An orthopaedic surgeon is a physician specialising in the diagnosis and surgical intervention with regard to complaints of the human skeleton and its attached system of muscles. She must master a great deal of specific knowledge and technique to deal with afflictions ranging from simple breakages of bones to complex spinal reconstructive surgery. Her salary reflects the high level of skill required to do the job, although it can vary depending on a number of factors.
Salary comparison website PayScale.com in a survey of December 2010 found that the average yearly salary for an orthopaedic surgeon working in the United States is £173,184. This figure does not account for additional bonuses and benefits such as pension provision, which will vary in each individual case.
Salary by Experience
As an orthopaedic surgeon spends more time in her profession, accruing more experience and mastering a greater number of skills, her earning potential will increase. PayScale.com found that while salaries for orthopaedic surgeons with less than a year of practical experience were between £52,000 and £202,886 per year, those for practitioners with 20 years or more experience were £129,995 to £286,287.
Salary by Employer
The two primary modes of employment for orthopaedic surgeons are hospitals and private practice. PayScale found that the annual average salary range for the former, as of December 2010, is £97,360 to £204,228, while that of the latter is listed as £127,311 to £233,681.
Salary by Location
Where an orthopaedic surgeon practices will influence her earning potential. The survey by PayScale.com found that among the states it analysed California offered the greatest range of average annual salaries — from £96,500 to £257,812. Illinois had the smallest range, just £129,311 to £208,000.
To become an orthopaedic surgeon an individual must first gain a good bachelor's degree, ideally in one of the sciences. Then she must attend medical school for four years, after which she must practice general medicine for five years to become a licensed physician. Only then can she pursue a fellowship of between 2 and 4 years specialising in orthopaedic surgery.
Hospitals, specialised surgery centres and community health practices are the most likely employers of orthopaedic surgeons in the private sector. Surgeons may also enter private practice or find work with government research agencies or education establishments.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for physicians and surgeons of all specialities (including orthopaedics) will rise considerably through 2018. In part, this will be due to a natural expansion in the medical sector, but the fact that the baby-boomer generation will reach retirement age during this time will compound the situation. Surgeons should be able to continue achieving excellent salary packages.