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Orthopedic Surgery vs. Diabetes & Endocrinology: Which Specialty is Right for You?

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by Yousmle Staff in Career

Orthopedic surgery vs. diabetes and endocrinology is one of the biggest debates among medical students interested in physiology. Both specialties allow you to explore the complex workings of the human body and use your skills to improve patient outcomes. However, they also have significant differences, such as the scope of practice, the work environment, and the training requirements.

How do you decide which one is right for you? In this article, we will provide helpful information and tips to help you make an intelligent decision on orthopedic surgery vs. diabetes and endocrinology and find a fulfilling career that matches your interests and abilities. We will also help you evaluate practical factors such as job availability, salary, and training duration.

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Diabetes & Endocrinology: Salary and Job Security

Orthopedic surgery might be your specialty if you want to earn a lot of money and have a steady demand for your services. But be prepared for a competitive job market, even if you graduate from a prestigious program.

Diabetes and endocrinology meanwhile, offers more job openings. You can easily find a hospital that needs endocrinologists and diabetologists, and the career outlook is positive, even if the salary is not as high as orthopedic surgery. However, diabetes and endocrinology also come with some challenges, such as higher burnout and less job security, which we will discuss later.

According to recent data, orthopedists earn an average annual salary of $573,000, while endocrinologists and diabetologists earn less with an average of $267,000. Of all medical specialties, only plastic surgeons have higher average annual salaries than orthopedists, with plastic surgeons earning $619,000.

Estimated Physician Average Yearly Salary by Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedic surgeons earn $573,000 per year on average, while endocrinologists and diabetologists earn less with $267,000 annually

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Diabetes & Endocrinology: Competitiveness

Here we can assess the competitiveness of a specialty by looking at the unmatched rate – the % of people who apply and do not match their preferred specialty Orthopedic surgery was the 2nd most competitive residency in the 2022 Match, with a 34.2% unmatched rate among US Seniors. Only plastic surgery had a higher percentage of 37.3%.

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Hematology and Oncology

Orthopedic surgery had a 34.2% unmatched rate, while internal medicine had a 2% unmatched rate among US seniors

To pursue a career in diabetes and endocrinology, you must first match into an internal medicine residency. Among US Seniors, the unmatched percentage for internal medicine residency was only 2%, making it less competitive than other residencies. However, this does not mean that diabetes and endocrinology are less competitive. After completing your internal medicine residency, you will still need to match into a fellowship, which is generally more competitive than matching into a residency. 

Below is the unmatched percentage among non-pediatric fellowships with >100 applicants. The unmatched percentage of US Seniors applying to diabetes and endocrinology fellowship was 4.6%, making it less competitive compared to most fellowships with >100 applicants.

Training Path: Residency

The training pathways for orthopedic surgery vs. diabetes and endocrinology are not the same. Diabetes and endocrinology involves a three-year residency in internal medicine followed by a two-year fellowship in endocrinology. Orthopedic surgery involves a five-year orthopedic residency

Diabetes and endocrinology fellowships are typically less competitive than orthopedic surgery residencies. Your USMLE scores, med school, and research are the main things for residency applications. Research is also a big thing for fellowship applications, and your residency program counts more, but your USMLE scores matter much less.

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Diabetes & Endocrinology: Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a crucial factor for many medical professionals. Endocrinologists and diabetologists often enjoy a better work-life balance due to the nature of their work. They usually have predetermined working hours, leading to more predictable schedules.

In comparison, orthopedic surgeons often have demanding surgical schedules and may work long hours in the operating room. They may also be on-call for emergencies such as trauma or accidents.

On average, orthopedic surgeons work 52.9 hours per week, which is above the middle of all medical specialties. In comparison, endocrinologists and diabetologists work an average of 48.9 hours per week, ranking near the middle of all medical specialties.

Estimated Physician Weekly Working Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists work an average of 52.9 hours per week, while diabetologists/endocrinologists work fewer hours, at 48.9 per week.

Orthopedic surgeons spend 14 hours per week on administrative paperwork tasks, such as referral letters and diagnostic tests. In comparison, endocrinologists and diabetologists have to spend more hours with 16 hours per week, ranking near the upper end of all medical specialties.

Estimated Physician Admin/Paperwork Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedic surgeons work on admin/paperwork an average of 14 hours per week, while endocrinologists and diabetologists work more hours, at 16 per week.

Training Duration and Subspecialties

The training duration is a key aspect to consider when choosing between orthopedic surgery vs. diabetes and endocrinology. Diabetes and endocrinology require a minimum five-year training period, including three years of internal medicine residency, while orthopedic surgery has a minimum of five years of orthopedic residency.

After completing an orthopedic surgery residency program, some surgeons may choose to pursue additional fellowships to further specialize in a particular aspect of orthopedic surgery. This can increase the length of your orthopedic surgery training.

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Diabetes & Endocrinology: Job Satisfaction and Burnout Rates

Job satisfaction plays a significant role in career fulfillment. According to various studies, orthopedic surgery tends to have higher job satisfaction rates than diabetes and endocrinology. Many orthopedists express contentment with their career choice and would choose it again if given the chance. Additionally, orthopedic surgery has lower reported burnout rates than diabetes and endocrinology.

According to recent data, orthopedic surgery ranked near the upper end of all medical specialties with 95% of orthopedists stating that they would choose the same specialty again, while diabetes and endocrinology ranked in the middle of the specialties with 85% of endocrinologists feeling the same way.

Job Satisfaction Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists reported a 95% job satisfaction rate, while endocrinologists reported lower satisfaction with 85%

That being said, the burnout rate for orthopedic surgery was 45%, near the lower end of all medical specialties. In comparison, diabetes and endocrinology reported a burnout rate of 51%, ranking them in the middle of all medical specialties.

Burnout Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists have a burnout rate of 45%, while endocrinologists have a higher burnout rate of 51%.

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Diabetes & Endocrinology Comparison

To provide a visual overview, here’s a table comparing orthopedic surgery vs diabetes and endocrinology:

AspectOrthopedic SurgeryDiabetes and Endocrinology
Average SalaryHigh, especially those focusing on high-demand joint/spine proceduresLower than orthopedic surgery
Job SecurityHigh demand field as population ages. Injuries and sports will ensure job stability.High demand due to increasing rates of diabetes, hormone-related disorders, and other endocrine conditions
Training PathTypically involves 5 years of orthopedic surgery residencyTypically involves 3 years of internal medicine residency, and 2-3 years of endocrinology fellowship
LifestylePredictable work schedule and increased opportunities for time off, but involve on-call responsibilities for trauma or accident casesMore regular working hours, but may also involve on-call duties and emergency consultations
Administrative PaperworkModerate documentation requirements for surgery notes, consults, and orders.Moderate to High administrative requirements.
Job SatisfactionGenerally high, satisfaction tied to successful surgeries and patient outcomesLower
Burnout RatesLow to Moderate, depending on the workload and stress associated with surgical proceduresHigher
PersonalityDetail-oriented, mechanically inclined. Enjoy operative procedures.Strong problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and ability to manage complex and chronic conditions related to hormones and metabolism

Please note that this table serves as a general comparison. To determine the most suitable career for you, consider your personal and career priorities and goals.

Concluding Thoughts

Choosing the right specialty between orthopedic surgery vs. diabetes and endocrinology depends heavily on your priorities. To determine this, try reverse engineering your ideal life and identify your top priority. A helpful exercise is to write down the top five things you want to achieve in your career and personal life. Knowing these priorities will make finding a career that aligns with them easier. Often, the biggest obstacle is not a lack of knowledge about different fields but a lack of self-awareness about our preferences.

Want FREE Cardiology Flashcards?

Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored USMLE 270 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.

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