As of 2013, nearly 119,000 people were waiting for an organ transplant. According to the National Kidney Foundation, over 96,000 were in need of a kidney. With an estimated 16,812 kidney transplants performed in 2012, kidney transplants are one of the most common types of transplant surgeries in the United States. Being the most common, though, doesn’t necessarily equate to the highest of salaries for the surgeons.
Surgical Salary Ranges
Between 2011 and 2012, surgeons saw a slight decrease in earnings, going from an average of $231,550 to $230,540 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey by the Medical Group Management Association found that transplant surgeons earned closer to $379,387 in 2010 -- nearly 65 percent more than surgeons as a whole.
Though transplant surgeons train in various organ transplant procedures, many specialize in a certain area, and this specialty can affect salaries. As of 2013, half of all kidney transplant surgeons brought home at least $421,200 a year, according to a survey by the American Medical Group Association. Those specializing in liver transplants earned roughly 8 percent more, at a median wage of $457,000. Topping the list were heart and lung transplant surgeons, who often fall under the specialty of cardiothoracic surgeons. In 2013, salaries came in at $544,087 a year.
The six-figure salaries are at least partly due to the time it takes to master such complicated surgical procedures. As with any physician, undergraduate and medical school programs typically take a combined eight years to complete. From there, graduates go on to residencies in general surgery -- a five-year commitment, on average. Transplant surgeons then complete a two-year research rotation and a two-year fellowship in their specialty, according to the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
The BLS expects employment for transplant surgeons -- and surgeons in general -- to be favorable, with a job growth rate of 24 percent between 2010 and 2020. By comparison, this is much faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, an overall estimated growth of 14 percent.