Orthopedics is no longer the highest-paid specialty: 19 insights on compensation, net worth & more


Orthopedic surgeons are no longer the highest-paid medical specialty in the U.S., with plastic surgeons on average taking home a larger salary each year, according to Medscape's "Physician Compensation Report 2021."

Nineteen insights on orthopedic surgeon compensation, incentive bonuses, net worth and more, drawn from five recent reports:

1. The average annual pay for orthopedic surgeons is $511,000, the same as last year. Plastic surgeons topped Medscape's 2021 list with an average pay of $526,000.

2. On average, orthopedic surgeons generate $3.29 million a year in revenue for hospitals, the fourth-highest of any specialty, according to Merritt Hawkins.

3. Orthopedic surgeons earn the highest incentive bonuses, taking home $116,000 on average each year. The same three specialties — orthopedics, ophthalmology and otolaryngology — topped the list last year.

4. Nineteen percent of orthopedic surgeons reported having a net worth of more than $5 million, the highest of any specialty, according to Medscape's "Physician Debt and Net Worth Report 2020."

5. Average guaranteed income/base salary offered to orthopedic surgeons over the past five years was:

2019-20: $626,000
2018-19: $536,000
2017-18: $533,000
2016-17: $579,000
2015-16: $521,000

6. Forty-two percent of specialists expect to return to pre-pandemic income levels this year, while 41 percent anticipate reaching normal levels in two to three years.

7. Fifty-three percent of orthopedic surgeons report being fairly compensated for their work.

8. Orthopedic surgery is the specialty with the third-largest gender wage gap, according to Doximity's "2020 Physician Compensation Report." Male orthopedists earn an average salary of $614,447, compared to $491,770 for women.

9. Female orthopedic surgeons earn on average $122,677 per year less than their male counterparts, according to Doximity's "2020 Physician Compensation Report."

10. Only 9 percent of women physicians specialize in orthopedics.

11. According to Medscape, the top-earning states for physicians on average are:

Alabama: $348,000
Kentucky: $340,000
Oklahoma: $338,000
Indiana: $332,000
Missouri: $332,000

12. Compensation and reimbursement factor into burnout for 34 percent of orthopedists.

13. More than one-third of orthopedists are burned out. 

14. The top three burnout contributors are bureaucratic tasks (65 percent), increasing computerization of medical practice (44 percent) and insufficient compensation/reimbursement (34 percent).

15. Orthopedic surgeons report spending 13.9 hours per week on administrative work, the seventh lowest of any specialty.

16. Orthopedic surgeons report having about 18 percent of their claims denied.

17. Among specialists in Medscape's survey, 22 percent of orthopedic surgeons had a mortgage of over $500,000.

18. Twenty-eight percent of orthopedic surgeons are still paying medical school debt.

19. If given the opportunity, 96 percent of orthopedic surgeons would choose orthopedics as their specialty again.

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