Pulmonologist Salary: What to Expect

With chronic pulmonary diseases such as asthma, COPD, and bronchitis being widespread problems, pulmonologists are never lacking work.

Unfortunately, this demand does not always translate to a matching salary. In fact, only half of the pulmonologists surveyed by Medscape feel that they are fairly compensated.

What kind of compensation can a pulmonologist expect?

Well, that depends on many factors. This article will lay them all out for you.

Let’s take a look at what pulmonologists are getting paid and delve into the best ways that a pulmonologist can increase their income.


Average Pulmonology Salary

According to Medscape, one of the top medical compensation sources, the average salary for pulmonologists is $342,000 per year.

Merritt Hawkins and MGMA claim that pulmonologist jobs pay quite a bit more, listing $399,000 and $406,245 on their respective salary reports.

Some less-reliable sources report much lower salary estimates:

Payscale.com lists the average pulmonologist salary at $302,563.

Salary.com claims that the median pay for pulmonology is $279,499 per year.

The lowest listed salary comes from Comparably, which says the national average is $177,834.


Factors That Affect a Pulmonologist’s Salary

There are many factors that determine whether a pulmonologist’s salary will land on the higher side or lower side of the salary range.

Here are the three most influential factors:

  • Years of experience
  • Location
  • Type of practice

Years of Experience

As a pulmonologist gains experience through the years, they can expect to see a rise in salary.

During residency, the average pulmonologist receives $64,000 per year, according to Medscape. Similar to practicing physicians, residents can expect to see a slight increase in income with each year of experience.

According to Payscale, pulmonologists earn the most during their mid-career years. They reach their peak income after five to nine years of experience.

After those years, the potential for increased pay drops significantly.

Location

If you’re thinking about moving to a new location to practice pulmonology, it is wise to consider the cost of living and the demand for your specialty in the area.

The information below may help you in your decision-making process.

Top-Paying States

According to ZipRecruiter, the highest-paying states for pulmonology are primarily located in the western and northeastern U.S.

The top five states and their listed salaries are as follows:

  • New York: $368,931
  • New Hampshire: $357,484
  • California: $353,826
  • Vermont: $337,745
  • Idaho: $333,334

Salary.com lists the cities with the highest annual and hourly wages for pulmonologists.

These are as follows:

  • New York, NY: 20.3% higher pay than the national average
  • San Francisco, CA: 25% higher than the national average
  • Boston, MA: 12.7% higher than the national average

Lowest-Paying States

If salary is your top concern, ZipRecruiter says that these are the worst places to look for a pulmonologist job:

  • North Carolina: $243,487
  • Texas: $264,524
  • Illinois: $266,061
  • Michigan: $267,235
  • Arkansas: $267,513

Type of Practice

According to some sources, pulmonologists earn the highest salary if they work in a multispecialty group practice, and those in single-specialty group practices are close behind.

Those who work for healthcare organizations and outpatient clinics make up the median group.

This source claims that pulmonologists working in a hospital setting are the lowest-earning group, making less than those who work in academic environments.


Additional Ways to Increase Your Income as a Pulmonologist

Physician in lab coat holding stethoscope

Want to earn the highest salary possible?

Here are some things you can do:

Take Advantage of Bonuses

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, physicians working in internal medicine may be offered as much as $75,000 as a sign-on bonus.

Pulmonologists can expect to be offered a sign-on bonus along those lines. If you are not offered one during employment negotiations, ask for it.

Many hospitals make incentives and bonuses a central part of their compensation structure. The amount of a pulmonologist’s pay that is purely based on incentives varies depending on the specific payment model.

To ensure that you get your proper portion of bonuses, make sure you understand your employer’s payment model and follow the best procedures to increase your earned incentives.

Invest in Real Estate

Thinking about opening your own private practice?

To do that, you need your own office space.

Instead of renting a space from someone else, it makes financial sense to purchase a profitable office building.

Look for a building that has the perfect space for you and some additional space to rent to other pulmonary physicians or those with related job titles.

This way, you’ll turn what would be a monthly bill into passive monthly income.

Hire Assistants

Many pulmonologists and others practicing critical care medicine hire physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to care for the less intense cases.

This allows the physicians to take on more patients and make money from each visit without having to work so many hours.

Offer Niche Services

It could be beneficial to develop a niche or sub-specialize to gain a more targeted patient pool.

For instance, interventional pulmonologists conduct specialized tests and procedures that are not as invasive but still bring in a pretty penny.

Advances in pulmonary medicine are happening at a frequent pace. Adapting to these changes and learning new skills can make you a very sought-after physician.


How to Negotiate Your Pulmonology Employment Contract

If you are not a self-employed pulmonologist, your best bet in ensuring your annual salary is where it needs to be is to fight for it during your employment negotiations.

(Fighting respectfully and compromisingly, of course.)

Physicians often feel intimidated during the employment negotiation process. However, it shouldn’t be as difficult as some make it out to be.

With a little foreknowledge, some research, and a good pitch on what you want and why you deserve it, any physician can sign an employment contract feeling pleased with the outcome.

To ensure that no strings are left untied, you will want to check your contract for the essentials. Every complete employment contract will contain clear language defining the agreed compensation and benefits.

It will also outline some other key terms.

Here are some examples:

Before you sign any paperwork, it is a good idea to have a team of professionals look it over for any discrepancies.

This should be done whenever you enter, renew, or exit a contract. It should also be done if you renegotiate your compensation package or transition from employee to partner.

We want to make sure that you get fair compensation. Learn about our contract review and negotiation services here.

Pulmonologists and Their Student Loan Debt

Few physicians complete their medical education without significant student loan debt. In fact, many begin their professional career loaded down with thousands of dollars in debt.

Pulmonologists are not exempt from these debts.

So what can you do to lower the amount you owe?

There are several ways to handle student loan debt. At first, you may be tempted to do anything you can just to make the payments as low as possible, especially when you aren’t earning your expected salary.

There are several student loan repayment plans that you can use to make your payments lower. All fall under the income-driven repayment group.

If you decide that you need a better repayment plan, you can always consolidate or refinance your loans for better rates and easier payoff.

Many physicians are making significant strides in paying off their student loan debt by taking advantage of loan forgiveness programs offered by their employers.

According to Merritt Hawkins’s 2019 Incentive Review, 75% of all physicians were offered loan forgiveness as part of their employment benefits in the last four years.

The average student debt relief amount offered by potential employers was $101,571.

Many physicians owe more than $100,000 in medical school student loan debt, but having this large chunk virtually erased is a great way to make your student loan payments more manageable.

Learn more about eliminating your student debt burden in our Full Breakdown to Medical School Student Loans.


Disability Insurance to Protect Your Salary

Teddy bear with bandages on it

When you finally achieve the salary you want, you must make sure to protect your income.

One of the best ways to do this is through disability insurance.

Whether it’s a work-related injury, a fluke accident outside of work, or an illness, there are a lot of things that can render you unable to work.

This disability would not only hurt you physically but financially, as well. How will you continue to pay your mortgage, car payments, or even your daily living expenses?

This is why a comprehensive long-term disability insurance policy is so critical for physicians — it will protect your income in case of an illness or injury.

Tip: Even after recognizing the importance of protecting your income with disability insurance, shopping for the right policy is no walk in the park. Learn how to find the right policy (and get free quotes) in our Disability Insurance Guide.

Building a Retirement From Your Annual Salary

Pulmonologists should also have a retirement plan in place. The earlier that a physician begins to make plans for this eventuality, the better.

The varying avenues that a physician can use to build their retirement fund can be complex and overwhelming to some. But, an experienced financial advisor can help you make the best choices for retirement planning.

Types of Retirement Savings Accounts

Here are some of the retirement planning options you may have available to you:

401(k)

A 401(k) plan is the most prevalent retirement plan for Americans.. Most employers will offer a traditional 401(k) plan, which will allow you to make deposits into your account to save for retirement. If you withdraw from this account early, you will be fined a penalty fee.

403(b)

This is similar to the 401(k) plan but is specific to non-profit or military employment.

457(b)

457(b) accounts are similar to 403(b) accounts, but there are no early withdrawal fees.

401(a)

This is another non-profit employment retirement option. This one will include contributions from your employer.

Profit-Sharing Plans

This plan is for employees of for-profit organizations and includes contributions from your employer. The company will take a percentage of its annual profit and add it to your retirement fund.

Cash Balance Plans

This type of retirement account is similar to a 401(k). However, you have a fixed payout, so you will not risk losing any of your investment due to poor stock market performance.

Traditional IRA

IRAs are additional savings outlets that you can use to save for retirement. Traditional IRAs allow you to make a specific amount of tax-deductible contributions to put away for retirement.

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is similar to a traditional IRA. You cannot deduct your contributions from your taxes, but you don’t pay taxes on the amount you withdraw at retirement.

SEP-IRA

This is a simplified employee pension IRA. These accounts are like traditional IRAs for self-employed people.

SIMPLE IRA

This is a non-elective, employer-created IRA plan. If your employer offers this to you, you must participate, and they are required to make contributions for you to match.

Investments

You can invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate that will hopefully grow in value by the time you are ready for retirement.

If you’re looking for the best option to help you save for retirement, contact our retirement planning team — we may be able to help.


Effective Tax Planning

As a high-earning physician, you have won yourself the privilege of paying more taxes. Your tax rate could be anywhere from 24% to 35% of your annual income.

When your tax burden is over $25,000, one little missed credit or deduction can save you thousands.

The tax code is complicated and changes every year. For this reason, it’s best to get the help of a professional to ensure you aren’t overpaying your taxes.

You can also get help from a tax professional to plan your investments and save you even more in the amount of taxes owed.


According to MGMA, pulmonology salaries are growing faster than salaries in almost any other medical subspecialty.

Make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to earn big.

Of course, you don’t have to figure out how to do this alone. Let us help you navigate every step to financial freedom so that you don’t just survive; you thrive. Contact Physicians Thrive today.

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