Transplant Surgeons’ Jobs: Specialty and Multi-Organ

Of all the advancements made in technology and medicine, organ transplantation remains one of the most impressive ways to save a life and extend life expectancy. And while the need for organ transplants is on the rise, there aren’t that many physicians who perform these surgeries.

According to Statista, there are 53,872 surgeons in the United States. But of those, only about 600 perform liver transplants. Even at world-renowned hospitals like Duke University and the Mayo Clinic, which have thousands of physicians and scientists on staff, there are usually only twenty or so transplant surgeons on the team.

Because transplant surgery is so specialized, physicians in the field often find it daunting when it comes time to look for a new job.

Whether you specialize in the transplantation of one organ or perform multi-organ transplants, here’s how to find transplant surgeon jobs to advance your unique career.


Where Do Transplant Surgeons Work?

Transplant surgeons do not work alone. Due to the complex nature of transplant surgery, they work as part of a team. That team includes a transplant coordinator and a skilled group of physicians and nursing professionals who provide pre-op and post-op patient care.

Organ transplants are performed by the top health systems in hospitals, transplant centers, and large medical centers.

For this reason, you’ll find most active transplant surgeons work as employees of a hospital or health group. Transplant surgery is never an outpatient procedure — it requires inpatient monitoring with extensive pre-operative assessment and post-operative care.

But hospitals and medical centers aren’t the only places where transplant surgeons can work. They also have the option to take a faculty position as an associate professor in a school of medicine.

Prefer to be your own boss in private practice rather than work as an employee for a hospital, clinic, or medical group? Unfortunately, as a transplant surgeon, the odds may be against you.

Among all physicians, more than 50% are employed, while only 44% are self-employed in a private or multi-partner practice. For general surgeons, 52.7% work as employees, mostly in hospital settings or in private clinics.

With the exception of those working in academia, transplant surgeons performing clinical work are most likely to find employment within a large network or hospital setting.


How Much Do Transplant Surgeons Earn?

Surgeon standing in hospital hallway

There are three key factors that determine how much you can earn as a transplant surgeon:

  • Your level of experience
  • The state in which you work
  • The type of organ transplants you do

Transplant surgeon salaries vary greatly depending on these three factors. Even within the same state, a liver transplant surgeon may not earn the same amount as a thoracic transplant surgeon, a kidney transplant surgeon, or a multi-organ transplant surgeon.

Salary Is Dependent on Supply and Demand

Physicians across the country earn the highest salaries in states with the greatest need for physicians in that specialty. So while states such as New York and California may have the highest cost of living, physicians can actually earn more in states such as North Dakota and Montana, where the demand for top-tier physicians is greater than the supply.

Yet unlike jobs in general surgery and other specialties, transplant surgery jobs are not available in every city and every hospital. Organ transplant services exist all across the country, but not necessarily in every medical center or even in every state.

According to HealthGrades, some of the best hospitals for transplant surgeries include:

  • The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio
  • The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida
  • New York-Presbyterian Hospital
  • Temple University in Philadelphia

Transplant surgeons are found around the country, but the majority work in:

  • New York
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • California
  • Ohio
Head to our medical licensing library to learn how to get licensed in TexasCaliforniaOhio, and other states.

Annual Earnings for Transplant Surgeons

So how much can a transplant expect to earn?

Here is a snapshot of the low, average, and high salaries of transplants surgeons, as reported by different salary data sites:

Low Average High
Salary Expert $287k $458k $677k
Payscale Not reported $296k $409k
Comparably   Not reported $292k $791k
Glassdoor $142k $276k $535k
Zippia   Not reported $265k $460k
Salary.com $218k $257k $311k
ZipRecruiter   Not reported $174k $400k

Comparably and Salary.com break transplant surgeon salaries down even further to show how salaries range among surgeons that transplant different organs.

According to Comparably, cardiothoracic transplant surgeons that perform multi-organ surgeries on the heart and lungs earn an average of $675k per year. Less experienced surgeons earn $540k per year, with more experienced, senior-level surgeons making as much as $810k annually.

Salary.com reports that heart transplant surgeons command similar rates, at an average of $648k per year ($287k on the low end and $908k for the top 10th percentile).

As stated above, location is also a factor in salary.

Data from Zippia shows that transplant surgeons earn the highest salaries in:

  • Minnesota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • North Dakota
  • Montana

The states that pay transplant surgeons the least are:

  • Florida
  • North Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • South Carolina

Related: The 10 Best States to Practice Medicine


Are Transplant Surgeons in Demand?

Transplant surgeons themselves have identified the need for more student physicians to enter into their field.

There are a few reasons why the number of physicians entering the field may be on the decline:

Organ transplant surgeons have to undergo all of the training that other surgeons do — and then some.

In addition to five years in residency, physicians in this subspecialty must also complete a two- or three-year fellowship training program and then another two years of research rotation. Most transplant surgeons do not even seek to become board certified until after they’ve completed their fellowship.

The results of a 2017 NIH study indicate that transplant surgeons with two additional years of research earn the same amount in lifetime revenue as the average general surgeon, even though general surgery doesn’t require additional fellowship training. Transplant and trauma surgeons who don’t spend two years in research training are actually poised to earn less over their lifetime than a general surgeon with fewer years in training.

But is it all about the money?

No.

There is another major factor contributing to a shortage of transplant surgeons:

Burnout.

Physician burnout is real, and in a specialty that requires skill and emotional commitment, transplant surgeons are retiring earlier than physicians in other specialties.

More early retirees and fewer residents entering the field means that the demand for transplant surgeons is only likely to increase in upcoming years.

Nearly 114,000 people in the U.S. are qualified candidates to receive organ transplants. An average of 20 people die every day as a result of not getting an organ transplant in time, and this number could continue to grow if the number of transplant surgeons decreases further.


Where to Find a Job as a Transplant Surgeon

Two physicians talking

Perhaps you recently finished your fellowship and are looking for your first full-time job. Or maybe you’re an experienced surgeon looking to join the department of surgery in a top-ranked university.

Maybe you’re even considering teaching in a medical school.

Whatever the case, there are a variety of places where you can find transplant surgery jobs, regardless of how much or how little experience you have in the field.

Find a Position Through a Professional Association

The American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) has their own career center on its website. The ASTS career center is the perfect place to start your transplant surgeon job search, particularly because it only lists job types that are relevant to your unique experience.

Whether you specialize in pancreas transplants, vascular transplants, heart transplants, or pediatric transplants, the ASTS career center is an excellent place to search for new jobs.

Browse Listings on MD Job Boards

Sites like Indeed and Simply Hired are excellent places to search for jobs online. But as a physician that specializes in transplant surgery, it’s better to conduct your search on physician-focused job boards that only post opportunities in healthcare.

MD Search and Physician Job Board are two of the best sites to visit to start your search. You can search for jobs by keyword and/or location, and you can be as specific as you want by adding search filters for particular cities or job types.

These job boards cater to physicians, and you’ll find that the job descriptions are quite detailed, which makes it easier to help identify the opportunities that are right for you.

You can also save yourself time from conducting daily job searches by signing up for job alerts when new, relevant positions are posted.

Enlist the Help of a Recruiter

When searching for a new job, physician recruiters, such as Merritt Hawkins, can save you valuable time by taking on the task of finding a job for you.

Whether you’re an abdominal transplant surgeon or have focused your career on performing lung, kidney, or multi-organ transplants, the top physician recruiters know where the jobs are.

As a candidate seeking a new job opportunity, a recruiter can be an invaluable ally, especially when you’re in a field as specialized as transplant surgery.

Reach Out to Healthcare Networks and Hospital Groups Directly

If you’re hoping to become a part of the transplant program at a particular hospital or clinic, there is another approach you can take. Instead of visiting job boards or working with a recruiter, you can also search the career centers and job postings on the websites of any major medical center or hospital network.

Submitting your CV directly to the organization you want to work for is yet another way to indicate your interest. Though it’s not a guarantee, some employers prefer to hire physicians that show interest in working specifically with them.

Tap Into Your Network

The whole point of networking with colleagues and industry professionals is that you can lean on them when it’s time to find a new job.

If you’ve spent years or decades cultivating and building a strong professional network, make it known that you’re on the hunt for a new position. People you know (and who know you and your work ethic) may be able to alert you of opportunities that aren’t yet listed online.

With the right connections, you may secure an interview before a job is even available to other transplant surgeons.


Become a Locum Tenens Transplant Surgeon

If you’re looking to cut back on full-time hours or want to move to another part of the world, you may want to seek work as a locum tenens transplant surgeon.

As a locum tenens physician, you’ll enjoy the unique opportunity of working for a matter of weeks or months at a far-away hospital or medical center. You may be able to secure a temporary position in your hometown or in the city in which you went to medical school.

Transplant surgeons are in demand, and many hospital networks and healthcare groups seek the help of temporary, independent, part-time surgeons to perform much-needed transplant surgeries.

Working in a locum tenens capacity offers flexibility, a change of pace, a change of scenery, and a chance to provide life-saving services to patients in regions other than where you typically live and practice.

If you think a locum tenens position may be right for you, start conducting your job search through NALTO, the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations. NALTO sets the ethical standards for locum tenens physicians and works with top-tier locum tenens staffing agencies that can help you find your next temporary job opportunity.

Once you have a job, it’s crucial to protect your income with disability insurance. Learn more in our Physician Disability Insurance Guide.

As a transplant surgeon, you’re in demand. Hospitals and medical centers need your expertise, and that puts you in a position to fill a void that other physicians simply cannot.

If you’re ready to take on a new job, just remember this:

Contract review is everything.

No matter how great an opportunity may seem, we recommend that you hire a contract review specialist before accepting a job offer. It’s the most effective way to ensure that you’re getting the best salary, the best benefits, and negotiating the best contract terms for the life-saving and life-enhancing work that you do.

For more information on contract review, contact Physicians Thrive now.

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