2018 trends in medical specialty choice

Choosing a medical specialty to enter is perhaps the most important choice a medical student will make in his or her career as a physician. Many factors ultimately influence this decision, from level of compensation to the desired level of interaction with patients. With 2018 coming to a close, it’s a good time to examine trends among medical specialties for the year.

The highest-paying specialties and their average annual compensation are as follows:

  • Plastic surgery: $501,000

  • Orthopedics: $497,000

  • Cardiology: $408,000

  • Radiology: $401,000

  • Dermatology: $392,000

Primary care fields were among the lowest-paying specialties. Included in the bottom five are the following:

  • Internal medicine: $230,000

  • Family medicine: $219,000

  • Pediatrics: $212,000

According to more than 15,000 respondents in a survey regarding burnout and depression, burnout is down 9% compared to results from last year, although 15% of respondents reported experiencing depression. Physicians reported the lowest rates of burnout practice in the following specialties:

  • Plastic surgery

  • Dermatology

  • Pathology

  • Ophthalmology

  • Orthopedics

Additionally, women made up the majority of residents in the specialties of obstetrics and gynecology (83% women) and pediatrics (73%) . Men made up a larger percent of the residents in orthopedic surgery (85% men) and neurological surgery (83%).  

Source: American Medical Association