What Kind of Doctor Gets Paid the Most Money?

by Aurelio Locsin

When diseases attack the unwary, injuries afflict the active and death threatens the living, doctors bring all their knowledge and expertise to bear in restoring normal health. They arguably deserve their high salaries. But even society values one medical specialty more than others by rewarding it with the highest compensation in the country.


Doctors held the top nine highest-paid positions as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within this august group, only one group of physicians occupied the top spot: anesthesiologists. They earned a mean $232,830 per year for managing patient pain before, during and after surgery. Even the lowest-paid 10 percent received less than $135,110, far higher than the mean $73,540 yearly made by all health care practitioners and more than the average annual $45,790 made by all occupations in the country. The next highest-paying occupation belonged to surgeons, who averaged $230,540 per year.

Regional Comparisons

The states with the highest pay for anesthesiologists were Wyoming, Tennessee, Oregon, Oklahoma and North Carolina. Among cities, that distinction went to Hartford, Connecticut; Burlington, Vermont; Youngstown, Ohio; York, Pennsylvania; and Wichita, Kansas. In rural areas, the top payers were in northeastern Wyoming, north-central West Virginia, southern Oregon and parts of North Carolina. These locations showed no common elements other than having pay for the profession that exceeded $187,199 per year.

Contributing Factors

Employers are the main factors in employment opportunities and pay for anesthesiologists. For example, anesthesiologists working for themselves topped the opportunity list with more than 80 percent of the 29,930 anesthesiology positions. They also earned the highest compensation of $241,910 per year. Ranking a distant second for number of jobs were general medical and surgical hospitals, with 12 percent of the positions and mean pay at an annual $196,700. At No. 2 for pay were specialty hospitals that did not include psychiatry and substance abuse. They offered yearly salaries of $229,400.

Job Outlook

As the country’s large baby-boom population becomes more elderly, they will require more diagnostic tests and medical treatments to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. This factor will drive the 24 percent increase in jobs for all doctors, including anesthesiologists, from 2010 to 2020. Compare this rate with the 14 percent growth expected for all other occupations in other industries. The best opportunities will go to those who can practice in rural and low-income areas, which have traditionally had trouble attracting and keeping medical professionals. Doctors specializing in the needs of the elderly will also find excellent prospects.

About the Author

Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.

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