Orthopedic Surgeon Salary by Region, Practice and Subspecialty

Orthopedic surgeon physicians garner one of the highest paid salaries in the medical arena. In the top five highest paid specialties , they sit above cardiologists, anesthesiologists, and many others in regard to compensation. This might be one of the reasons orthopedic surgery physicians are drawn to this medical specialty. Beyond the pay grade, you may decide to get into this specialty for other reasons. You are likely interested in the musculoskeletal system and helping people who have problems with it.

These specialized physicians carry out surgery on the different parts of this bodily system. Such surgeries include bones, muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves. They help people who have trauma, injuries, diseases or other problems with the musculoskeletal system. An orthopedic surgeon can provide surgery as a solution to those problems.. So, you might help someone with a sports injury, a broken bone, arthritis or some other problem that has caused symptoms like pain and reduced mobility. It’s likely that you would specialize in a certain area of orthopedics, which may be broken down by a specific part of the body, the population you serve or an area like sports medicine.

In this article, we go over the salary and other types of income you could expect by working as an orthopedic surgeon. We consider a range of factors that can help to increase compensation, so you can command as much as possible within your field. We also cover how to take care of school debt and negotiate your salary.

Average Orthopedic Surgeon Salary

Like any other type of doctor, these physicians complete four years of undergraduate education and then four years of medical school. After that, orthopedic surgeons go through five years of residency, after which they may continue with fellowship training and/or board certification. Given all of this schooling and training, it makes sense that this profession would be a high-paying one.

The median salary for this occupation nationwide is $629,360, according to the 2021 report of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). Median salary refers to the number at which 50 percent of people working in this position make less while 50 percent make more. The compensation noted by MGMA, which is total compensation, ranges from $341,032 in the 10th percentile to $1,045,590 in the 90th percentile.

You’ll notice variations in salary for this occupation, depending on the source. Salary.com’s data from 2022 notes a median salary for an orthopedic surgeon of $508,110, with a range of $300,578 to $793,206. Payscale gives an average of $385,902, ranging from $142,000 to $598,000. Nonetheless, these amounts are listed as base salary without things like bonuses, profit sharing and the value of benefits included. We’ll cover more about how these aspects affect salary in a section below.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from 2021 gives a mean annual wage for orthopedic surgeons (with the exception of pediatric) of $306,220.

Factors That Affect an Orthopedic Surgeon’s Salary

You probably noticed that there is a broad difference between the lower end and higher end of salaries for an orthopedic surgery physician. Numerous factors play a role in the salary this professional can expect to receive. Let’s see what some of those are.

Region

As an orthopedic surgeon, you can expect to make different salaries depending on where you practice your specialty. The income level varies by the geographical region within the nation. Here is how it breaks down by median salary:

  • Western U.S.: $514,812
  • Eastern U.S.: $589,055
  • Southern U.S.: $655,429
  • Midwestern U.S.: $702,480

There is also a slight difference by the population density of the area where you work. While metropolitan size plays a large role in some physician specialties, it is less important for this one, as the median salary range stays within the range of $600,000 to $700,000 regardless of population size. Nonetheless, you do have the opportunity to increase your income by living in a certain area.

You may expect to make more in the busiest areas, but it does not necessarily work that way. On the lowest end of the pay scale, orthopedic surgeons make a median salary of $600,000 in metro areas of more than one million people, which is the largest metropolitan size listed. At the higher end of the pay scale, they make $700,000 in metro areas under 250,000 people. The next highest salary is for non-metro areas of 20,000 or more with a salary of $693,508.

Years of Experience

In any profession, you can expect to make less starting out and then increase your income as you gain years of experience. ZipRecruiter shows that an orthopedic surgery resident in the United States makes an average salary of $86,772.

Payscale shows that salary for orthopedic surgeons is nine percent less in their early careers. In their late careers, they can expect to make five percent more.

Practice Type

You have an opportunity to increase your salary by the type of practice where you work. Physician-owned practices provide the lowest median salary for this specialty, at $487,419. Other majority owner practices come next, at $606,595. The highest salary is found through hospital/IDS owned organizations, which provide a median orthopedic physician salary of $661,923.

There is also a slight difference between practices that have a single specialty versus those with multiple specialties. You would make more in a single specialty practice, which has a median salary of $655,429, compared to that of a multispecialty practice, at $618,604.

Additional Compensation

A physician can expect a base salary, and then there is additional income that can be added to create total compensation. This may vary from one place of work to another and from one data source to another. Yet, additional compensation can be part of your contract negotiations to command a higher income.

Salary.com shows that this profession can expect a median bonus of $41,770 per year. In addition, you need to consider the value of your benefits package. When you add in benefits and the bonus, the median is $674,679 in total compensation, compared to the base salary of $508,110. In addition to bonuses, Payscale explains that these surgeons could potentially earn additional income through profit sharing and commissions. This source gives a range of $99 to $81,000 for profit sharing in this profession, and a range of $0 to $52,000 in commissions. It also lists a range of $2,000 to $125,000 for bonuses.

Credentials and Specialties

Factors like your education, skills and certifications all impact your salary. For instance, you could expect to earn more by gaining board certification in orthopedic surgery or becoming fellowship-trained in a sub-specialty.

There are various skills and specialties that change this type of physician’s average base salary. Here are some examples of skills within orthopedic surgery, according to Payscale data:

  • Medicine/Surgery: $364,305
  • General Surgery: $365,281
  • Surgery: $395,790
  • Orthopedics: $399,500
  • Leadership: $389,154
  • Stem Cell Transplantation: $423,648
  • Emergency/Trauma: $447,555

Also, orthopedic surgeon salary is often broken down into subspecialties related to the part of the body, population or other specialty. Here is subspecialist compensation data on median salary, from the American Medical Group Association (AMGA):

Part of Body:

  • Foot/Ankle: $505,606
  • Hand: $513,864
  • Joint Replacement: $563,896
  • Spine: $749,445

Other Subspecialties:

    • Pediatrics: $516,544
    • Trauma: $540,197
    • Sports Medicine: $549,048
    • Oncology: $569,353

 

Average Loan Debt for Physicians in This Specialty

Just as orthopedic surgeons are one of the highest-paid physicians, they are also one of the top when it comes to student loan debt. Student Loan Planner notes that they are number two of the medical specialties with most debt, with a median total of $190,000 in school debt, dwarfed only by emergency medicine. Since you make less during residency training and then at the start of your career, it can take time before you make the income levels needed to significantly pay off this level of debt.

Nonetheless, an orthopedic surgery specialization is a good one for eventually making a significant income that can make student loan debt manageable.

In addition, there are some steps you can take to control it:

You may be able to refinance your loans for a reduced interest rate. This will save you money in the long run as you pay off the loans.

There are also federal loan forgiveness or reduction programs that medical school borrowers may be able to rely on.

Medical institutions and non-profits also offer loan repayment programs for fellows. This fellowship training could help you pay off your loans while also gaining advanced specialization that helps you earn more.

You may also find employers, such as hospitals, that include loan repayment within the terms of employment. This factor could provide a benefit of certain employers over others, at least in the beginning of your career.

Further, negotiating the best compensation possible within your career makes it easier to pay off your debts. In this long run this will make you more satisfied with your income.

Ways for Orthopedic Surgeons to Increase Their Salary

Going into this physician specialty is a good choice from the start when considering the best salary possible, as it is one of the top-paid physician types. That said, you can further increase your compensation within this specialty. This will happen naturally as you transition from the early stage of your career to the mid- and late-stages, gaining years of experience. Nonetheless, you can actively take steps to earn even more. These are main ways to do so:

Pick a High-Paying Subspecialty

You can earn more throughout your career by initially choosing one of the higher paying subspecialties. As we saw from the data in the field, some top-paying orthopedic surgery subspecialties include spine, oncology and joint replacement.

Strategize Where You Work

You may determine the best location from the start or you may make a strategic career move after gaining some experience. Either way, choosing certain places to work can increase your compensation considerably. Location includes both the type of practice where you work and the area where the practice is. Through the data, we saw that you can make significantly more by working for a hospital/IDS owned organization compared to a physician owned practice. You could also think about moving to one of the highest paid areas in the country for this field, such as the Midwest and a metro area with under 250,000 people. If you do move, negotiating a relocation bonus can increase your net income even more.

Negotiate Your Orthopedic Surgeon Salary & other Compensation

A major way to impact your salary is through negotiations. This is something to carry out when you first gain a position, as well as when there is a change to your credentials or work situation, such as a new skill, the desire to buy in to profit sharing or a change within your organization. The data shows that total compensation can be more than $150,000 over the base salary, when you factor in additional compensation like bonuses and benefits.

Keep total compensation in mind when negotiating your contract. Beyond base salary, negotiate for things like profit sharing, signing or production bonuses, commissions and a good benefits package. You may also want to negotiate your hours and work load. This could provide a better work-life balance or free up additional time for you to earn more. The people you negotiate with expect to bring the amount down from the number you suggest, so ask for more than you would be satisfied with.

Gain Assistance With Contract Negotiations

Orthopedic surgery is your specialty, so you may not be as skilled at contract negotiations. Not everyone is comfortable with this aspect of the job. That’s why it makes sense to hire professionals whose expertise is in contract review and salary negotiations. Physicians Thrive is that specialist – we have provided contract review and negotiation assistance to over 5,000 physicians nationwide. We provide these services as our specialty and can help physicians negotiate the maximum salary possible.

 

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