Physician Salaries

The mean annual salary of a MD physician specialist is $175,011 in the US, and $272,000 for surgeons. However, because of commodity inflation, increasing negligent costs, steep price rise of rental, the annual salary range of a physician varies and is not rising as fast as other professional pay.


1. Physician Salary: Broad Category and Specialties
    a. Medical Malpractice Premium
b.US Income Tax 2013
    c. Median Salary of Other Health Care Providers
2. Physician salary in Pharmaceutical Industry
3. Physicians Salary by Country
4.Annual Mean Salary of Physicians by State and Specialty
5.Physician Salary: Rural vs City
6.Is Physician Salary Declining ?
7.Physician Salary in 1988 Survey

Becoming a Physician

In the United States, one has to go through four years of undergraduate courses leading to BS or BA degree, four years of Medical school to earn MD degree, three years of residency(for most branch) and two years of fellowship( for specialization). For more details go here.

The first step is getting into medical school. Besides high GPA , MCAT score and other factors, you  need money. By the time a student starts residency training, which is when he first starts making money( see note below), he accumulates a debt of approximately $250000. This includes the loan he receives for undergraduate degree and medical school.While four years of Bachelor degree costs around $50000, four years of medical school tuition fee is almost four times that amount costing approx $50000 per annum. Thus the entry level physicians earnings also goes into paying for student loan debt.

Note: Some medical school aspirant  take time off to work as Medical Assistant after high school diploma.The median annual salary of medical assistants in 2010 was $28,860.Some other work after their bachelor degree in health/research  field before getting admission into a Medical School.

1.Physician Salary: Broad Category and Specialties Ranked by Wages, Sept 2011

The graph below shows median starting salary of physicians of various specialties as of Sept 2011. 

physician salary, doctor salary, md salary

The graph below shows physician salary following six years of practice as of Sept 2011.

physician salary, md salary

 Specialties ranking based on salary at the start and then  following six years of experience varies. Some specialties have a  higher rise in salary with experience then others.

Satisfaction level in Physicians of Different Specialties

Dermatologist report highest overall satisfaction level whereas primary care physicians report the lowest. In general, satisfaction level depends on compensation and weekly work hours. However, it is interesting to note that infectious disease specialists, psychiatrists and pediatricians report relatively higher satisfaction level despite lower salary( see black arrows in the following graph).

physician salary, physician satisfaction level, md salary

Regression analysis showed that overall satisfaction level in physicians correlates positively with salary ( r=0.44, p <0.05) whereas negatively with weekly work hours(r= -0.42, p< 0.05)( see the graph below).

physician salary satisfaction, physician salary, md salary

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Physician Salary and USMLE Scores
Generally,  residency training positions in  specialties with higher salary is highly competitive and requires higher USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) scores. A statistical correlation test showed a pearson product-moment correlation coefficient of 0.74 and coefficient of determination was 0.55(see graphs below). However, it does not correlate well with regard to a few specialities such as anesthesiology.
Physician salary and usmle scores, md salary
Physician salary and USMLE Scores, MD salary

Medical Malpractice Premium
While the above salary may seem impressive, the reason for high salary in certain specialties, beside other things, also have to do with the annual premium paid in malpractice insurance. To get an idea of how much a physician may end up paying in annual premium take a look at this:
 Specialties                             Annual Premium
Internal Medicine:                      $41000
General Surgery:                        $92000
Obstetric and Gynaecology:       $128000
Although a Gynecologist earns a lot of money($251000 to $326000), the annual premium they end up paying brings down their yearly income by almost $100000. The cost of these premiums are transferred on to the patients resulting in high health care cost. It has been suggested that health care cost can be reduced by curtailing on liability claims. According to a report by American Medical Association(AMA), malpractice premiums increases health care cost by between $84 and $151 billion per year. It also reports that physician are found not negligent in 90 % of the cases that go to trial. A policy change here could reduce health care cost significantly, but it should not jeopardize those 10% cases where physicians are found negligent and the patient receives compensation.

The higher the salary the greater the tax. Here is a sample tax rate for married couples filing jointly.

US Income Tax Physician Salary

Physicians Salary with and without MBA (Masters of Business Administration)

Healthcare cost is increasingly becoming a concern in the United States. In the early years, the concept of health insurance took root as a means of reducing the burden of healthcare cost on an individual. It worked well but overtime  health insurance policies have become so costly that  many people are not even able to afford it. Hospitals are looking for ways to improve quality and cost of healthcare. As a result, physicians with management skills are being increasingly hired in leadership positions. Several dual-degree programs of MD-MBA has cropped up in various institutions. Many physicians with an interest in administration are also going for MBA programs. However,there are  physician executives who do not have a MBA degree. So what effect an MBA has on a physician executive salary?

Here is a graph that gives some insight:

MBA Physician salary, MD salary

Median Salary of other Health Care Providers( in decreasing order)

Dentist                                              $146,920
Podiatrist                                          $118,030
Optometrist                                      $94,990
Physician assistant                           $86,410
Veterinarian                                     $82,040
Chiropractor                                     $67,200 
Registered Nurse                            $64,690

Dentist Salary

Dentists(independent private practitioner who owned all or part of his or her practice) $192,680
Dentists Specialists(independent private practitioner who owned all or part of his or her practice) $305,820
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Salary $351,404



Physician salary in Pharmaceutical Industry

Assistant Director (0-2 yrs experience)                         $130K-140K + 10-15% yearly bonus
Associate Director (2-4 yrs experience)                        $145K-165K + 15-20% yearly bonus
Director (5-10 yrs experience)                                     $175K-$225K + 30-50% yearly bonus
Sr Director (10-15 yrs experience)                               $250K-$275K + 75-100% yearly bonus
Vice President (15 yrs + experience)                            $300K and above + executive bonus package
Senior Vice President                                                 $400K-$500K + 100-200% bonus

Physicians Salary by Country

physician salary by country
Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS) analysis of Remuneration of Health Professions, OECD Health Data 2006 (October 2006), available at []. Notes: Sorted by specialists’ compensation. Amounts are adjusted using U.S. dollar purchasing power parities. Amounts from previous years are trended up to 2004 dollars using the annualized Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index for wages and salaries of health services workers in private industry. It is not known whether wage growth in health professions in other countries was similar to that in the United States. Amounts are from previous years for 10 countries: data for Australia, Canada, Denmark (for specialists and nurses), Finland (for nurses), and the Netherlands are from 2003; data for Belgium (for specialists), Denmark (for general practitioners), New Zealand (for nurses), and Sweden are from 2002; data for Switzerland and the United States (for specialists and general practitioners) are from 2001; and data for Belgium (for general practitioners) and the United States (for nurses) are from 2000. Ratios of salaries to GDP per capita reflect the year the data was collected and are not adjusted for inflation. For countries that have both self-employed and salaried professionals in a given field, the amount presented here is the higher of the two salaries. Four countries have both salaried and self-employed specialists: the Czech Republic (where compensation is $29,484 for salaried and $34,852 for self-employed specialists), Greece ($67,119 and $64,782), the Netherlands ($130,911 and $252,727), and the United States ($170,300 and $229,500). One country has both salaried and self-employed general practitioners: in the United States, salaried general practitioners earn $134,600, compared with $154,200 if self-employed. All nurses are salaried among this data. Recent data are available only for 21 of the 30 OECD countries.

Annual Mean Salary of Physicians by State and Specialty

1. Anesthesiologist Salaries by State

physician anesthesiologist salary

2. Family and General Practitioner Salaries by State

Family and General Practitioner Salaries by State

3.General Internist Salaries by State

General Internist Salaries by State

4.Obstetricians and Gynecologists Salaries by State

Obstetricians and Gynecologists Salaries by State

5.Pediatricians, General Salaries by State

Pediatricians, General Salaries by State

6.Psychiatrists Salaries by State

Psychiatrists Salaries by State

7.Surgeons Salaries by State

Surgeons Salaries by State

Physician Salary: Rural vs City 

“Because the cost of living is lower in rural areas, rural physicians have significantly more purchasing power—or higher “real” incomes—after accounting for the lower cost of living. The average income of rural physicians adjusted for the cost of living was significantly higher than urban physicians’—$225,000 vs. $199,000. This translates into rural physician incomes providing about 13 percent more purchasing power than urban physician incomes.”(1)

 Average Physician Incomes in Urban and Rural Areas, Unadjusted and Adjusted for Local Cost of Living, 2003

Physician Salary: Rural vs City

Is Physician Salary Declining  ?

This graph speaks volumes about the declining physician salaries.

 Physician Salary Declining

Thus, we see Real  Salary(when salary is adjusted for inflation) of Physician is declining. Nominal salary( when not adjusted for inflation) is on the rise as with any other occupation. Take a look at the following graph-

 Physician Salary Declining

Physician Salary in 1988 Survey

It could be noted that Radiology, Gastroenterology, and even General Surgery were not as well payed as they are now. Also Psychiatrist were making more than an Internist.

Physician Salary in 1988 Survey
  1.  Leigh JP, Tancredi D, Jerant A, Kravitz RL (October 2010). “Physician wages across specialties: informing the physician reimbursement debate”. Arch. Intern. Med. 170 (19): 1728–34. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.350. PMID 20975019.
  2. Malpractice Insurance Premium
  3. MD/MBA Salary
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Physicians and Surgeons, on the Internet at (visited April 14, 2012). 
  5. 2010 Survey of Dental Practice – Income from the Private Practice of Dentistry. Item code: SDPI-2010/SDPI-2010D Available as a free download to ADA members.
  6. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010.U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last Modified Date: May 17, 2011 Accessed on: Sep 14, 2011
  7. Reschovsky JD, Staiti AB.Physician incomes in rural and urban America.Issue Brief Cent Stud Health Syst Change. 2005 Jan;(92):1-4. (PMID:15675029)
  8. Physician Income : The Decade in Review by Carol K. Kane, PhD and Horst Loeblich ( pdf)
  9. Health Care Financing Administration, Physicians’ Practice Cost and Income Survey (PPCIS), 1988. Note: Nonfederal patient care physicians. Income from medical practice after expenses and before taxes. Self employed physicians include physicians employcd by another physician.
  10. Pope GC, Schneider JE.Trends in physician income. Health Aff (Millwood). 1992 Spring;11(1):181-93.
  11. 2011-2012 Physician Salary Survey here
  • Physicians in the Pharmaceutical Industry here

4 Responses to Physician Salaries

  1. noshowl says:

    the colors that you use for your graphs are very hard to differentiate.

  2. The salaries can also be further affected by subspecializations. In the case of gastroenterology, for example, a pediatric gastroenterology salary would typically be higher than, let’s say, general gastroenterologist. One reason for this could be the fact that it is harder to convince children to sit still during a medical procedure.

  3. Fat Bastard says:

    Your numbers are way too low.

    US doctors are the highest paid in the world and they are also among the most deadly.

  4. Your post is full of salary statistics and i love to read these stats, I was also working on salary statistics of LPNs so i published a post about the highest paying states for LPNs.
    Top 5 US States with the Highest Annual Mean Wage for LPNs