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Physician Salary Per Hour by Specialty

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by Alec Palmerton, MD in Residency

How much do doctors in each medical specialty make per hour? What is their annual salary? And how does this compare with specialty/residency competitiveness?

In this article, we will explore:

  • How much do doctors in the various medical specialties make per year,
  • Physician Salary Per Hour by Specialty,
  • How hourly salary compares to the competitiveness of the specialty in the Match, and
  • Much more!

Table of Contents

Annual Physician Salary by Specialty

Most discussions about physician yearly salary by specialty begin and end at the total annual salary. Here is the average annual salary (and median if annual salary not available) for many of the most common medical specialties in the United States in 2022.

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Annual Physician Salary by Specialty Misses # Hours Worked

A friend told me once of medical specialties:

The bigger the car, the less time to drive it

My friend’s point? The annual salaries of specialties can hide the fact that those specialties may simply be working (many) more hours. In other words, what’s the point of making more money if you don’t have any time to spend it?

Estimated Physician Salary Per Hour by Specialty

The obvious solution to this dilemma is to look at the physician salary per hour by specialty. The problem? Few resources exist to make such estimates. While annual physician salary by specialty data are plentiful, finding information on the # of hours/week – and # of weeks worked in a year – is much harder to find.

Here are the data we could find.

Average Annual SalaryAverage Hourly SalaryOn-Call ScheduleHours/WeekAvg Weeks Worked/Year
Critical Care$369,000.00$114.9166.9
Diagnostic Radiology$437,000.00$170.46Low5844.2
Emergency Medicine$373,000.00$169.59Medium46.447.4
Family Medicine$255,000.00$101.85Medium52.647.6
General Surgery$402,000.00$141.88High59.447.7
Infectious Diseases$260,000.00$101.44High53.4
Internal Medicine$264,000.00$100.81Medium54.947.7
Interventional Radiology$437,000.00
Neurological Surgery (Assistant Prof. Median)$600,500.00$214.96Medium58.2
Obstetrics and Gynecology$336,000.00$123.26Medium5847
Orthopaedic Surgery$557,000.00$207.91Medium5747
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation$322,000.00$147.7645.4
Plastic Surgery$576,000.00$230.77Medium52
Pulmonary Med$353,000.00$119.77Medium61.4
Radiation Oncology (Assistant Prof. Median)$393,734.00$158.36Low51.8
Total Average$381,233.35$147.4453.9

And the estimated physician salary per hour by specialty:

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Note: when data were unavailable for weeks worked per year, 48 weeks was used as an estimate to calculate the estimated hourly salary.

Caveats to the Data

The sources used are listed below. Note there are some significant caveats, including:

  • The sources for the salary data are much more current than the estimates of physician hours.
  • When average annual salary data were unavailable (neurosurgery, radiation oncology), the median assistant professor salary was used instead. (AAMC Faculty Salary Report 2020-2021).
  • Outside of part-time and/or locum work, I know of no situation where physicians are actually paid on an hourly basis.
  • Obviously these are averages, and thus one’s individual situation will vary a lot depending on circumstances. Off the top of my head, that would include:
    • Practice setting (e.g., academics vs. group private practice vs. solo), particular’s of one’s group (if relevant), geography (if you’re the only neurosurgeon in the county, you’ll be on call a lot), among many other things.

That said, it’s unlikely that the hours have changed dramatically since the Annual Work Hours Across Physician Specialties in 2011.

How Does Physician Salary per Hour Affect Residency Competitiveness?

One interesting question is how the (admittedly rough) estimates of physician salary per hour by specialty affect that residency’s competitiveness. As an (imperfect) proxy for residency competitiveness, we used the Unmatched %. This was calculated for the specialties in the NRMP Match by taking the # of unmatched US Seniors divided by the total US Seniors applying in that specialty.

Here are the data:

Average Annual Salary ($1,000's)Average Hourly SalaryOn-Call ScheduleUS Senior MD Unmatched %
Critical Care$369,000.00$114.91
Diagnostic Radiology$437,000.00$170.46Low17%
Emergency Medicine$373,000.00$169.59Medium2%
Family Medicine$255,000.00$101.85Medium2%
General Surgery$402,000.00$141.88High18%
Infectious Diseases$260,000.00$101.44High
Internal Medicine$264,000.00$100.81Medium2%
Interventional Radiology$437,000.0019%
Neurological Surgery (Assistant Prof. Median)$600,500.00$214.96Medium26%
Obstetrics and Gynecology$336,000.00$123.26Medium16%
Orthopaedic Surgery$557,000.00$207.91Medium34%
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation$322,000.00$147.7614%
Plastic Surgery$576,000.00$230.77Medium37%
Pulmonary Med$353,000.00$119.77Medium
Radiation Oncology (Assistant Prof. Median)$393,734.00$158.36Low2%
Total Average$381,233.35$147.44
Physician Salary per Hour and Specialty Competitiveness Correlate Strongly

We can graph the estimated hourly salary of US medical specialty against the unmatched % of US Seniors applying to those residencies.

Here are the hourly salary and unmatched % data side-by-side.

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The strength of the correlation is striking. As a reminder, a R2 of 0.676 means that 67.6% of the variation for our proxy for residency competitiveness could be explained by the estimated average hourly salary.

Of course, it’s not surprising that specialties that pay more would be more competitive. However, what is particularly surprising is just how well hourly pay explains specialty competitiveness.

Concluding Thoughts

Perhaps the most surprising thing in writing this article was how hard it was to find good data on the hourly salary of physicians by specialty. A common theme in my medical training was that discussing salary was taboo. We enter medicine to help others – it’s almost dirty to talk about money.

That said, knowledge is power. Money has different meanings to different people. To one person, making more per hour in a given specialty may be a means to pay off the debt faster. To another, a higher hourly salary for a particular specialty – and more controlled hours – may mean more time with their family. There are many reasons why people make decisions.

Are you surprised by how well physician salary per hour by specialty correlates with residency competitiveness? What does a physician’s salary meant to you? Let us know in the comments!


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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.