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Physicians Top List of Highest-Paying Jobs

Surgeons earn highest annual median wage in U.S.

Despite reports of job dissatisfaction, surgeons, psychiatrists, and physicians are the three highest-paid professions in the U.S., according to a report from HealthLeaders Media.

Using annual median wages reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CareerCast’s List of Top 10 best-paying jobs found that surgeons headed the list with an “annual median wage” of $352,220, followed by psychiatrists at $181,000, and primary care physicians at $180,180. All three of the medical disciplines were expected to see a wage “growth outlook” of 18% through 2022, according to CareerCast, a job-search portal based in Carlsbad, California.

Health care professions presented six of the 10 highest-paying jobs on the list. Dentists came in at No. 5, with a median annual wage of $146,340 and a growth outlook of 16%; orthodontists were No. 7 with an annual wage of $129,110 and a growth outlook of 16%; and pharmacists were No. 10, with an annual wage of $121,000 and a growth outlook of 14%, according to CareerCast.

The company points out, however, that the debt accrued over an aspiring surgeon, physician, or psychiatrist’s time in school can be astronomical. These health care professionals can acquire student loan debt of around $500,000 before seeing any of the impressive salaries listed by CareerCast.

While the specific value of compensation paid to various professions can vary from survey to survey, the findings by CareerCast are consistent with lists compiled by other sources, HealthLeaders Media says. For example, Forbes magazine listed “physician” in general as the “highest-paying in-demand job” in 2015, with an “average base salary” of $212,000. Pharmacy manager was No. 2 on the Forbes list, with an average base salary of $131,000.

Health care professions represent seven of the top ten “100 Best Jobs” rated by U.S. News & World Report and Money magazines. Their ranking takes in other factors, such as quality of life, challenging but not overly stressful responsibilities, career advancement, and hiring demand.

The Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2015 found that primary care physicians earned an average of $195,000 a year, while specialists earned about $284,000, according to HealthLeaders Media.

Although limited to health care professions, one of the more detailed assessments of physician compensation comes from the annual physician recruiting search results published by Merritt Hawkins, a Texas-based physician recruiter. Invasive cardiologists headed the Merritt Hawkins list of Top 10 most in-demand specialties, with an annual income of $525,000. 

Sources: CareerCast 2015; and HealthLeaders Media; August 24, 2015.

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