Becoming a surgeon requires committing to many years of school and putting in countless clinical hours. The good news is that all the time and hard work can lead to a fulfilling career that pays well. The average annual pay for a general surgeon in the U.S. as of January 2024 is $285,176, according to ZipRecruiter.
It’s important to remember that this is just the average salary. Where a surgeon lives, the type of surgery specialty they take on, and a host of other factors can influence how much they can earn. Keep reading for more insight into how much surgeons make.
What Are Surgeons?
A surgeon is a medical professional who operates on patients to treat injuries (such as broken bones), diseases (like cancerous tumors), and deformities (such as cleft palates). A surgeon can have an M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree.
A surgeon doesn’t only perform operations, however. These specialists are also responsible for the preoperative diagnosis of the patient and for providing the patient with postoperative surgical care and treatment. The surgeon is also looked upon as the leader of the surgical team.
Surgeons can typically expect to work long days, primarily in person, so this type of job is probably not a good fit for anyone looking for a work-from-home job. However, surgeons can work in a variety of different settings.
- Private practice
- Academic medicine
- Institutional practice
- Ambulatory surgery settings
- Government service programs
How Much Does a Surgeon Make Starting Out?
General surgeons can earn an impressive entry-level salary, often as much as $250,000. With experience, a surgeon can make upwards of $399,000 a year, per ZipRecruiter.
What is the Average Salary for a Surgeon?
You can measure how much a surgeon makes by looking at both their average hourly rate and annual salary. The national average hourly salary for a surgeon is $137, while the average annual pay for a surgeon in the U.S. is $285,176.
The type of specialty a surgeon chooses to practice can impact how much they earn. What surgical specialty makes the most? Let’s take a quick glance at the average annual wages for surgeons with varying specialties:
- Orthopedic surgeon: $375,000
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeon: $368,879
- International cardiothoracic surgeon:$367,474
- Plastic surgeon: $356,489
- Mohs surgeon: $345,926
What Is the Average Surgeon Salary by State for 2024?
How much money a surgeon makes can vary by location. What follows is a breakdown of how much general surgeons make a year, on average, by state (highest to lowest).
Surgeon Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits
Surgeons typically work in clinical settings, such as physicians’ offices and hospitals, including academic hospitals associated with residency programs and medical schools.
The average annual salary for a surgeon is $285,176 but surgeons can actually earn a lot more when you look at their total compensation package including benefits.
Because surgeons often work full-time for a specific hospital, company, or organization, prospective surgeons can expect to find a job that offers them the standard suite of employee benefits, including healthcare, paid vacation, vision and dental insurance, and a retirement plan.
In addition to these benefits, some surgeons also receive life insurance policies, continuing medical education (CME), flexible scheduling, research and academic support, and development programs.
Pros and Cons of a Surgeon’s Salary
Becoming a surgeon takes a lot of hard work and discipline, but surgeons can also change the lives of their patients every single day and earn a substantial income at the same time. Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of choosing a career as a surgeon.
Pros of Being a Surgeon
Being a surgeon offers potential benefits like:
- Ability to help people A surgeon can help people experience less discomfort, pain, and stress, and even save their lives. Surgeons also train and mentor junior colleagues.
- Opportunity to work as part of a team Surgeons typically collaborate with doctors, nurses, and other medical specialists to provide comprehensive care to patients. (Consequently, it may not be the ideal medical specialty for someone who is naturally more of an introvert.)
- High compensation The national average salary of surgeons is $285,176 per year but can go as high as 375.000-plus, depending on location, years of experience, certifications, and other factors. Surgeons also typically get benefits like health insurance and 401(k) plans.
- Consistent schedule Depending on their specialty and seniority, some surgeons are able to have a regular work schedule and perform surgeries during certain hours. This can help promote a healthy work-life balance.
- Chance to work in different environments Surgeons can work in a variety of places, including hospitals, private practices, and other medical centers. Many surgeons also have offices where they consult with patients in addition to the centers where they do surgery.
Cons of Being a Surgeon
However, surgeons also face the following challenges:
- Long and rigorous educational requirements To become a surgeon, you typically need to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree program, a four-year degree program from medical school, and a three to seven-year internship or residency program. All told, it can take 11 to 15 years of studying in school to enter the field of surgery.
- Long hours Depending on your specialty and where you work, you may need to work long hours. Indeed, general surgeons may work 50 to 60 hours per week. In addition, some surgeons need to be on call on evenings and weekends.
- High-pressure job Surgery generally involves a certain level of risk and surgeons are under pressure to perform procedures with no errors in order to ensure a positive outcome for their patients. Surgeons need to be able to stay calm and focused under pressure.
- Burnout potential Depending on their specialty, some surgeons may be required to perform the same procedures each day, sometimes more than once per day. This could potentially lead to job burnout over time.
- High education costs Going to school for all the years required to become a surgeon can be expensive. As a result, surgeons may take on a lot of student loan debt, which they’ll need to repay once they enter the field. This can lessen the average surgeon’s salary.
Becoming a surgeon requires years of study and practice, including medical school and residencies. Those who are up for the challenge can earn a high salary, especially if they go into one of the more lucrative specialties. Since surgeons earn such a high income, they need to find a way to manage their money and use it to reach their goals.
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