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How Much Does a Cardiothoracic Surgeon Make a Year?

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Create a Solid Financial Future as You Save Lives

Cardiothoracic surgeons are specially trained physicians who operate on the heart and within the chest cavity. If you are passionate about the medical field, enjoy serving others and solving problems, and want to secure a solid financial future for your family, this career could be an ideal fit. Lots of schooling and residency are required, and hours can be unpredictable or long, so solid childcare or family support help make this career possible when you have little ones in the house.

Job Description

Cardiothoracic surgeons work on medical teams with other physicians and surgeons and spend a lot of time working with patients and in the operating room. You will need strong attention to detail and a steady hand when performing complicated surgical procedures. Expect to spend long hours on your feet in sterile operating rooms, as well as to perform surgeries under emergent circumstances.

Crisis management skills help you explain difficult situations to patients and families. Communication skills are essential for leading your medical team, especially when seconds count and a patient's life is on the line.

Make sure you take good care of yourself too, to persevere in this challenging field. As with other surgeons, patient confidentiality and meticulous record keeping are integral. Hours are long and involve being on call, even when you are not scheduled to work.

To keep things running smoothly at home, you need to have a plan for childcare if you are called to the hospital at off times. Though the position can be demanding and stressful, there is reward beyond your salary in knowing that you have helped to improve or save someone's life.

Education Requirements

As specialized medical doctors, cardiothoracic surgeons are required to spend several years in school and residency.

First, earn your bachelors degree in biology, premed or a related field, and then enroll in a four-year medical school program.

Following medical school, you will spend a few years in a residency program before sitting for the general medical licensing exam in your state of residence.

Cardiothoracic surgeons also spend up to six years in specialized residency programs before sitting for the board certification exam with the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

After all those years of schooling and residency, cardiothoracic surgeons earn a median annual salary of $448,793, which means that half earn more than this and the other half earn less. This is higher than the median annual salary for all physicians and surgeons, which is $251,578. The top 25 percent of cardiothoracic surgeons earn more than $562,558, while the bottom 25 percent earn less than $359,760.

About the Industry

Cardiothoracic surgeons may have some office hours, but spend most of their time working in hospitals, especially in operating rooms. Expect to spend a good amount of time working with intensive care unit teams and in the emergency room, as well as visiting patients in their rooms following surgery. If you work in a teaching hospital, you may also spend time with students, or even in the university setting.

Geographic State and Metropolitan Salary Map for Surgeons

Years of Experience

Cardiothoracic surgeons are rewarded with a generous salary following several years of schooling, which makes sense, especially considering the demanding nature of the field. One projection looks like this:

  • 1-2 years: $390,323 to $442,149
  • 3-4 years: $422,216 to $477,659
  • 5-6 years: $442,149 to $504,827
  • 7 or more years: $448,793 to $513,317.

Job Growth Trend

Job opportunities for all physicians and surgeons, including cardiothoracic surgeons, are expected to increase by 13 percent over the next decade, which is faster than in other industries. Growth is attributed to an aging population, many of whom will benefit from the specialized expertise in this field of medicine. Most medical school graduates are matched with appropriate residencies, so job prospects are good for those committed to the educational path toward state licensing and board certification.


Anne Kinsey is an entrepreneur and business pioneer, who has ranked in the top 1% of the direct sales industry, growing a large team and earning the title of Senior Team Manager during her time with Jamberry. She is the nonprofit founder and executive director of Love Powered Life, as well as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and freelance writer who has written for publications like Working Mother, the San Francisco Chronicle, Bizfluent, the Houston Chronicle and Our Everyday Life. Anne works from her home office in rural North Carolina, where she resides with her husband and three children.

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