If you need surgery on your spine, you can choose between two medical specialists -- neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons. These doctors have slightly different training but complete college, medical school, residency and a fellowship. Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons must be licensed and are usually board certified. Both types of physicians perform many kinds of spine surgery and are equally well qualified, according to a July 2012 article on the Spine Health website.
Salary Information Varies
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks data on some doctors, it doesn't include neurosurgery or orthopedic surgery. Salary data on these two specialties comes from a wide variety of industry sources, and amounts vary. Some sources report on only one of the two specialties. “Becker’s Hospital Review,” for example, reports the average hourly wage of full-time orthopedic surgeons was $250 in 2013, for an average annual salary of $520,000. Neurosurgeons earned $322 an hour, or $669,769 annually. The 2013 Medscape Physician Compensation Report notes an annual salary of $405,000 for orthopedic surgeons but doesn't include neurosurgeons.
Salaries Across the Years
Short White Coats, a physician information website, reports salaries for neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons at different points in their careers. In 2011, orthopedic surgeons started at a median of $412,500 and increased to $416,229 after one to two years of practice. The median salary for orthopedic surgeons overall was $497,088. Neurosurgeon median starting salaries averaged $400,000, according to Short White Coats, while salaries climbed to $634,884 after one to two years of practice. Overall, neurosurgeons earned $701,928.
Profiles Database, a website that matches newly graduated physicians with employers who are recruiting, tracks starting salaries and salaries for physicians with six years of experience. For 2011, Profiles reports orthopedic surgeons earned starting salaries of $465,000 and after six years had a median salary of $625,000. Neurosurgeons started at $395,000 and earned $589,500 after six years. A July 2013 article in “Modern Healthcare” reports a salary range of $451,714 to $675,000 for orthopedic surgeons but doesn't include data on neurosurgeons.
The Data's in the Details
Some sources provide more detailed data on orthopedic surgeons. “Becker’s Hospital Review” notes that in 2011, female orthopedic surgeons earned $240,000 and men made $326,000. The Northeast was the lowest-paying region, with an average salary of $303,000, while the West paid the highest salary, at $350,000. The median salary was $501,808, according to “Becker’s.” Cejka Search, a nationwide physician recruiting firm, reported separately on neurosurgeons, general orthopedic surgeons and orthopedic surgeons who specialize in the spine. General orthopedic surgeons earned $515,759, neurosurgeons made $656,250 and spinal orthopedic surgeons earned $710,556.