By Jamie Johnson, WCI Contributor

The COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for the medical community and impacted physicians’ salaries and workloads. A number of doctors have continued to struggle with difficult workloads, but many have seen their salaries rebound since the height of the pandemic.

Medscape surveyed more than 13,000 physicians across 29 different specialties to see how they felt about their income, their life as a physician, and their overall satisfaction with their work. Today, we’re going to look at how plastic surgeons fared financially in 2022.


A Plastic Surgeon’s Average Salary

In 2022, plastic surgeons earned an average of $576,000, making it the highest-earning specialty for a physician. The only other specialty that came close was orthopedics, but these doctors still earn about $19,000 less than plastic surgeons.

Plastic surgery is known for being a highly paid specialty, so these results aren’t entirely surprising.

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Is a Plastic Surgeon’s Income Rising?

In addition to earning a high salary overall, plastic surgeons saw their income increase from the previous year. Plastic surgeons, pediatricians, and ophthalmologists all saw their income rise by 10% in 2022. Nobody, however, did better than otolaryngologists, who increased their salary by 13%.

Inflation also rose 4.7% in the US in the year of the survey, and that clearly affected physicians’ purchasing power. However, physicians have seen their income steadily increase since 2015. That has made it possible for many physicians to keep up with ongoing cost-of-living increases.

More information here:

Surgical Specialties with the Best Lifestyle


Do Plastic Surgeons Have Incentive Bonuses?

The Medscape report found that 57% of physicians earn some type of referral bonus. However, while some specialties earn six figures in incentive bonuses, there wasn’t any data for plastic surgeons.

plastic surgeon salary income average


Do Plastic Surgeons Take Extra Work to Supplement Their Income?

Roughly 36% of all physicians take on extra work to supplement their income. Plastic surgeons are less likely than most to take on additional work, but 24% do find the time.

Of those who take on additional work, 15% do additional medical-related work, and 8% take on non-medical-related work. A very small percentage of plastic surgeons take on more hours at their current job or engage in medical moonlighting. That, in part, is probably because plastic surgeons are already so well compensated.

More information here:

Doctors Need to Budget Too!


Do Plastic Surgeons Feel Fairly Compensated?

Overall, plastic surgeons feel well-compensated for their work—66% feel like they are well-paid, which puts them in the top third of all physicians.

What’s interesting to note is that public health and preventative medicine doctors earn an average of $243,000 a year. That’s $333,000 less than what plastic surgeons earn, but they feel more fairly compensated.


Are Plastic Surgeons Happy with Their Specialty?

The data shows that plastic surgeons are happy with their careers overall. When asked if they would choose their specialty again, 96% answered yes (only dermatology (98%) and orthopedics (97%) had higher rates of satisfaction). And 77% said that if they were to start over, they would choose a career in medicine again.

When asked about the most rewarding aspects of their job, 37% pointed to relationships with their patients. However, 26% said that dealing with difficult patients can also be one of the most difficult aspects of their job. 


Other Sources

The Medscape data isn’t the only research that’s been done on the average income of physicians. Most of the additional data is fairly consistent with Medscape’s findings, with MGMA being the only outlier.

  • MGMA: $614,614
  • AAMC: $548,999
  • Doximity: $556,698
  • AMGA: $552,000 (academics only)


Increasing Your Physician Income

One of the most important things that you can do to earn more for your work is to negotiate your pay and the terms of your contract. Many doctors wind up with bad contracts that leave them improperly compensated, facing high costs and non-compete agreements that restrict their future opportunities.

If you’re negotiating a new contract, The White Coat Investor has a list of vetted attorneys and law firms to work with to make sure you get a good deal.

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