While your teachers at the medical school will probably want you to know that the pursuit of knowledge should be the most important driving factor for your studies – we all know that, in the end, we need money to survive. Medicine is a broad discipline with many fields and specialties, every one of which comes with a different average salary. With this article, we aim to help you in choosing the perfect specialty for you. However, don’t consider the average salary as the only factor when choosing a specialty! You should, first and foremost, choose a field that excites and interests you. After all, if you are to spend your life working in that field, you should enjoy it!
Knowing what specialty to choose can also help you eventually paying off your medical school loans. Many aspiring doctors start their careers in debt, and knowing which specialties pay the best can give you a better estimate of when you will be able to pay that loan off. When choosing specialties with lower income, be careful when taking your medical school loans – you may be paying them back for a long time!
Highest average salary – orthopedics
According to the data from 2019, the highest average yearly salary is that of orthopedic surgeons, adding up to $482,000. Orthopedics is a branch of surgery that revolves around the injuries and conditions involving the musculoskeletal system – bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and any other connective tissue found in the human body. Surgeons that have specialized in orthopedics most often treat spine diseases, sports injuries, infections, tumors, congenital disorders, and degenerative diseases.
Typically, orthopedic surgeons need to complete four years of undergraduate education and four years of medical school. After that, graduates need to undergo a five-year residency training in orthopedic surgery, after which they can apply for their own independent practice license. Due to the high popularity of orthopedics, selection for residency can be very competitive. In the United States alone, around 700 physicians complete orthopedic residency training every year – only a small fraction of the total amount of graduates.
Orthopedics is a very broad specialty, concerning many injuries and conditions. Most orthopedics do a further training program after completing their residency in order to specialize even more narrowly. Such training usually takes one year to accomplish. The most common sub-specialties of orthopedics are: Hand and Upper Extremity, Shoulder and Elbow, Total Joint Reconstruction, Pediatric Orthopedics, Foot and ankle surgery, Spine surgery, Orthopedic Oncologist, Surgical Sports Medicine, and Orthopedic Trauma.
Second highest salary – plastic surgery
Currently, plastic surgery gains more and more popularity as a specialty, as men and women all over the world grow more accustomed to various cosmetic and reconstructive treatments. In 2019, an average plastic surgeon earned $471,000 per year – not far off orthopedic surgeons. Plastic surgery can be divided into two smaller categories – reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive surgery focuses – as the name suggests – on reconstructing a part of the body, restoring its original functions after an injury or condition. The most common surgeries for a reconstructive surgeon to provide are craniofacial surgeries, hand surgeries, microsurgeries, and treating burns. Reconstructive surgery was mostly developed during World War I when vast numbers of soldiers with facial injuries required medical attention in order to be able to get back to their regular lives.
Cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, aims at improving the appearance of various body parts. The main difference between cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery is that cosmetic surgery is always voluntary – it’s sole purpose to improve the appearance and not heal life-threatening conditions. Almost 20 million cosmetic procedures are performed every year in the United States alone, and that number only increases every year. Over 90% of the recipients of cosmetic surgeries are women. The most common surgeries performed are breast augmentation surgery, breast reduction surgery, liposuction, eyelid surgery, and abdominoplasty.
Third highest salary – otolaryngology
Otorhinolaryngology, most commonly known as Otolaryngology, is a specialty that is concerned with the head and the neck, along with the surgical and medical management of conditions of these body parts. Most often, patients seek an otolaryngologist when in need of treatment of their ear, throat, nose, head, neck, as well as the base of the skull. Since conditions of these body parts often hinder basic activities such as eating, drinking, speaking, swallowing, hearing, and breathing, otolaryngologists perform very important treatments. The average yearly salary of an otolaryngologist in 2019 revolved around $461,000.
Since you won’t have to choose your specialty until well into medical school, you will have plenty of time to find out which one fascinates you the most. Take advantage of all of the classes and experiment – that is what medical school is all about!