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Would a Doctor of Osteopathy Get a Higher Salary If They Specialize in a Certain Area?

by Beth Greenwood

Physicians in the United States can be doctors of medicine or doctors of osteopathy. Each completes the usual course of college, medical school and residency and must be licensed to practice medicine. DO training also includes an emphasis on the musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine and holistic care, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). DOs can choose to specialize in any area of medicine.

Primary Care

Medical specialties generally are divided by the field of medicine or the field of surgery, although there are some specialties, such as interventional cardiology, that incorporate invasive techniques similar to surgery. In 2012, slightly more than 56 percent of DOs worked in the medically oriented field of primary care, according to the American Osteopathic Association. Primary care includes family practice, general internal medicine, and pediatric and adolescent medicine. The BLS reports the average annual salary of general pediatricians was $167,640 in 2012, while family and general practitioners earned $180,850. General internists earned $191,520.

Surgeons

More than 37 percent of osteopaths choose a specialty other than primary care or ob-gyn in 2012, according to the AOA. For those who chose surgery, salaries varied depending on the medical specialty, according to “Becker’s Hospital Review.” Breast surgeons earned the least in 2010, with average earnings of $324,295. General surgeons earned $368,108. Trauma and plastic and reconstructive surgeons had nearly identical earnings, at $432,155 and $433,510, respectively. The top-earning surgical specialty was neurological surgery, with an average annual salary of $767,627.

Surgical Subspecialties

Surgical subspecialization typically means increased income, according to Cejka Search, a nationwide physician recruiting firm. Orthopedic surgeons, for example, may practice general orthopedic surgery, specialize in an area such as the hand, perform joint replacements or concentrate on the spine. General orthopedic surgeons earned $515,759 in 2013, while orthopedic hand specialists earned $507,750. Joint replacement specialists earned $529,990 and those who specialized in the spine earned $710,556. Cardiovascular surgeons earned $560,659, but cardiovascular surgeons who specialized in pediatrics earned considerably more at $762,846, according to “Becker’s Hospital Review.”

Ob-Gyn and Other Specialties

Osteopaths in family practice sometimes add obstetrics to their practice, although they may also choose to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. In 2012, 4.6 percent of osteopaths specialized in ob-gyn, according to the AOA. Obstetrician-gynecologists earned $216,760 in 2012, according to the BLS. Two other possible specialties for osteopaths include psychiatry and anesthesiology. Psychiatrists earned $177,520 in 2012. Anesthesiologists, however, had the highest average annual salary of all medical specialties tracked by the BLS, at $232,830 annually in 2012.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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