Medical professionals can specialize in treating a variety of areas of the body and diseases. These individuals spend a significant amount of time training for and becoming certified in one of these areas. With such high levels of specialization, many jobs in this field command high salaries. In this article, we will list some of the highest-paid medical specialties.
What are medical specialties?
A medical specialty is a field that focuses on one type of patient, condition, body part or skill. Medical professionals typically have to complete a four-year undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, three to five years of residency and, depending on the specialty, another one to three years of training. Because of the amount of time medical specialists spend training for their careers, they are in high demand.
Medical specialties are important because they allow doctors and surgeons to develop specific skills and gain a deep understanding of certain diseases and procedures. Patients dealing with a health issue that falls under one of these categories can see a specialist to receive personalized care for their condition.
Highest paid medical specialties to explore
Salaries vary between medical specialties. Here are 12 of the highest-earning medical specialties in ascending order.
National average salary: $188,418 per year
Primary duties: Emergency medicine physicians treat patients with urgent injuries or conditions, whether in an emergency room or another health care facility. They must assess patients quickly and make life-saving decisions. They might have to diagnose and treat serious injuries and severe diseases, as well as stabilize patients. Emergency medicine specialists typically have a wide range of medical skills and knowledge, plus several years of clinical experience.
National average salary: $191,904 per year
Primary duties: Pulmonologists diagnose and treat breathing or respiratory system problems. Often, a patient’s regular doctor will refer them to a pulmonologist if they show symptoms of long-term or serious lung issues. These professionals use diagnostic methods such as X-rays, CT scans, bloodwork and airway scopes to diagnose conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and various lung diseases. Some pulmonologists further specialize in certain patient populations, such as children or the elderly. They might also work closely with cardiologists because many heart problems also cause breathing issues.
National average salary: $214,339 per year
Primary duties: General surgeons have a significant amount of medical knowledge, so they can operate on patients with a variety of injuries and conditions. They assess patients, diagnose their conditions, prepare them for surgery, operate on them and manage their post-operative care. General surgeons commonly operate on skin conditions, the abdomen, soft tissues and other body parts.
If a patient has a neurologic, cardiac or other complex condition, they typically refer that individual to a specialty surgeon. General surgeons must have good decision-making skills and a thorough understanding of anatomy, pathology, immunology and healing.
National average salary: $218,126 per year
Primary duties: Oncologists treat cancer patients. They explain each patient’s diagnosis, stage and prognosis and treatment options. They work with patients throughout their treatment, helping them manage symptoms of the disease and radiation therapy. They might further specialize in medical, surgical, radiation, pediatric, gynecologic or hematologic oncology.
National average salary: $229,379 per year
Primary duties: Orthopedic surgeons diagnose, treat and prevent bone, joint, muscle and soft tissue injuries and conditions. Some treat all types of musculoskeletal issues, while others focus on certain body parts such as hips, knees, feet, ankles, spine, shoulders, elbows and hands. They might encounter traumatic injuries, birth defects, cancers or infections. Orthopedic surgeons often repair broken bones, damaged or arthritic joints and injured tendons and ligaments.
National average salary: $236,627 per year
Primary duties: Urologists treat urinary tract and reproductive system problems in both men and women. They must have a deep understanding of and experience diagnosing and treating conditions of the bladder, kidney, urethra, male genitalia and more. These might include infections, kidney or bladder stones, urinary problems, cancers and male infertility. Urologists assess patients and run diagnostic tests such as ultrasound, CT scans, MRIs, tissue samples, urine tests and urinary tract scopes. Their knowledge base typically includes internal medicine, surgery and gynecology.
National average salary: $245,601 per year
Primary duties: Plastic surgeons repair or reconstruct external body parts such as facial features, breasts and skin. Sometimes they perform cosmetic surgery to improve a patient’s appearance. Other times they perform procedures to repair damage from an injury, burn, disease or a deformity such as a cleft palate. Techniques plastic surgeons might use include skin grafts, facelifts, liposuction, breast implants and tissue transfers. Some plastic surgeons focus on one part of the body, such as the face, or specific conditions, such as burns.
National average salary: $249,089 per year
Primary duties: Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat digestive system disorders. These conditions might affect the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas or gallbladder. They often see patients with heartburn, diarrhea, gastric ulcers, abdominal pain, acid reflux and digestive organ cancers. Gastroenterologists run tests such as diagnostic imaging and scopes. They understand how the digestive system processes food, absorbs nutrients and removes waste. They prescribe medications and provide nutrition advice for patients dealing with conditions such as Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.
National average salary: $260,245 per year
Primary duties: Radiologists perform and interpret diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, ultrasounds and MRIs. They might also perform mammograms and oversee cancer patients’ radiation therapy. Radiologists typically work closely with the patient’s main doctor to choose the best diagnostic tests and recommend treatment based on the results. They understand how to read each type of image, how to perform diagnostic imaging properly and how to use radiation safely when diagnosing and treating diseases.
National average salary: $294,822 per year
Primary duties: Cardiologists diagnose, treat and prevent heart and blood vessel diseases such as heart failure. They evaluate patients’ medical histories and measure blood pressure, blood flow and other parameters to assess heart function. They might run tests such as X-rays, bloodwork, exercise tests and electrocardiograms. Based on their findings, they might prescribe medications or recommend diet or lifestyle changes. Cardiologists can also perform surgical procedures such as heart transplants, bypasses and heart valve repairs and insert pacemakers and defibrillators.
National average salary: $298,370 per year
Primary duties: Anesthesiologists administer medications, sedatives and nerve blocks to prevent patients from feeling pain during surgery. They work closely with surgeons during procedures to make sure the patients receive the right type and amount of anesthesia.
They also monitor patients’ vitals for signs of pain and adjust medications as needed throughout surgery. They understand how to handle drug reactions and side effects. In addition to surgical patients, anesthesiologists might provide pain relief for people with chronic discomfort or disease.
National average salary: $319,084 per year
Primary duties: Dermatologists diagnose and treat skin issues. They might treat acne, skin infections, eczema, inflammatory skin disease, skin allergies and skin cancers. They perform skin exams, allergy tests, biopsies and cancer screenings to diagnose conditions.
They monitor unusual moles, sun damage and skin changes. Procedures dermatologists might perform include laser surgery, mole removal, Botox injections, scar removal and tumor removal. Their work can be both cosmetic and medical.
If you are interested in a health care career and earning potential is one of your top priorities, you might consider pursuing one of these top-paying medical specialties. The financial and personal rewards can be significant.