Best Paid, Worst-Paid Doctors

Medscape Survey: Doctors Making Less, Worrying More

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on April 24, 2012

April 24, 2012 -- Radiologists and orthopedic surgeons are the best paid of all doctors and pediatricians earn the least, Medscape/WebMD's annual Physician Compensation Survey finds.

Overall, doctors are earning less and worrying more, according to the online survey of more than 24,000 doctors from 25 medical specialties.

The most disturbing finding: If they had it to do over again, 46% of doctors would not choose medicine as a career. That's way up from last year, when only 31% regretted their career choice.

Best-Paid Doctors

Even so, the top-earning doctors aren't going broke. The top 10 highest paid doctors are:

  1. Radiologists: $315,000
  2. Orthopedic surgeons: $315,000
  3. Cardiologists: $314,000
  4. Anesthesiologists: $309,000
  5. Urologists: $309,000
  6. Gastroenterologists: $303,000
  7. Oncologists: $295,000
  8. Dermatologists: $283,000
  9. Plastic surgeons: $270,000
  10. Ophthalmologists: $270,000

Worst-Paid Doctors

The 10 least paid doctors are:

  1. Pediatricians: $156,000
  2. Family medicine doctors: $158,000
  3. Internal medicine doctors: $165,000
  4. Diabeticians/Endocrinologists: $168,000
  5. Psychiatrists: $170,000
  6. HIV/infectious disease specialists: $170,000
  7. Rheumatologists: $180,000
  8. Neurologists: $184,000
  9. Nephrologists: $209,000
  10. Ob-gyns: $220,000


Why Doctors Worry

A doctor's specialty may make less of a pay difference than a doctor's sex. Female doctors make 40% less than male doctors, although female primary care doctors make only 23% less than their male peers.

One possible reason: Female doctors spend more time with patients than male doctors do.

To some Americans, these salaries may seem pretty high. But only 11% of doctors consider themselves rich. And 45% of doctors agree that "My income probably qualifies me as rich, but I have so many debts and expenses I don't feel rich."

So what makes doctors worry? According to the survey:

  • Declining income worries and frustrates many doctors.
  • Some doctors resent the greater pay earned by doctors in other specialties.
  • Increased regulation and documentation take the joy out of medicine.
  • Doctors fear how new accountable care organizations will affect their patients -- and their pay.
  • Doctors feel they must continue to practice "defensive medicine" to avoid malpractice claims.