After over a decade of rigorous training and exhausting studies, surgeons earn the rewards they hoped.
Surgeons enjoy saving lives, maintaining their prestige, and receiving one of the highest salaries in the world.
The Australian Tax Office reports that surgeons have an average income of $394,303, standing on top of all taxable incomes.
In comparison, medical practitioners earn $155,000 on average annually, while typical Australian workers receive $51,342 as taxable income.
This trend is not an isolated case in Australia—surgeons also earn the highest salaries in the United States of America.
You might be asking, why do surgeons get paid that much? In this article, you will find out.
The specialty they perform
The salaries that surgeons receive depend directly on their specialization. Like in other careers or fields, there is a higher demand and compensation for specialized and exclusive services.
For example, general practitioners know surgery broadly: they do not have a specialization that will set them apart from the rest. But a surgeon with a specialization in pediatric surgery can expect more clients and patients because of his more intensive training and knowledge there.
The costs of medical school
It is expensive to study medicine, and this rings especially true for surgery.
Studying in medical schools is extremely expensive: the cost of a four-year medical course can reach as high as $71,488. But surgical training costs at least twice this figure!
There are several reasons why medical schools and surgical training are costly and luxurious worldwide:
- As governments subsidize and guarantee low-interest loans to medical students, tuition fees at medical schools may rise through inflation.
- Medical schools are highly competitive, limiting how many applicants are accepted every year. Such a high demand for would-be doctors and surgeons pushes the prices of medical schools higher.
- Medical schools seek funders, excellent faculty members, and the most eligible candidates. Because of this, they finance expensive facilities and programs that pile up on the fees that students pay.
- Medical schools need cash for clinical science buildings, studies, and instruments. The costly tuition fee also finances the subsidies for the school’s research work.
- Market forces also drive medical school tuition fees upward. Administrators might not be motivated to decrease the tuition fee from the students because doing so might alienate the stakeholders.
These include the university researchers and government offices that support the medical school.
Medical schools and surgical training institutions also finance the faculty members, many of which require high salaries because of their doctorate profession.
(However, these salaries are small compared to physicians and surgeons practicing in the field.)
The students’ tuition sponsors cadavers, an integral part of surgical training. The schools also pay for the aspiring surgeons’ practice tools, program subscriptions, and training.
The facilities are maintained as well, so medical schools pay for staff and upkeep costs. Medical schools also charge students for insurance and oversight fees.
Their medical school debts
Most medical students have no scholarships, so they bear a hefty debt they must pay for once they start working years later.
Worse, this debt grows with interest. Mean interest rates on medical school loans can reach up to 6.6%.
Because they still have to pay for their debts at medical school, surgeons are still wary despite their high salaries. After all, financial troubles can ruin their careers and families.
Their medical malpractice insurance
Despite their immense training, surgeons can still make mistakes. Accidents, errors, and lawsuits can severely impact surgeons’ finances and careers, so they also regularly pay hefty malpractice insurance just in case.
CGU, one of the most respected insurance firms in Australia, covers the following legal cases:
- Breach of confidentiality and duty
- Mishandling of documents
- Indirectly committing dishonest, deceptive, and malicious actions
- Indirectly committing medical benefits fraud
- Intellectual property violations
- Good Samaritan Acts
Such an insurance policy also covers social activities and legal consultation.
Medical malpractice insurance for surgeons in Australia is expensive. Annually, surgeons pay from $22,000 to $52,000 based on their work history, schedule, setting, and experience.
Together with taxes, medical malpractice insurance can take up to 40% of surgeons’ salaries. These figures do not include what they regularly pay for their student debt.
Imagine how much goes away from what seems to be such a high salary!
The time before becoming surgeons
By the time aspiring surgeons finish surgical training, it is so likely that their classmates in high school are already managers, bosses, and higher-ups in their careers.
Surgeons study and train for over sixteen years after graduating from high school. But many surgeons still study deeper specializations for additional years.
At a minimum, surgeons begin to work when they are 35 years old. Many physicians and surgeons do not receive salaries for all those years they spent at medical school, yet they would graduate with so much debt.
This truth about the surgical field drives up the demand for surgeons. They deserve high compensation for all the years they spend to become surgeons.
The difficulties surgeons face
While looking at the high salaries of surgeons, it is easy to forget the tremendous struggles they face in their careers every day. In Australia, surgeons work for over 51 hours every week.
During those schedules, surgeons handle immense pressure as they perform delicate operations, deliberate life-or-death choices, and respond to emergencies. They perform these knowing that a single error can ruin a patient’s life or, worse, end it.
Surgeons also withstand emotional pain, anxieties, and the consequences of constant, high-stress work environments. Yes, surgeons earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they sacrifice their social and family lives at times.
Surgeons have given up so much too much to enter the field and save lives. Words are insufficient to describe what they experience every day—both its joys and hardships.
They spent at least sixteen years of their existence in medical schools, face intense pressure, and conduct surgeries that may either save or end a patient’s life. Indeed, surgeons deserve their prestige and high salary.