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What Makes More Money: an Orthopedic Surgeon or a Chiropractor?

by Forest Time

Chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons are specialists that treat conditions of the neuromusculoskeletal system. While chiropractors perform manual therapy, orthopedic surgeons are responsible for conducting invasive surgeries. Chiropractors tend to be well-compensated, but orthopedic surgeons typically make much more money and are among the most highly-paid specialists in all of medicine.

Pay Range for Chiropractors

As of 2012, chiropractors reported an average annual salary of $79,550 to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The pay range for chiropractors is wide: the lowest-paid 10 percent of those surveyed brought home $31,030 or less a year, while the highest-paid 10 percent reported annual incomes in excess of $142,950. According to a salary survey conducted by chiropractic website Chiroeco.com, gender also plays a role in chiropractor salaries: female chiropractors reported a median annual salary of $67,500, while males earned a median salary of $81,500.

Pay Range for Orthopedists

According to a salary survey conducted by Medscape, orthopedists earned an average compensation of $405,000 per year as of 2012. Only 11 percent of orthopedists made $100,000 or less. About 85 percent of orthopedists made $200,000 or more per year, and some reported a much higher salary. For example, 35 percent of orthopedists earned $500,000 or more per year, and 8 percent reported annual compensation packages of $750,000 or more. Unlike with most medical specialties, female orthopedists reported a higher average salary than male orthopedists in 2012, $422,000 per year. Male orthopedists earned an average of $403,000 per year.

Pay by Employment Situation

As of 2012, chiropractors employed in general hospitals reported a below-average salary for their occupation, $64,350 per year, according to the BLS. Those who practiced out of their own office fared better, averaging $79,480 per year, and those who were employed by physician's offices averaged $76,090. Orthopedists likewise reported a lower average salary when employed at hospitals -- $396,000 -- than those in private practice, who earned an average of $422,000 in multi-specialty group practices and $469,000 working for single-specialty group practices.

Compensation by Region

Chiropractors generally fared best in the eastern half of the U.S. as of 2012. Though the BLS reported that the highest average pay, $157,420 per year, occurred in Alaska, the next highest was $126,060 in Ohio and $113,330 in North Carolina. Orthopedists, on the other hand, fared worst in the eastern half of the U.S., with Medscape reporting an average compensation of $255,000 in the Northeast and $248,000 in the Mid-Atlantic states. The highest average pay for orthopedists, $652,000 per year, occurred in the Northwest, which includes Alaska.

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