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Highest Paid Physicians: Where Are Physicians Earning the Most?

By Anna Mueller, MS25 Jan 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic created significant financial pressures across the healthcare system and forced hospitals to make some difficult decisions. One way they’re tightening the purse strings is by reducing physician’s pay — or at the very least, opting not to increase it. According to data from Medscape, 62% of U.S. physicians saw their income decrease since the beginning of the pandemic, but only 3% saw an increase.

As it turns out, not all physicians faced the same income growth restrictions. According to the 2020 Physician Compensation Report by Doximity, sometimes significant pay gaps exist between specialties, geographic regions, gender and more.

Here are a few highlights from this year’s report:



In 2020, the average national compensation for physicians is $383,340. Of course, some specialties make nearly double this salary while others take home less than average. Specialties that require longer residencies and more advanced training, like surgeons, typically earn higher incomes. 



Unsurprisingly, neurosurgery continues to outrank all other top-paying medical specialties, with an average income of $746,544. Thoracic surgeons rank in second place with an average income of $668,350, and orthopedic surgeons take third with $605,330. Preventive medicine physicians are currently the lowest paid, with an average annual salary of $234,584.


Several factors impact compensation, but physicians who are part of a multi-specialty group rank highest with an average annual salary of $408,901 (compared to physicians employed by the government, who rank lowest with an average salary of $252,809.) Multi-specialty group physicians also saw the most significant increase in compensation between 2019 and 2020 of all employment types (4.1%).


Geography plays a sizeable role in how much physicians earn, too. Milwaukee, WI, ranks at the top with an average annual salary of $430,274, followed by Atlanta, GA, ($428,244) and Jacksonville, FL ($427,090). San Antonio, TX, ranks as the metro area with the lowest compensation for physicians in 2020, with an average annual salary of $329,475 — more than $50,000 below the national average.


Perhaps the most disappointing news from the report is that there is no specialty where women earn the same as or more than men. In fact, in 2020, female doctors earned an average of $116,289 less than their male counterparts. The gender gap is most prevalent in otolaryngology (ENT), where women earn an average of $384,983 compared to the average male salary of $493,888. Emergency medicine reports the smallest wage gap, with women earning an average of $315,376 and men earning an average of $360,756.

As the population becomes vaccinated and the pandemic slows, the healthcare sector will likely rebound. As it does, so will physicians’ average salaries. In the meantime, it’s crucial you know where you stand so you can make a case for the compensation you deserve.

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