctor.
As a self-employed physician, you may own your practice independently or with partners. That independence comes with more responsibility—you have to run a business, as well as practice medicine—but it also comes with a significant pay raise.
The Medscape Physician Compensation Report for 2019 found that self-employed physicians made significantly more than employed physicians, on average:
Self-employed average doctor salary: $359K
Employed average doctor salary: $289K
Medscape’s analysis of this data suggests that the discrepancy in income may be due in part to the difference in average age between employed and self-employed physicians. About 64% of self-employed physicians are over 50 years old, while only 46% of employed physicians are over 50.
Keep in mind that self-employment may not be equally beneficial for every specialty. If you specialize in emergency medicine, for example, you may find your skills are best utilized in a hospital emergency room or intensive care unit.
Average Doctor Salary by Location
As with every career, where you live as a doctor will impact your salary potential. In 2019, Medscape reported the following as the 10 states with the highest salaries for physicians overall:
- Oklahoma – Average salary: $337K
- Alabama – Average salary: $330K
- Nevada – Average salary: $329K
- Arkansas – Average salary: $326K
- Florida – Average salary: $325K
- Kentucky – Average salary: $324K
- Tennessee – Average salary: $323K
- Connecticut – Average salary: $323K
- Georgia – Average salary: $322K
- Indiana – Average salary: $322K
The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down location data by field of medicine. For general practitioners, the top-paying states are as follows:
- New Hampshire – Average salary: $264,470
- Wisconsin – Average salary: $249,110
- Iowa – Average salary: $246,670
- Nebraska – Average salary: $237,320
- South Carolina – Average salary: $235,790
The top-paying metropolitan areas for general practitioners are below (average salaries not detailed):
- Longview, TX
- Iowa City, IA
- Hanford-Corcoran, CA
- Ames, IA
- Sheboygan, WI
Locum Tenens vs. Permanent Average Doctor Salary
Another important decision that can impact your salary as a physician is whether you work in a permanent position or in locum tenens positions.
What is a locum tenens doctor? Locum tenens is a Latin phrase that means “to hold the place of.” Locum tenens companies work with physicians and other medical providers to fill temporary vacancies at hospitals, government facilities, outpatient centers, and more.
As a med school graduate, locum tenens should be a top consideration for starting your career as a doctor. You can often make a much higher salary in locum tenens positions than in permanent positions as a physician.
Many doctors choose to work locum tenens for the more flexible schedule, the travel opportunities, the more varied clinical experiences, and the extra income.
Is Medical School Worth It?
Medical school is one of the most costly college programs you can choose. The average medical school debt of students in 2016 was a staggering $190,000, up from $179,000 just seven years earlier.
The average college debt load in the United States for the same year—taking all programs into consideration—was a comparatively low $28,000.
Choosing the right specialty plays an important role in whether or not medical school is ultimately worth the cost, for two reasons: first, medical school costs differ for each specialty, and second, your salary can be significantly higher or lower depending on your specialty, as discussed above.
You may choose a specialty like dermatology—a field that has a lower average student debt level and a higher average salary—and get the best of both worlds.
As a doctor, you have the added benefit of being able to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if you so choose. You may have to accept a lower salary by going into public health or working for a qualifying non-profit, but the pay cut may work out to save you money overall.
If you strategize well to pay off your loans quickly, the cost of medical school doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, stop you from pursuing your dream of becoming a doctor.
Average Doctor Salary Bottom Line
The most important decisions you can make in your path to becoming a doctor are your field of specialty and the industry in which you work.
According to the Medscape Compensation Report for 2019, 96% of ophthalmologists—a high-paid field—stated they would choose the same specialty again if given the chance, while only 62% of internal medicine doctors—a relatively low-paid field—stated the same.
At the same time, 84% of infections disease doctors—one of the lowest-paid specialties—stated they would choose to go into medicine again if given the chance, while only 68% of plastic surgeons—one of the highest-paid specialties—stated the same.
When choosing your specialty and where you practice, including whether you take a permanent or locum tenens position, it’s essential to consider not only salary, but also overall job satisfaction now and for years to come.
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