According to a physician compensation report by Domixity, the average compensation for U.S. physicians grew by 3.8% from 2020 to 2021 – this growth was significantly higher compared to the previous year (1.5%). 
In this article, we’ll discuss the key findings of the report by Medscape on physicians with the highest salaries. This survey involved over 13,000 physicians from 29 different specialties. The data collection period was between October 2021 and January 2022.
Physician specialties with the highest earnings
|Doctor Speciality||Average Salary|
|1. Plastic Surgery||$576,000|
|12. Surgery, General||$402,000|
|13. Emergency Medicine||$373,000|
|14. Critical Care||$369,000|
|15. Pulmonary Medicine||$353,000|
|19. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation||$322,000|
|21. Allergy and Immunology||$298,000|
|24. Internal Medicine||$264,000|
|25. Infectious Diseases||$260,000|
|26. Diabetes and Endocrinology||$257,000|
|27. Family Medicine||$255,000|
|29. Public Health and Preventative medicine||$243,000|
As shown in the table and graph above, plastic surgery earned the highest average salary ($576,000), followed by orthopedics ($557,000) and cardiology ($490,000). The highest-earning specialties are virtually unchanged this year from 5 years ago. For employed physicians, these figures include salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions. For self-employed physicians, they include earnings after taxes and deductible business expenses before income tax. Only full-time salaries were included in the results.
The average overall salary of physicians in the United States
As shown in the graph overall physicians earned $339,000. Primary care physicians earned $260,000 and specialists earned $368,000.
Of the 29 specialties from the Medscape report, Plastic surgeons earned the highest average salary ($576,000), followed by Orthopedics ($557,000) and Cardiology ($490,000). The highest-earning specialties are virtually unchanged this year from 5 years ago. For employed physicians, these figures include salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions. For self-employed physicians, they include earnings after taxes and deductible business expenses before income tax. Only full-time salaries were included in the results.
Comparison of incentive bonuses by specialty
Orthopedics had the highest incentive bonuses ($126,000), followed by Ophthalmologists ($100,000) and Cardiologists ($85,000).
Average physician salary over time
Since 2015, physician compensation has increased by 29% overall, 33% for primary care physicians and 30% for specialists.
Rising doctor salaries vs inflation rate
Rising salaries help everyone get back on track by covering living costs and keeping up with inflation. In the 5 years since 2017, the United States has experienced a 14.7% increased rate of inflation. Since the percentage increase for overall physician salaries is double that of the rate of inflation, this suggests that pursuing a career as a doctor is a great choice for people looking to stay ahead of inflation.
States with the highest salaries
According to the data, Kentucky and Tennessee have the highest average salary ($364,000), followed by Alabama ($358,000), and Missouri ($357,000). Doctors that are considering moving to a new state in order to maximize their income should consider Alabama since it also has the 3rd lowest cost of living according to the Economic Research and Information Center.
Best-paying Metro areas for doctors
According to a physician compensation report by Domixity, Metro areas with the highest pay for physicians include:
- Charlotte (NC) – $462,760
- St. Louis (MO) – $452,219
- Buffalo (NY) – $426,440
- Jacksonville (FL) – $425,706
- Orlando (FL) – $425,634
- Minneapolis (MN) -$424,059
- Milwaukee (WI) – $422,735
- Phoenix (AZ) – $419,359
- Dallas (TX) – $415,487
- Los Angeles (CA) – $414,925
It’s important to note that some doctors felt that their salary did not reflect the number of hours and dedication required to do their job. As shown in the graph above public health and preventative medicine had the highest percentage of physicians who were satisfied with their pay (72%). This was followed by oncology (67%), plastic surgery (66%), psychiatry (65%), dermatology (64%), and radiology (63%).
As shown in the graph above self-employed physicians earn on average $65,000 more than employed physicians.
According to the survey, self-employed doctors that are under 45 earn $23,000 more than employed physicians over 45. However employed doctors over the age of 45 earn $45,000 more than younger doctors, which suggests that physicians that are closer to the retirement age may want to consider staying employed to maximize their income.
: Physician Compensation Report (2021): https://c8y.doxcdn.com/image/upload/v1/Press%20Blog/Research%20Reports/Doximity-Compensation-Report-2021.pdf