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Orthopedic Surgery vs. Otolaryngology: Which Specialty is Right for You?

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by Yousmle Staff in Career

Orthopedic surgery vs. otolaryngology 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. otolaryngology 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. Otolaryngology: 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.

Otolaryngology, meanwhile, offers more job openings. You can easily find a hospital that needs an otolaryngologist, and the career outlook is positive, even if the salary is not as high as orthopedic surgery. But otolaryngology also comes 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 otolaryngologists have a lower average salary of $485,000. 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 otolaryngologists earn less with $485,000 annually

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Otolaryngology: 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. The unmatched percentage among US Seniors for otolaryngology was 30.8%, making it a highly competitive residency among US residencies. In comparison, 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. Otolaryngology

Orthopedic surgery had a 34.2% unmatched rate, while otolaryngology had a 30.8% unmatched rate among US seniors

Training Path: Residency

The training pathways for orthopedic surgery vs. otolaryngology are not the same. Otolaryngology involves a five-year otolaryngology residency. Orthopedic surgery involves a five-year orthopedic residency

Otolaryngology residencies 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. Otolaryngology: Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a crucial factor for many medical professionals. Both orthopedic surgeons and otolaryngologists have demanding schedules with long hours and on-call responsibilities. However, due to the nature of their work, otolaryngologists may have a slightly better work-life balance compared to plastic surgeons. Otolaryngologists generally have a more predictable work schedule and may have more chances to take time off.

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 otolaryngologists work 52.9 and 52.4 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 otolaryngologists work slightly fewer hours, at 52.4 per week.

Both orthopedists and otolaryngologists require administrative paperwork tasks, such as referral letters and diagnostic tests, resulting in an estimated 14 hours of admin/paperwork per week.

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

Both orthopedists and otolaryngologists work on admin/paperwork an average of 14 hours per week.

Training Duration and Subspecialties

The training duration is a key aspect to consider when choosing between orthopedic surgery vs. otolaryngology. Otolaryngology has a five-year training period, while orthopedic surgery requires a minimum of five years of residency after completing medical school.

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

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Otolaryngology: 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 otolaryngology. Many orthopedists express contentment with their career choice and would choose it again if given the chance. Additionally, orthopedic surgery has a slightly lower reported burnout rate than otolaryngology.

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 otolaryngology ranked slightly lower with 91% of otolaryngologists feeling the same way.

Job Satisfaction Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists reported a 95% job satisfaction rate, while otolaryngologists reported slightly lower satisfaction with 91%

That being said, the burnout rate for orthopedic surgery was 45%, near the lower end of all medical specialties. In comparison, otolaryngologists had a burnout rate of 49% ranking near the middle of all medical specialties.

Burnout Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists have a burnout rate of 45%, while otolaryngologists have a higher burnout rate of 49%.

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Otolaryngology Comparison

To provide a visual overview, here’s a table comparing orthopedic surgery and otolaryngology :

AspectOrthopedic SurgeryOtolaryngology
Average SalaryHigh, especially those focusing on high-demand joint/spine proceduresGenerally high income but lower than orthopedic surgery
Job SecurityHigh demand field as population ages. Injuries and sports will ensure job stability.High demand due to the wide range of conditions treated
Training PathTypically involves 5 years of orthopedic surgery residencyTypically involves 5 years of residency training
LifestylePredictable work schedule and increased opportunities for time off, but involve on-call responsibilities for trauma or accident casesMore predictable work schedule and may have more chances to take time off.
Administrative PaperworkModerate documentation requirements for surgery notes, consults, and orders.Moderate documentation requirements
Job SatisfactionGenerally high, satisfaction tied to successful surgeries and patient outcomes Slightly Lower
Burnout RatesLow to Moderate, depending on the workload and stress associated with surgical proceduresHigher
PersonalityDetail-oriented, mechanically inclined. Enjoy operative procedures.Good hand-eye coordination, ability to handle stress and pressure

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. otolaryngology 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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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.