People needing surgeries of the shoulder and elbow are often referred to orthopedic surgeons, who specialize on conditions and injuries affecting the musculoskeletal system. Yet within this particular branch of medicine, there are also subspecialties. Two of the most common are sports medicine and hand, but orthopedic surgeons can also focus on the spine, foot and ankle, trauma, pediatrics and hip and joint -- the subspecialty often associated with surgeries of the shoulder and elbow. Salaries vary by subspecialty.
Surgical Salary Ranges
As of 2012, the average surgeon earned $230,540 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this figure accounts for all surgeons, regardless of specialty. A survey by Merritt Hawkins, a physician’s consulting firm, found that orthopedic surgeons as a whole earned anywhere from $300,000 to $700,000 a year, with the average salary closer to $521,000 in 2011.
Subspecialties Improve Earnings
Subspecializing within orthopedic surgery can greatly improve the earning potential of surgeons, according to the findings by a survey from Medical Group Management Association. Orthopedic surgeons specializing on hip and joint surgeries averaged $674,156 a year. This was 25 percent higher than the salary of general orthopedic surgeons, who earned $539,350 annually. But this was nearly 13 percent less than orthopedic surgeons specializing on the spine, who brought home an average of $760,782 -- the highest wages within this branch of medicine. If, however, the patient is a child, and needs surgery of the shoulder or elbow, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon may be needed. On average, these specialists earned $559,422 a year.
The high salaries have a lot to do with training, as it can take years to become a surgeon and even more years to master a subspecialty. In general, surgeons spend a combined eight years in undergraduate programs and medical school. With orthopedic surgery, residencies often take upward of five years to complete and then a one-year fellowship in the subspecialty of choice. On average, you’re looking at a minimum of 14 years of training.
As a whole, surgeons should see an improvement in job opportunities by as much as 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, projects the BLS. This is much faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, an estimated 14 percent. Expect the best prospects for surgeons willing to relocate to low-income areas.