10 Medical School Careers That Really Pay OffJanuary 28, 2021
When choosing a profession, there’s usually some sort of trade-off between required education and expected income. Ideally, a more rigorous training path will lead to a higher salary.
Nowhere is this trade-off more dramatic than in the medical profession. Even after four years of college and four years of medical school, it takes an additional three to eight years of residency to become a board-certified MD.
But as with any fair trade-off, what you get in return for all this hard work is often worth it. Doctors in just about every specialty can expect to make an impressive salary, and job security in the medical profession is consistently stable.
Not all positions requiring medical school are equally lucrative, however, and some medical professions requiring less education still pay big bucks. Here are some of the top-paying medical jobs:
Neurosurgery is one of the most difficult medical specialties, and for good reason. These doctors operate on the brain, spinal cord and nerves, performing complex and often life-saving procedures. Because these surgeries are so complicated, neurosurgeons spend between six to seven years in residency after completing four years of medical school.
Neurosurgeons have the one of the highest-paying medical jobs among physicians and surgeons at a whopping $746,544. The demand for neurosurgeons is projected to grow 4% between 2019 and 2029.
2. Thoracic Surgeon
Thoracic surgeons are responsible for the heart, lungs and esophagus. They commonly treat major illnesses like heart disease and lung cancer.
Thoracic surgeons are one of the most in-demand medical specialties, with a job growth rate of 14.4%. They have an average salary of $487,677 and an income range of $392,137 to $610,828, making this one of the highest-paying medical jobs among all physicians and surgeons.
3. Orthopedic surgeons
Orthopedic surgeons conduct a wide variety of musculoskeletal procedures, including hip replacement, ACL repair, knee replacement and more. They can work in a private practice, at a university or a hospital.
The average salary for orthopedic surgeons was $493,770 in 2020. The demand for orthopedic surgeons is high, with a 10-year growth rate of 24.4%. Orthopedic surgeons are also one of the happiest medical specialties, making them a great addition to our list of top medical jobs.
4. Radiation oncology
When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they may visit a radiation oncologist for treatment. The oncologist will create a treatment plan that includes using radiation to fight the cancer. This can be a very fulfilling career for people who are passionate about helping cancer patients.
Radiation oncology is also one of the highest-paying medical jobs. The average annual salary is $486,089, with a projected job growth rate of 7%.
5. Vascular surgery
Vascular surgeons treat patients with blood clots or hardened arteries. They may also perform transplant surgeries and other procedures. Most vascular surgeons have to complete five years of residency followed by a two-year fellowship.
If you’re looking for a top medical job, vascular surgery may be what you’re looking for. Jobs for vascular surgeons are expected to increase by 7% between 2018 and 2028. The average annual salary for vascular surgeons is $407,981.
Dermatologists treat patients for skin and hair diseases and also provide cosmetic services like Botox and fillers. They can also perform surgical services like removing cancerous moles.
A 2017 survey from Medscape found that dermatologists are the happiest medical specialty. This is likely because dermatologists have one of the best work-life balances compared to other types of doctors. They also tend to work slightly fewer hours than other specialties. A 2019 survey found that dermatologists earn $419,000 on average.
Cardiologists are responsible for diagnosing and treating heart conditions and performing heart surgeries. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, the demand for cardiologists will grow much faster than other professions, which is one of the many reasons we’ve added it to our list of top medical jobs.
One report projected the job growth rate for cardiologists to be 18% annually, with an average annual income of $453,515.
Cardiologists need to finish a three-year internal medicine residency and then a cardiology fellowship, which usually takes either three or four years.
8. Plastic surgery
The services provided by plastic surgeons commonly include cosmetic surgeries like liposuctions and facelifts, along with reconstructive procedures like scar revision and tumor removals.
Like any other kind of doctor, becoming a plastic surgeon requires years of schooling. Many plastic surgeons also end up completing a fellowship after residency.
Fortunately, all this hard work eventually pays off. The average annual salary for plastic surgeons is $433,060.
9. Physician Assistant
US News named physician assistant as the best job to have in 2021. Physician assistants (PAs) perform many of the same functions as internal medicine and family doctors, but they only need to complete a Master’s degree. This means they can start working sooner than most medical doctors. The average salary for a PA is $112,260.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth rate for PAs is 31.3% between 2019 and 2029. That’s much higher than almost every job on this list.
10. Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are able to see and diagnose patients on their own. They may work in a hospital or office setting, seeing patients one-on-one like a doctor or physician’s assistant.
Nurse practitioners earn an average of $115,800 a year. Even NPs with less than five years of experience have an average salary of $100,634.
NPs only need a Master’s degree to begin working. Because there is currently a shortage of NPs, they tend to have more flexibility in where they can work.
The Bottom Line
If you’re interested in a medical career, there are a wide variety of jobs to choose from. Your options depend on how much schooling you’re willing to complete, the kind of work-life balance you want and the area of medicine you’re most interested in.
Even though the debt load for most medical professions is high, you can always apply to refinance your student loans to a lower interest rate after you graduate. Contact ELFI today to learn how to get started with the student loan refinancing process.