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Physicians and surgeons are often seen as individuals who earn high salaries. That’s typically true of graduate physicians once they begin to practice, and even more so after they gain experience. Orthopedic surgeons, for example, earned an average of $405,000 annually in 2013, according to the Medscape “Physician Compensation Report.” Residency, however, is a different matter.
Training Takes Time
Orthopedics is a very competitive field, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Like all physicians, an orthopedic surgeon spends eight years in college and medical school. Unlike many other doctors, however, orthopedic surgeons have a five-year residency in which they learn the necessary skills to perform surgeries such as joint replacements, tendon transfers or fracture repairs. Residency programs could include two years of general surgery plus three of orthopedic surgery, but most offer four years in orthopedic training and one year in a broad-based program such as general surgery, internal medicine or pediatrics. Orthopedic surgeons are paid for each year of residency.
Money Matter Basics
Although each residency program has its own pay scale and salaries might vary from one program to another, the pay is typically comparable across specialties, according to Short White Coats, a physician information website. The American Association of Medical Colleges reports a mean salary of $50,765 for first-year residents in the 2013-2014 academic year. Second-year residents earned $52,689 and third-year residents earned $54,695. By the fourth year, residents made $56,987 and by the fifth year, they made $59,295.
Location and Work Setting
The AAMC notes salaries could vary slightly by type of institution, however, with salaries ranging from $49,218 in medical school hospitals to $51,926 in other nonprofit hospitals. Resident salaries varied by geographic region as well, according to the AAMC. Residents in the Northeast earned $53,672 in the first year and $64,092 by the fifth year. In the South, the average salary for a first-year resident was $48,672, while that of a fifth-year resident was $56,240. The Midwest offered salaries of $50,029 for first-year residents and $57,458 for fifth-year residents, while the West was slightly higher at $50,552 and $59,636.
Individual hospitals and universities also offer a variety of salaries for orthopedic residents. At the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, salaries range from $43,956 for the first year of residency to $61,443 for the fifth year. University of Massachusetts Medical School offers $50,523 and $59,462 for the same positions. First-year residents at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, earned $47,749, and fifth-year residents made $54,271. Midwestern University in Illinois paid $47,084 to first-year residents and $55,741 to fifth-year residents.
Demand and Job Outlook
Demand for physicians and surgeons in general will remain high through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The projected growth rate for this profession is 24 percent, much higher than the rate for all other occupations. Orthopedic surgery is fifth on the list of the top five medical specialties for which nationwide physician recruiter Merritt Hawkins was recruiting in 2011. Merritt Hawkins had 104 requests for orthopedic surgeons, considerably less than the No. 1 specialty of family medicine, which had 532 requests. Orthopedic surgeons were well above endocrinologists, however, who were in 20th position on the list with 19 requests.
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- Medscape: Physician Compensation Report
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Career in Orthopaedics
- Short White Coats: Resident and Fellow Salaries and Benefits
- American Association of Medical Colleges: Survey of Resident/Fellow Stipends and Benefits Report 2013-2014
- Keck School of Medicine: Salaries and Benefits
- University of Massachusetts Medical School: Residency Program Curriculum
- Carolinas Healthcare System: Resident Salary and Benefits
- Midwestern University: Postdoctoral Programs - Orthopedic Surgery
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- Merritt Hawkins: 2011 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.