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The Lowest Paid Doctors in the USA: Medical Specialties with the Smallest Salaries

Updated on March 17, 2012
The salary of surgeons form a useful comparison for the income of all physicians.
The salary of surgeons form a useful comparison for the income of all physicians. | Source

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin

Doctors are the highest paid occupations in the U.S., according to the Department of Labor. However, not all specialties earn the top salaries as reported by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). These organization represents 125,000 faculty members, 75,000 medical students and 106,000 resident physicians in 134 accredited U.S. medical schools, and 400 teaching hospitals and health systems. Granted, pay is a relative term and even specialists with the low salaries make more than many other occupations.

The AAMC report shows the following five specialties as the least paying, ranging from the lowest to the highest salaries. As a baseline, general surgeons earn a minimum of $284,642 per year. (For a list of the highest paid doctors, see The Highest Paid Doctors.)


Pediatricians specialize in children from birth to young adulthood, and often see all the kids in the same family for many years. They handle common childhood ailments like measles to acute diseases like cancer. They must often take into account the physical, emotional and social development of their patients.

Their training goes through four years of college, four years of medical school and then three years of residency in pediatrics. Up to an additional three years are needed for certification in a subspecialty such as pediatric cardiology or adolescent medicine. Pediatricians earn a minimum of $160,111 per year.

Family Practice

Family practitioners, also known as general practitioners, cover general medical conditions, since they are often the first doctor seen by someone with a problem. They may treat all members of the same family, and may see the same patients over the long term. They are knowledgeable in many disciplines including children’s care, women’s health, geriatrics and preventative medicine. But they refer more complex conditions to specialists.

They learn their practice through four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school and three years of residency. Additional subspecialties such as sleep medicine or sports medicine require at least an additional year of training each. Their salaries start at $175,000 yearly.

Hospitalist Practice

Hospitalists focus their care on patients in a hospital, with many being board-certified internists. One of their primary responsibilities is communicating information to all specialists involved with a specific patient, such as his or her primary care provider. They are often also the only professionals who tracks all tests and results, and can recommend follow-up tests and visits based on that knowledge.

Hospitalists undergo four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship and three years of residency. Those who are also internists must also ust devote at least three years of internal medicine residency. They make a minimum of $175,000 per year.


Psychiatrists focus on the treatment of mental, emotional and addictive disorders such as substance abuse, anxiety or schizophrenia. They use a combination of therapy and medicine, and understand the psychological, biological and social components of any illness. They may often intervene with the family of a patient to prescribe effective treatment.

They undergo four years of college, four years of medical school and four years of psychiatry residence. Up to two years of study is added for each subspecialty like forensic psychiatry or pain management. Their salaries start at $182,724 per year.

Internal Medicine

Internists specialize in the interior of the body, including conditions that affect the heart, vascular system, kidneys, respiratory system, digestive system and joints. They handle both simple and complex illnesses in adolescents, adults and seniors. They can also plan a systemic approach that includes disease prevention, wellness and mental health.

Their training covers four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school and three years of general internal medicine. Specialties such as cardiovascular disease, hematology or infectious diseases can add from one to three years each. Their salaries start at $184,200. This makes them the top earners of the lowest paid doctors or medical specialists.


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