Many parents encourage their children to become doctors or lawyers. Why? The two professions are among the highest paid in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, categories of physicians take up eight of the 20 professions with the highest median annual pay, according to BLS data. And of all physician categories, the highest paid doctors in America are plastic surgeons.
The path to becoming a physician is a long one. Once a candidate has a college degree, he or she spends four years in a medical school, a year or more as a resident in a hospital, and often at least another year, or more, in fellowships. Fellowships can be particularly important for doctors who want to become specialists.
Being a doctor also can be expensive. Malpractice insurance can run as much as $50,000 to double that a year. Doctors who are not employed by hospitals need staff, medical equipment, and office space. Altogether, these costs can run into tens even hundred of thousands of dollars a year. (Here are 87 jobs with six-figure salaries.)
Both expenses and income can vary by geographic location. Doctors in Manhattan often make more than physicians who work in rural settings.
Medical news site Medscape recently released its “Physician Compensation Report 2021: The Recovery Begins.” One of the report’s conclusions is that some doctor practices have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in 2020. They continued to have expenses, but patient visits dropped. Other doctors could afford to wait out the slow period but lost a great deal of money in the process.
Medscape collected data from nearly 18,000 doctors in over 29 specialties about their incomes (including bonuses) and expenses and hours worked. (You think doctors are highly paid? These are the highest paid CEOs at America’s largest companies.)
Despite COVID-19, the average pay for primary care physicians was $242,000 in 2020 (as reported in this year’s review), about the same as in 2019 (as reported in last year’s review). Specialists made an average of $346,000, also very close to the previous year’s number.
Plastic surgeons made the most money this year, at an average of $526,000.