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'Highest Paying Jobs' List Ranks Physicians at Top

 |  By John Commins  
   August 24, 2015

Based on annual median wages reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgeons earn the highest annual median wage, followed by psychiatrists and primary care physicians.

Despite reports of job dissatisfaction, surgeons, psychiatrists and physicians are the three highest-paid professions in the United States, according to the CareerCast's 2015 list of Top 10 best paying jobs.

Physician Compensation, Dissatisfaction Ratchet Up

Using annual median wages reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerCast found that surgeons topped the list with an "annual median wage" of $352,220, followed by psychiatrists at $181,000, and primary care physicians at $180,180. All three of the medical disciplines were expected to see a wage "growth outlook" of 18% through 2022, according to CareerCast, a niche job search portal based in Carlsbad, CA.

Healthcare professions presented six of the 10 highest paying jobs on the list. Dentists came in at No. 5, with a median annual wage of $146,340 and a growth outlook of 16%; orthodontists were No. 7 with an annual wage of $129,110 and a growth outlook of 16%; and pharmacists were No. 10, with an annual wage of $121,000 and a growth outlook of 14%, according to CareerCast.

Physicians defend their high compensation by noting that they spend up to 10 years in training and that they accrue huge student loan debts that can take decades to pay off. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the median debt was $180,000 for medical students graduating in 2014.

While the specific value of compensation paid to various professions can vary from survey to survey, the findings by CareerCast are consistent with lists compiled by other sources. For example, Forbes magazine listed "physician" in general as the "highest paying in-demand job" in 2015, with an "average base salary" of $212,000. Pharmacy manager was No. 2 on the Forbes list with an average base salary of $131,000.

Healthcare professions represent seven of the top ten "100 Best Jobs"as rated by U.S. News & World Report, and Money magazine. Their ranking take in other factors such as quality of life, challenging but not overly stressful, career advancement, and hiring demand.

The Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2015, found that primary care physicians earned on average $195,000 a year while specialists earned about $284,000.

Although limited to healthcare professions, one of the more detailed assessments of physician compensation comes from the annual physician recruiting search results published by Merritt Hawkins, the Irving, TX-based physician recruiters. Invasive cardiologists topped the Merritt Hawkins list of Top 10 in most demand specialties with an annual income of $525,000. 

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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