All physicians, regardless of their specialty, want to be confident of one thing: they’re being paid fairly compared to other physicians with the same education and experience level. And while every medical specialty pays differently, one factor that significantly affects your salary is where you work.
Like all physicians, a pediatric surgeon’s salary fluctuates considerably depending on what part of the country you work in and your specialty.
Today we’re addressing the question that so many pediatric surgery residents and practicing physicians want to know:
Where do pediatric surgeons make the most money?
How Much Do Pediatric Surgeons Make?
Pediatric surgery is a very specialized field. In fact, it can take anywhere from 11 to 15 years of education and training to become a pediatric surgeon who cares for young patients.
Unlike other physicians, who can start practicing after completing their residency, pediatric surgeons have to do two residencies: one in general surgery and one in pediatric surgery. A general surgery residency is typically five years long. A pediatric surgery residency takes a minimum of at least one year and sometimes requires two.
All pediatric surgeons must pass their medical licensing exams and receive licensure. Additional certification is not required, but the American Board of Surgery offers board certification for physicians looking to get ahead of the competition.
Pediatric surgeons have the option to work in various subspecialties as general surgeons, neurosurgeons, or orthopedic surgeons. In most cases, pediatric neurosurgeons and general pediatric surgeons earn higher salaries than pediatric orthopedic surgeons.
The Average Annual Salary of a Pediatric Surgeon
So how much does the average pediatric surgeon make? Physician salaries range considerably based on entry-level versus senior-level experience, level of education and additional certifications, sub-specialty, and region.
We’ve collected compensation data from a variety of sources to provide you with a general picture of how much annual salary pediatric surgeons make:
|U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics||$252,040|
|Profiles (recruitment firm)||$401,000|
Why is it that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average salary so much lower than other sources? Because the BLS figure is the median salary for all surgeons. They do not provide salary information for surgeons by sub-specialty.
And while the average salary range for a pediatric surgeon tends to be about $400k to $450k, some pediatric surgeons are making less, and others earn far more.
According to MGMA, the Medical Group Management Association, pediatric neurosurgeons are the third highest-paid physicians across all specialties. The MGMA reports that in 2019, pediatric neurosurgeons earned as much as $818,325, taking into account both the main compensation plan and all available productivity bonuses.
Of all the pediatric surgical sub-specialties, pediatric neurosurgeons certainly earn the most. But where they work also has a significant effect on salary.
Where Do Pediatric Surgeons Make the Most Money?
Geographic location is a major factor in how much money physicians make. Rural areas, where there are often shortages of qualified physicians, tend to pay doctors higher salaries and bigger bonuses as recruiting incentives. Hospitals in rural areas are also likely to offer pediatricians competitive relocation expenses.
Where the need for physicians is high, the salaries are higher.
Large urban hospital groups and children’s hospitals in major metro areas usually employ pediatric surgeons. And almost every single state has at least one hospital dedicated to the care of children.
So which states have the greatest need for pediatric surgeons?
According to MGMA, pediatric surgeons in the United States’s southern regions earn an average of $545,000 per year. Medscape salary reports show that physicians in Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, and Utah earn higher salaries than physicians in other parts of the country. At the same time, Zippia data indicates that pediatric surgeon jobs in Idaho, Wisconsin, and Minnesota pay the most.
Here’s the bottom line: don’t assume that you’ll earn a bigger salary by working in New York City or San Francisco, where the cost of living is exceptionally high. It’s possible to make even more money working in a state with a low cost of living that has a significant physician shortage.
Other Factors That Affect Your Pediatric Surgeon Salary
As with all job titles, a pediatric surgeon’s salary will also be affected by gender.
A gender wage gap exists in every area of healthcare and medicine, with women earning on average 25.2% less than their male counterparts in primary care. Female specialists, such as pediatric surgeons, make an average of 31% less. In pediatric medicine, male physicians earn about 20% more than female physicians with the same job description.
As to be expected, the base salary of a full-time pediatric surgeon will increase based upon experience. The more experience you have, the more money you are likely to make. In addition, having board certification can also boost your salary (and provide you with more job opportunities than surgeons that aren’t certified by the American Board of Surgery).
Performance Can Also Affect Your Salary
Depending on the terms of your physician contract, you may also be eligible to earn bonuses based on your performance.
Like with hourly wages, annual bonuses also tend to increase with experience and time on the job. For example, pediatric surgeons with less than four years of experience earn an average bonus of $10,000 per year. Pediatric surgeons with five or more years of experience report earning an average of $37,500 per year.
Many employers, particularly large hospital groups, work on an RVU compensation model and require physicians to meet a certain number of wRVUs per month. Some also provide performance incentives to physicians who exceed their wRVU requirements.
From performing surgery to follow-up visits, every aspect of the care you provide has a designated wRVU or work relative value unit. Every service you offer and every procedure you perform has a CPT code with a wRVU built within it.
In many cases, bonuses are tied directly to wRVUs, so it’s crucial that you use the proper CPT codes at all times. Otherwise, you could shortchange yourself (and reduce that potential bonus).
To learn more about CPT codes and why they’re so important, see our post on What Physicians Need to Know About CPT Codes.
The Importance of Contract Review
Suppose you’ve been offered a new position as a pediatric surgeon or are about to renew your contract with your current employer. In that case, it is essential you seek the professional guidance of a contract review specialist.
A lawyer who is a contract review specialist will go through your entire contract in detail, ensuring that your total compensation, salary, benefits, and termination clauses are on par with what other physicians in a related job and region are earning.
With a compensation specialist and contract review expert on your side, you can make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth. They can help you to negotiate your contract terms, including everything from your benefits package to your signing bonus, if applicable.
Do not sign a physician’s employment contract without having an expert review it first. This is the best step you can take to protect yourself and protect your future income earning potential.
Though it can be tempting for foreign physicians on a work visa in the U.S. to want to accept an offer and sign a contract quickly, that could result in you earning less compensation than you deserve. Regardless of your immigration status, all physicians working in the U.S. should seek a contract review specialist for their protection.
You may also like: 3 Ways for Foreign-Born Physicians to File for a J-1 Waiver
How to Manage Your Salary and Build Wealth
Many pediatric surgeons (and physicians in general) go into the medical field because they love the job and want to provide patient care. And while the work is undoubtedly fulfilling, a high-paying medical career also affords you the option to build wealth and plan for a comfortable retirement. That is, if you plan for it properly.
The bigger your salary is, the more opportunities you’ll have to build wealth and create a sound retirement plan. Here are the three key things you must do to manage your salary over the course of your medical career.
Invest, Invest, Invest
Having a financial planner guide you towards investing helps you create a sound retirement savings plan is the first step in protecting your assets and tucking money aside for retirement. They may recommend IRA, Roth IRA, 401k, or a 457b.
Many retirement savings plans allow you to make contributions tax-deductible, which reduces your taxable income at the end of the year and lowers your tax liability. The less you have to pay in taxes, the more money you’ll have to invest or contribute to another savings plan.
But your IRA or 401k isn’t enough. It would be your best bet if you also make an investment in stocks and other securities as well as real estate. Though they do come with some level of risk, stocks, securities, and real estate investments usually provide steady gains. The bigger the profits, the more money you’ll have to enjoy when you’re retired.
Get Disability Insurance
Disability insurance is the best tool physicians have to protect the future income that they haven’t even earned yet.
If something happens and you’re too ill or injured to work, disability insurance offers you a way to bring in a portion of your income still so that you can pay your mortgage and your bills. It provides you a way to cover your monthly expenses without having to drain your savings or dip into your retirement accounts (and pay early withdrawal penalties).
Only six insurance providers offer disability insurance policies that are entirely customizable for physicians. You can choose your coverage amount, add optional riders for even greater protection, and choose how long you want to receive benefits.
It is common for employers to offer short-term disability insurance as part of a comprehensive benefits package. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Even if you have a short-term policy, it’s essential also to have an individual disability insurance policy for long-term protection.
Even if they are working temporarily in the U.S. under an H1-B visa, foreign physicians should also have a disability insurance policy for the duration of their U.S. stay. The H1-B visa requires that you maintain steady employment, and disability insurance can provide that financial protection, so you won’t have to lose your job and face deportation.
Be Diligent in Tax Planning
Tax planning is another critical tool in planning for retirement. Every physician should meet regularly with a financial advisor or tax planning professional in order to minimize their taxable income, maximize contributions where possible, and retire with as much tax-free income as possible.
Pediatric surgeons have the potential to earn millions of dollars throughout their lifetime as a specialist. To protect that income, make sure you take the proper steps and create a long-term plan that will build wealth, protect your heirs, and provide you with a comfortable retirement.
Compared to other physicians, pediatric surgeons make more money per year than doctors in many different specialties. With more prolonged and more intensive training and residency requirements, pediatric surgeons have a strenuous and challenging job to do — and that training should always be rewarded with fair compensation.
No matter your specialty, when it comes time to sign a contract and start a new job, remember this: you’ll earn more if you choose to work in a state where your specialty is in demand.
And, before you sign that contract, hire a contract review specialist. That’s the only way to ensure that you’re being compensated fairly for the critical care you provide and the intensive work you perform.
And remember, there are four things that all physicians need to do in order to protect their assets and build wealth:
- You need to have a sound retirement plan.
- You need to devote some time to tax-planning.
- You need to work with a financial planner to guide you into the best investments.
- You must protect your income with disability insurance.
As a pediatric surgeon, you have the potential to earn tens of millions of dollars throughout the course of your career. It’s crucial to know what steps to take to protect your own interests, build wealth, and protect your financial future both for yourself as well as your dependents and heirs.
Learn more about income protection. Start by reading our Full Guide to Disability Insurance for Physicians.
Subscribe to our email newsletter for expert tips about finances, insurance, employment contracts, and more!