According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, accounting for approximately one-quarter of all deaths. Cardiac surgeons are among the most highly paid of all doctors, reflecting both the skills required and the high volume of heart surgeries. Heart disease accounts for a correspondingly large portion of the healthcare industry, and both cardiologists and cardiac surgeons are in high demand, as of 2016.
Heart surgeons have one of the longest training periods of all physicians, with four to five years in residency and another two to three in a cardiothoracic or cardiovascular surgical fellowship. This lengthy training pays dividends when surgeons begin to practice. Medical staffing firm Profiles, which specializes in recruiting doctors entering the work force, reported a median first-year salary of $376,000 a year for cardiothoracic surgeons in its 2015 salary survey.
The American Medical Group Association, or AMGA, conducts an annual survey of the 125,000 physicians in its member organizations. In its 2016 survey, cardiac and thoracic surgeons reported a median salary of $645,112 per year.
Medical Field Salary Comparisons
These salaries place cardiac surgeons as the highest-paid of all surgical specialties. In the AMGA survey, orthopedic surgeons came close at median of $582,056 a year. In comparison, general surgeons reported a median salary of $413,824 a year. In a MGMA survey, orthopedic surgeons enjoyed the highest salaries at $559,137 per year, with pediatric neurosurgeons earning $643,188 a year. General surgeons were well below those figures, at $373,478 per year.
Cardiac surgeons spend a total of eight years in college, with the first four in an undergraduate premedical program and the second four in a medical or osteopathic school. At graduation, aspiring heart surgeons spend their first four to five years learning surgical and diagnostic skills in a general surgical residency. After their residency, surgeons move on to complete a two- to three-year fellowship in cardiothoracic or cardiovascular surgery. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 14 percent increase in jobs for physicians, between 2014 and 2024, but cardiac surgeons should enjoy even higher demand as the baby boom generation ages and experiences more frequent heart conditions.
2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons
Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.