Full Guide to Surgeon Salaries by Specialty and Region

There are dozens of paths you can choose for a career in healthcare. For a physician, the career path you take depends on the residency program you choose. Here’s our full guide to general surgeon wages, including by surgical subspecialties and region

While some residency programs have one specific focus, others, such as general surgery, give you the option to pursue several different paths.

Nonetheless, not all general surgeons earn the same salary. The type of general surgeon you become, along with where you choose to work, will directly impact your salary.

Ready to learn which general surgeons earn the most and which earn the least?


How Much Does a General Surgeon Make?

According to the Medscape General Surgeon Compensation Report 2021, the average salary for a full-time general surgeon is $373,000 per year. They also received an average incentive bonus of $47,000.

Therefore, Self-employed general surgeons earned about $379k, while other general surgeons earned slightly less at $371k.

Interestingly, approximately 60% of general surgeons feel their compensation is fair and, if given a chance to choose a different career path, 77% would choose general surgery again.

However, Medscape isn’t the only source for general surgeon compensation.

Other sources report slightly different annual salary rates:

  • Zippia reports that the average base salary for an entry-level general surgeon is $246,000, while the average salary amongst all general surgeons is closer to $351,000.
  • ZipRecruiter reports an average national salary of $315,750, with top earners in the 90th percentile earning $400,000.
  • Doximity reports an even higher annual salary, with general surgeons earning an average of $439,824 per year.

Why the differences?

Various factors influence a general surgeon’s salary, including years of experience and location. Subspecializing can also affect how much you earn. We’ll discuss that in more depth below.

Related: Residency Salary Compensation Guide for New Physicians


Salary Varies Depending on Subspecialty

For instance, like most medical fields, some subspecialties fall under the broader specialty of general surgeon.

The four main subspecialties of general surgery are:

  • Hand surgery
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Surgical critical care
  • Vascular surgery

Moreover, different sources report slightly different annual average salaries for each, so looking at the data from various sources can help determine the average or median wage.

Here is a roundup of what various salary and data sites report as the annual average salary for each general surgery subspecialty:

Pediatric Surgeon

Vascular Surgeon

Surgical Critical Care

Hand Surgeon

  • Zippia: $337,000 per year
  • Career Trend: $291,000 (after three years of surgical practice)
  • Glassdoor: $220,046 base salary (without incentive bonuses)

Accordingly, based on the data presented above, physicians who began their training in general surgery, pediatric surgeons earn the highest salary. They are followed by vascular surgeons. Hand surgeons and surgical critical care physicians typically earn less than the $373k per year that the average general surgeon makes.

Learn more: Where Do Pediatric Surgeons Make the Most Money? and How Much Can You Make as a Vascular Surgeon?


Where Do General Surgeons Earn the Most?

asian female doctor working in hospital office looking and reviewing documentation of forms and contracts of health care, health insurance, diagnosis of patients medical records, using laptop computer

General surgeon jobs exist in every corner of the United States, but where you choose to work can make a big difference in how much you can earn.

According to ZipRecruiter, the states that pay general surgeons the most are:

  • Massachusetts
  • Hawaii
  • Connecticut
  • Tennessee
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington
  • New York
  • North Dakota

The states where general surgeons earn the least are:

  • Florida
  • North Carolina
  • Alabama
  • New Mexico
  • Georgia
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Indiana
  • Arizona
  • Maine

While physician salaries vary considerably, physicians in the Midwest region of the country tend to earn the most, followed by physicians in the South. Physicians in the Eastern and Western regions of the country tend to make slightly less.

Physician salaries are not based solely on the cost of living. Although some metropolitan areas with higher costs of living do command slightly higher wages.

The most significant determining factor in how much a physician earns is supply and demand.

When the supply of physicians is low, and the demand is high, physicians earn more. Rural areas often have difficulty attracting general surgeons (or other physicians), making them some of the highest-paying places in the country.

Is There a Shortage of General Surgeons?

In the U.S., there is a physician shortage in almost all areas of medicine, including general surgery. As the population ages, older physicians retire, and the costs and demands of medical school continue to increase, the physician shortage will grow.

In an AAMC study of the physician supply and shortage projections, there will be an estimated shortage of between 15,800 and 30,200 total surgeons in the U.S. by 2034.

This number includes general surgeons as well as surgical specialists. Although, some researchers have estimated that there could be a deficit of more than 7,000 general surgeons alone by the year 2050.

If the number of residents in surgical residencies doesn’t increase in the next few years, this shortage could be even greater.

There are currently 9,625 residents in a general surgery training program including IMGs, U.S. and Canadian medical school graduates, and U.S. DO graduates.

And with a total of 144,660 residents in training for the 2020-2021 year, general surgery residents account for less than 7% of all medical residents in the U.S.

Still trying to pay down debt from med school? Take a look at: A Physician’s Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness

The Gender Wage Gap Among General Surgeons

Among all physician specialties, women earn approximately 33% less than men. Yet amongst all surgeons, the Association of Women Surgeons reports that female surgeons earn an average of 8% less.

The AWS also shows that the gender wage gap grows in disparity over time. For instance, women under 35 are making 90% of what men earn and women over 35 earning about 82%.

Keep in mind that these figures above come from the salaries of all surgeons, not just those in general surgery.

Approximately 51.1% of all practicing general surgeons are male, and 43.5% are female. And when we look at the total number of residents currently in general surgery training programs, the gender balance is nearly the same. Of the 9,625 residents presently training in general surgery, 4,308 (almost 45%) are female.

Based on current residency trends and the number of active general surgeons practicing today, the ratio of male to female surgeons looks as though it will remain in line with the balance we have today.

Discover: How Female Physicians Can Counteract the Gender Pay Gap


Where Do General Surgeon Salaries Rank Among Other Physicians?

Senior physician discusses collaboration with colleagues and nurses in the team

Now, In terms of which physicians earn the highest salaries, general surgeons rank #12 on the list.

According to compensation data compiled by Medscape, physicians in the following specialties earn more:

Therefore, plastic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and cardiologists take the top spots as the highest-paid physicians.

Yet the average general surgeon salary of $373k per year is 8.4% higher than the $344k per year salary that the average specialist makes.


How Can General Surgeons Protect Their Income?

As a general surgeon, your license and earning potential put you in an excellent position to build wealth and create financial stability for yourself and your family.

But in order to do those things, you must protect yourself with the tools available to you.

Regardless of their job title, job description, and where they work, all physicians should understand just how vital employment contract reviewdisability insurance, and malpractice insurance are to achieving those goals.

Employment Contract Review

Next, if you’re about to start a new position or renew an existing contract, protect yourself by hiring an attorney to do an employment contract review.

During a contract review, an attorney will make sure that all details are in place regarding:

  • Job responsibilities
  • Pay rate, including bonus and/or incentive structure
  • Benefits, including health insurance, PTO, and retirement plans
  • Insurance responsibilities during and after employment
  • Termination clauses
  • Restrictive covenants

Whether you’re starting a brand new full-time position, working toward a partnership, or in a temporary locum tenens assignment, contract review is an absolute must.

If you haven’t already gone back and forth negotiating the terms of your employment on your own, a contract review specialist can help to negotiate a better contract for you.

To learn more about employment contract review, read our Definitive Guide to Physician Contract Review, or contact Physicians Thrive now.

Disability Insurance

Everyone, at every age, is at risk for suffering an illness, becoming injured, or becoming disabled. Accordingly, if that illness or injury prevents you from doing your job, your income will be in jeopardy.

Moreover, the best way general surgeons can protect their future unearned income is to get disability insurance coverage.

Most physicians spend between 1% and 4% of their annual income on disability insurance premiums. Still, various factors can affect how much a policy can cost — and it’s not just about the total amount of coverage you need.

Therefore, disability insurance policies range in price depending on the benefit period, waiting period, riders, and definition of disability that you select. Having a policy with a True Own-Occupation definition of disability is crucial for general surgeons.

Why?

Because even a slight finger injury that prevents you from performing surgery can be detrimental to your career.

The protection of disability insurance (with the true own-occupation definition) ensures that you’ll continue to earn a portion of your income, even when you cannot do your job.

Moreover, the younger and healthier you are when you start your policy, the better your rates will be. It’s never too early in your career to protect yourself and your future earnings with disability insurance coverage.

Read our Definitive Guide to Physician Disability Insurance to learn more about what it means, how it can protect you, and what you need to look for when choosing a policy.

Malpractice Insurance

No matter how dedicated you are to patient care, every patient interaction has the potential to result in a malpractice suit.

For example, the AMA reports that nearly half of all physicians over the age of 55 have been sued at least once for malpractice. But for general surgeons, that number is much, much higher.

General surgery takes the #1 spot as the medical specialty that gets sued the most. A staggering 85% of general surgeons have to defend themselves against a malpractice claim at least once in their career.

The other painful fact is that malpractice insurance costs for general surgeons are significantly higher than what most physicians pay for coverage.

In addition, the average physician spends between $4,000 and $12,000 per year on malpractice insurance premiums.

But for general surgeons, malpractice insurance can cost more than ten times that amount.

For example, In New York it’s not uncommon for general surgeons to spend in the $120,000 range for yearly coverage, depending on their location and what type of surgery they perform.

Conclusions

Above all, no matter where you work or how experienced you are in your profession, it’s crucial that you protect your medical license, personal assets, and future earning potential. Which you can do with a reliable malpractice insurance policy.

For guidance on which carrier to choose or how much coverage you need, contact Physicians Thrive now.

See also: Do Surgeons Need Hand Insurance?


The average general surgeon makes $373,000 per year, which is approximately 8% more than the $346,000 per year that the average specialist earns.

And since you stand to earn more income throughout your career, it’s essential that you protect that income with disability insurance, malpractice insurance, and contract reviews.

For more information on how to choose disability insurance, how to hire a contract review specialist, or how to obtain malpractice insurance in your state, contact Physicians Thrive now.

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