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Orthopedic Surgery vs. Hematology and Oncology: Which Specialty is Right for You?

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by Yousmle Staff in Career

Orthopedic surgery vs. hematology and oncology 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. hematology-oncology 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. Hematology and Oncology: 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.

Hematology-oncology, meanwhile, offers more job openings. You can easily find a hospital that needs hematologist-oncologists, and the career outlook is positive, even if the salary is not as high as orthopedic surgery. But hematology-oncology also comes with some challenges, such as higher burnout, which we will discuss later.

According to recent data, orthopedists earn an average annual salary of $573,000, while hematologist-oncologists have a lower average salary of $463,000. 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

Orthopedists earn $573,000 per year on average, while hematologist-oncologists earn less with $463,000 annually

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Hematology and Oncology: 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 into 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  among US seniors

To pursue a career in hematology-oncology, 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 hematology-oncology is 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 the hematology-oncology fellowship was 11.9%, making it moderately competitive compared to most fellowships with >100 applicants.

Training Path: Residency

The training pathways for orthopedic surgery vs. hematology-oncology are not the same. To become a hematologist-oncologist, you must complete a three-year fellowship in hematology-oncology after completing an internal medicine residency. Orthopedic surgery involves a five-year orthopedic residency

Both hematology-oncology fellowships and orthopedic surgery residencies are highly competitive. 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. Hematology and Oncology: Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a crucial factor for many medical professionals. Hematologist-oncologists 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 and hematologist-oncologists work 52.9 and 52.6 hours per week, respectively, ranking them above the middle of medical specialties.

Estimated Physician Weekly Working Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists work an average of 52.9 hours per week, while hematologist-oncologists work slightly fewer hours, at 52.6 per week.

Orthopedic surgeons spend an estimated 14 hours per week on administrative paperwork tasks, such as referrals and tests. In comparison, hematologist-oncologists spend more hours, approximately 18 hours per week, due to extensive diagnostic and follow-up tests.

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

Orthopedists work on admin/paperwork an average of 14 hours per week, while hematologists-oncologists work more hours, at 18 per week.

Training Duration and Subspecialties

The training duration is a key aspect to consider when choosing between orthopedic surgery vs. hematologist-oncologists. Hematology-oncology has a six-year training period, while orthopedic surgery has a minimum of five-year residency program.

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. Hematology and Oncology: Job Satisfaction and Burnout Rates

Job satisfaction plays a significant role in career fulfillment. According to various studies, both orthopedists and hematologist-oncologists tend to have high job satisfaction rates, with many professionals expressing contentment with their career choice and would choose it again if given the chance. However, orthopedic surgery has lower reported burnout rates than hematology-oncology

According to recent data, both orthopedic surgery and hematology-oncology are highly ranked among medical specialties, with 95% of orthopedic surgeons and 94% of hematologist-oncologists stating that they would choose the same specialty again.

Job Satisfaction Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists reported a 95% job satisfaction rate, while hematologists-oncologists reported slightly lower satisfaction with 94%

That being said, the burnout rate for orthopedic surgery was 45%, near the lower end of all medical specialties. In comparison, hematology-oncology had a burnout rate of 52%, ranking above the middle of all medical specialties.

Burnout Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists have a burnout rate of 45%, while hematologists-oncologists have a higher burnout rate of 52%.

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Hematology-Oncology Comparison

To provide a visual overview, here’s a table comparing orthopedic surgery and hematologists-oncology:

AspectOrthopedic SurgeryHematology and Oncology
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 the prevalence of blood disorders and cancer, aging population
Training PathTypically involves 5 years of orthopedic surgery residencyTypically involves 3 years of internal medicine residency followed by a 3-year hematology-oncology fellowship
LifestylePredictable work schedule and increased opportunities for time off, but involve on-call responsibilities for trauma or accident casesMore predictable work schedule and increased opportunities for time off, but may involve on-call responsibilities
Administrative PaperworkModerate documentation requirements for surgery notes, consults, and orders.Higher documentation requirements including detailed patient records and treatment plans
Job SatisfactionGenerally high, satisfaction tied to successful surgeries and patient outcomesSlightly lower
Burnout RatesLow to Moderate, depending on the workload and stress associated with surgical proceduresHigher
PersonalityDetail-oriented, mechanically inclined. Enjoy operative procedures.Strong analytical skills, empathy, ability to deliver difficult news, handle emotional situations

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. hematology-oncology 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 own preferences.

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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.