2022 general surgery salary report: General surgeon compensation up 8%

September 29th, 2022 6 Min read 2022 general surgery salary report: General surgeon compensation up 8% Blog

Physician income is rebounding across the board from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and general surgeons are no exception. According Medscape’s 2022 General Surgeon Compensation Report, general surgeon pay rose to an average of $402K in 2021, up nearly 8% from the $373K average reported for 2020. The report also reveals how general surgeons feel about their compensation, and offers insights into the most rewarding and challenging aspects of their jobs.

Chart - How much did general surgeons earn in 2021

How general surgeon salary compares

At $402K, general surgeon compensation ranks 12th among the 29 specialties surveyed. While general surgeons saw the same rising pay trend as other specialties, the 8% rebound rate ranks in the middle.

Chart - Did general surgeons' income rise or fall in 2021

In addition, some general surgeons had not seen their income return to pre-pandemic levels in 2021. One in five general surgeons noted that their earnings shrunk in 2021 due to various factors, such as reduced pay from their company and the expiration of assistance grants set in place during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Chart - Causes of general surgeon income decline in 2021

How general surgeons feel about their compensation

Despite salary gains, only 52% of general surgeons feel that they are fairly compensated for their work. Of the specialties polled, this ranks 10th lowest in compensation satisfaction.

Chart - How many general surgeons feel fairly compensated in 2021

This dissatisfaction may be related to incentive pay. Of the 17 physician specialties who receive incentive bonuses as part of their pay structure, general surgeons’ bonuses average $46K, which is the 6th lowest. The highest incentives went to orthopedics ($126K), ophthalmology ($100K), and cardiology ($85K).

Chart - 2021 general surgeons average bonus

What general surgeons find most rewarding

Of the physicians surveyed, gratitude and relationships with their patients topped the list of most rewarding parts of the job at 29%. Second and third most rewarding factors are being good at what they do/finding diagnoses (26%), and knowing that they are making the world a better place/helping others (21%).

Chart - most rewarding part of a general surgeon's job

What challenges have the biggest impact on general surgeons

The top challenge listed by general surgeons is having so many rules and regulations (22%.) This is also the greatest challenge listed by a large majority of specialties. The next biggest trial for general surgeons, at 19%, is difficulty getting fair reimbursement from or dealing with Medicare and/or other insurers. Coming in third is working long hours (13%).

Chart - most challenging part of a general surgeon's job

How general surgeons feel about their choice of specialty

Medscape found that despite feeling unfairly compensated for their work, 76% of general surgeons still say they would choose medicine as a profession again. Additionally, only 17% of general surgeons said they would likely choose a different specialty if given the opportunity to do so.

Chart - 2021 general surgeons who would choose same specialty

How many general surgeons work extra to supplement their income

About 31% of general surgeons say they have taken on additional work to compensate for lost wages over the past 2 years. This includes moonlighting as well as locum tenens positions.

Chart - 2021 general surgeons who take extra work to supplement income

Dr. Blaine Cashmore, a general surgeon based in Utah, says that adding locums work to his regular schedule affords him peace of mind when it comes to his family budget. He states, “I always look at it as, if I take locums work this weekend then I don’t have to question, ‘is spending extra money worth it?’” He takes on weekend locum tenens assignments close to home, where lengthy travel isn’t necessary but getting to assist a facility in need as well as the impact of the added hours on his general surgery salary make the time spent worthwhile.

Most general surgeons satisfied

General surgeon salaries, on trend with other specialties’ salaries, are rebounding from 2020. And despite feeling undercompensated in their roles, a majority of general surgeons say they enjoy their work, value practicing medicine, and feel there are many rewarding aspects to the job.

RELATED: How locum tenens works for surgeons

General surgeons are in high demand as locum tenens physicians. Give us a call at 800.453.3030 to learn more or view today's locum tenens general surgery job opportunities.

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Meg Leberknight

Meg Leberknight

When she’s not writing for CHG, Meg is a floral designer with a background in hospitality and event management. She is currently adventuring around the U.S. with her partner, Chase. Meg enjoys backpacking, skiing, taste-testing hot sauces, and nerding out over word puzzles.

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