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The Salary Difference Between a Cardiologist & a Cardiac Surgeon

by Dana Severson

Though cardiologists and cardiac surgeons specialize in the cardiovascular system, the two professions are fairly dissimilar yet often work in tandem with one another. Cardiologists specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disorders and diseases. Cardiac surgeons, on the other hand, specialize in the surgical correction of cardiovascular disorders and diseases. In general, cardiac surgeons operate on patients referred to them by cardiologists.

Cardiology Salaries

In 2012, half of all cardiologists earned at least $430,316 a year, according to a survey from the American Medical Group Association. A survey by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician recruiter, found that those specializing in noninvasive cardiology averaged $420,000, as of 2011. Cardiologists specializing in invasive cardiology earned nearly 27 percent more, at an average of $532,000 a year.

Cardiology Subspecialty Salaries

A survey by AMGA breaks out the earnings for invasive cardiology even further. As of 2011, electrophysiology cardiologists were the highest paid of all cardiologists, at an average of $601,111 a year. Those specializing in invasive-interventional cardiology averaged $586,083, while those working in invasive cardiology brought home closer to $550,000 a year.

Cardiac Surgery Salaries

Based on the AMGA survey, cardiac surgeons earned roughly 26 percent more than cardiologists in general. As of 2012, half of all cardiac surgeons earned at least $544,087 annually. A Medical Group Management Association survey provides a slightly higher figure for this specialty, setting the average at $550,000 a year. Those specializing in pediatric cardiovascular surgeries earned 13 percent more than the highest-paid subspecialty in cardiology, at an average of $681,408.

Starting Salaries

At the start of their careers, cardiologists and cardiac surgeons don’t earn nearly as much. As of 2011, cardiologists started at $272,000 a year, according to a survey by Profiles, an online physician resource. Cardiac surgeons earned 32 percent more, starting at $360,000 a year.

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, expect employment opportunities for both physicians and surgeons to be excellent. Between 2010 and 2020, the profession as a whole should grow by as much as 24 percent -- much faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, an estimated growth of 14 percent. Job prospects should be best for medical professionals specializing in cardiology.

About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.

Photo Credits

  • Jochen Sand/Digital Vision/Getty Images