How Much Do Doctors Make: Exploring Earnings Potential

Doctors play an important role in our society. They are responsible for ensuring that individuals, families, and communities receive the necessary medical attention they need to stay healthy. Being a doctor is an honorable profession, but it also comes with a lot of hard work and dedication. One of the most frequently asked questions by individuals interested in becoming doctors is, “How much do doctors make?” In this article, we’ll explore the earnings potential of doctors in different specialties and provide answers to common questions related to their salaries.

Factors That Affect Doctors’ Salaries

Although the average salary of a doctor varies based on several factors.


Medical schools equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to practice various specialties, and each specialty comes with a varying earning potential. Doctors who specialize in complex surgical procedures, for instance, typically earn more than those who work as family physicians. Some of the specialties with the highest earning potential include cardiology, neurosurgery, and radiology.

Geographic Location

Doctors’ salaries can also vary depending on their geographic location. In general, doctors who work in major cities and metropolitan areas earn more than those in less populated areas. Location can influence the medical industry’s supply and demand ratio, affecting salaries in the area.

Level of Experience

Doctors’ salaries also increase as they gain more experience in their respective fields. This means that doctors with a few years of experience may earn less than those with decades of experience. As doctors become highly-qualified, they can earn more money through specialisations, teaching, etc.

Employment Setting

The employment setting can influence how much doctors get paid. Doctors who work in private clinics, for example, may earn more than those who work in nonprofit organizations. Doctors who choose to open their private practices may also have the potential to earn more based on their business model, patient demographics, and specialisation.

Comparing Doctors’ Salaries

Primary Care Physicians

Primary care physicians work as family doctors, general practitioners, and pediatricians. They earn an annual mean wage of about $214,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for primary care physicians in the USA is around $241,000, with the top 10% of earners earning over $320,000 per year.


Surgeons are responsible for performing complex procedures to save lives, maintain or improve health. Surgeons are a highly-specialized group of doctors who have undergone extensive training and have qualifications. They earn an average of around $252,000 annually, according to the BLS, with the top 10% of earners earning over $350,000 per year.


OB GYNs are doctors specializing in the female reproductive system and childbirth. They earn an average of around $235,000 annually, according to the BLS. The top 10% of earners in this field make over $332,000 per year.


Psychiatrists are medical professionals that specialisein the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. They earn an average salary of around $220,000 annually, according to the BLS. The top 10% of earners earn over $300,000 per year.


Dentists are doctors specializing in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of issues related to teeth, gum, and mouth health. They earn an average of around $157,000 annually, according to the BLS, with the top 10% of earners making over $195,000 per year.


Optometrists specialize in providing care for their patients’ visual health. They earn an average of around $123,000 annually, according to the BLS. The top 10% of earners in this field make over $187,000 annually.

Expected Salaries for Entering Physicians

Residency Stipends

Medical students receive a stipend when they begin their residency program, and it varies by location and system. According to Medscape’s 2021 report, first-year residents in most private hospitals receive a mean salary of $63,400.

Fellowship Stipends

After residency, doctors can opt for subspecialty training through fellowship programs that offer additional pay. Fellowship stipends also vary widely by specialty, location, and employer. For example, according to the Medscape survey, the lowest stipend for critical care medicine is $47,000 per year, while the highest is $86,000 per year.

Common Questions About Doctors’ Salaries

Here are some common questions and answers related to doctors’ salaries:

  • Q: What is the average salary for a doctor?
  • A: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, doctors’ average annual salary is around $208,000.
  • Q: Do primary care physicians make less than specialists?
  • A: Yes, primary care physicians typically earn less than specialists such as surgeons and cardiologists.
  • Q: Can I negotiate my salary as a doctor?
  • A: Yes, doctors can negotiate their salaries when they receive job offers, especially in private practices or other less regulated environments;
  • Q: What is the earning potential for doctors in the USA?
  • A: According to the BLS, the earning potential for doctors in the USA ranges from $120,000 to $500,000 or more per year, depending on their experience, specialty, and work location.


In conclusion, doctors’ salaries are determined by multiple factors, such as speciality, geographic location, level of experience, and employment setting. Salaries for different types of doctors can be highly competitive when comparing specialties. However, as the medical industry continues to grow, it is expected that doctors’ salaries will also continue to increase in the future as healthcare and research is still both a priority and a necessity.


  • U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021).
  • The Physician Salary Report 2021. Medscape. (2021).

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