FREE Consult: Master More - Faster - for Impressive Boards ScoresSCHEDULE CALL
FREE Consult: Master More - Faster - for Impressive Boards Scores


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

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.

by Yousmle Staff in Career

Orthopedic surgery vs. pathology is one of the 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. pathology 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. Pathology: 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.

Pathology, meanwhile, offers more job openings. You can easily find a hospital that needs pathologists, and the career outlook is positive, even if the salary is not as high as orthopedic surgery. But pathology also comes with some challenges, such as less job security, which we will discuss later.

According to recent data, orthopedists earn an average annual salary of $573,000, while pathologists have a lower average salary of $339,000. 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 pathologists earn less with $339,000 annually

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Pathology: 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. Pathology had a 2% unmatched rate among US Seniors, making it less competitive among US residencies. In contrast, orthopedic surgery was the 2nd most competitive residency in the 2022 Match, having a 34.2% unmatched rate among US Seniors. Only plastic surgery had a higher percentage of 37.3%.

Orthopedic Surgery vs Pathology

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

Training Path: Residency

The training pathways for orthopedic surgery vs. pathology are not the same. Pathology involves a three to four-year pathology residency. Orthopedic surgery involves a five-year orthopedic residency

Pathology 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. Pathology: Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a crucial factor for many medical professionals. Pathologists 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. However, it’s worth mentioning that this also means pathologists are thought to be more easily replaced, as they don’t typically maintain a panel of patients like their orthopedic surgery counterparts.

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 weekly, ranking above the middle of all medical specialties. In comparison, pathologists work an average of 48.2 hours per week, ranking below 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 pathologists work fewer hours, at 48.2 per week.

Orthopedists require documentation, such as referral letters and diagnostic tests, resulting in an estimated 14 hours of admin/paperwork per week. The estimated physician admin/paperwork hours were not provided for pathology, but you can see estimated paperwork hours for other specialties below.

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

Orthopedists 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. pathology. Pathology has a three to four-year training period, while orthopedic surgery has a five-year residency training period.

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. Pathology: 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 pathology. Many orthopedists express contentment with their career choice and would choose it again if given the chance.

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 pathology ranked lower with 81% of pathologists feeling the same way.

Job Satisfaction Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists reported a 95% job satisfaction rate, while pathologists reported lower satisfaction with 81%

The burnout rates for orthopedic surgery and pathology were 45% and 39%, respectively, ranking them near the lower end of all medical specialties.

Burnout Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Orthopedists have a burnout rate of 45%, while pathologists have a slightly lower burnout rate at 39%.

Orthopedic Surgery vs. Pathology Comparison

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

AspectOrthopedic SurgeryPathology
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 demand for diagnostic and molecular testing
Training PathTypically involves 5 years of orthopedic surgery residencyTypically involves 3-4 years of pathology residency
LifestylePredictable work schedule and increased opportunities for time off, but involve on-call responsibilities for trauma or accident casesLess patient contact, more lab-based work, regular hours
Administrative PaperworkModerate documentation requirements for surgery notes, consults, and orders.High documentation requirements for specimen analysis, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations
Job SatisfactionGenerally high, satisfaction tied to successful surgeries and patient outcomesLower

Burnout RatesLow to Moderate, depending on the workload and stress associated with surgical proceduresSlightly lower than orthopedic surgery
PersonalityDetail-oriented, mechanically inclined. Enjoy operative procedures.Strong problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and ability to handle large volumes of complex data and information

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. pathology 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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.