US vs UK Doctors Salary – Detailed Comparison

Ever wondered what the difference in salary between US and UK doctors is? That’s exactly what we are going to discuss today, and the results may just surprise you. 

Quick Comparison: US vs UK

Doctors in the US earn more than 3 times as UK doctors.  

Below is a table that compares how much UK and US doctors earn. Note that the US salaries are given in dollars while the UK salaries are given in pounds.

US ($) UK (£)
Starting Salary 68K 28K
Average Salary 294K 66K

Quick Comparison of US vs UK Doctors Salary

US Doctors Salary

Overall, across all states and medical specialities, the mean salary of a doctor in the United States is $294,000/year (Medscape Report).

Unfortunately, specific US doctors’ salaries are not publicly available like UK doctor salaries are.

However, using the resources available online I have compiled an estimate of what the average doctor in the US expects to earn.

Brief Explanation of US Training Pathway

In the US, after graduating from medical school you apply for a residency post.

The first year of residency is called your “intern” year. After this, for the rest of your training, you are simply called a resident.

Residents are often referred to in terms of how many years it has been since they graduated. This is measured in “PGY” (Post-graduate year).

A PGY-2 doctor means they have been a doctor for two years.

After 3-7 years of residency, you can become an attending, the highest post of a doctor in the US (equivalent to a consultant in the UK).

Before becoming an attending, some doctors decide to undergo one or two years to further sub-specialise which is called a “fellowship”.

US doctors training pathway

Intern and Residency Salaries

The first year of residency is called the internship year.

Typically, the average intern earns $55,200 while a resident earns $61,200.

The main variable is the geographic location. For example, a Cleveland, Ohio based resident might earn $59K while a New York resident might earn $71K.

Salary tends to rise by a few thousand dollars each year through residency.

Most programs tend to be either 3-4 years long, but if you were to do a fellowship after residency training, your last year of training would be a ‘PGY-6’ year (postgraduate year 6) during which your pay would continue to increase, up to $80K+.

The below table is taken from the Medscape Residents Salary & Debt Report 2019. It shows the average salary that a resident can expect to earn at each year of their training.

Level Pay ($)
Year 1 55,200
Year 2 57,100
Year 3 60,100
Year 4 62,400
Year 5 65,200
Years 6-8 67,800

Residency Average Salary US

Attending Salary

Specialist doctors (e.g. neurologists, cardiologist) earn an average of $346,000.

Those that were employed earned an average of $297K while self-employed earned an average of $357K.

Below are the salaries of each speciality taken from the Physician Compensation Report 2020.

Average Physician Compensation

As you can see, the top-paying specialities are more than doubling the bottom paying specialities.

Most also have an “incentive bonus” of $26,000 which is paid on top of the salary.

An incentive bonus is something which they get paid if certain targets are met.

An example of a target would be noting down the blood pressure of every patient with a heart condition.

The incentives that are offered range from an average of $96K in orthopaedics to $24K for family medicine doctors.

Below are the incentive bonuses offered for each speciality, also taken from the Physician Compensation Report 2020.

Average incentive bonuses by speciality

Family Doctor (GP) Salary

Family care doctors earn an average of $234,000, $60,000 less than the average salary across the country.

In most reports, family medicine doctors tend to be the lowest paid.

Does the State You Work in Matter?

Certain states pay better than others. They are not all built the same. 

It tends to be the states which are the most competitive get paid the least. This is because they don’t need any incentive to invite people to work in that state.

Here is a list of the top-earning states:

  • Kentucky ($346K)
  • Tennesse ($338K)
  • Florida ($333K)

Summary of US Doctors Salary

Here is a summary of what doctors in the US earn.

Level Pay ($)
Residency 55K – 68K
Attending Average 294K
Specialist Doctor 346K
Family Care Doctor 234K

US Doctors Salary Summary

See this article from LibertyMedics for more detail on US doctors salaries.

UK Doctors Salary

Brief Explanation of UK Training Pathway

Before talking about the salaries of doctors in the UK, it is important to understand what the training pathway of a doctor is. A detailed explanation of the pathway can be found here

After graduating from medical school, a doctor has to do two years of foundation year training called FY1 and FY2 (sometimes shortened to F1 and F2).

After this, they complete core training which takes 2-3 years and then registrar training which is an additional 3-4 years depending on the speciality.

After all of that, they finally become a consultant.

UK doctors training pathway

Some specialities do not need core training and rather have 7 years of dedicated training to that speciality. Examples of specialities that are like this are ophthalmology, radiology and obstetrics & gynaecology.

Foundation Training Salary

A doctor in the UK starts at a base salary of £28,243 when they are in their F1 year. 

In their F2 year, they will earn £32,691. 

Level Pay (£)
FY1 28,243
FY2 32,691

Foundation Training Salary UK

Core Training & Registrar Salary

A CT1-CT2 (first two years of core training) will earn £38,693. 

This continues to increase in increments up to £49,036. 

The average hospital registrar salary in the United Kingdom is £41,408, with £10,174 being award as a bonus (see pay banding).

Level Pay (£)
Core Training 38,693
Specialty Registrar 49,036

Registrar Salary UK

Consultant Salary

A consultant working in England will earn a starting salary of £79,860.

This can increase up to a maximum of £107,668 after 19 years of service.

Level Pay (£)
Newly Qualified 79,860
1 Year Completed 82,361
2 Years Completed 84,862
3 Years Completed 87,362
4 – 8 Years Completed 89,856
9 – 13 Years Completed 95,795
14 – 18 Years Completed 101,735
19+ Years Completed 107,668

Consultant Salary UK

Consultants can earn extra if they are deemed to have performed exceptionally well in a particular field. If so, they can earn what is known as “Clinical Excellence Awards”. 

These are somewhat rare. However, once a doctor is earning them, they tend to keep that award forever (which means if they have a £10K award they will be earning an extra £10K for the rest of their career – although this is not entirely guaranteed).

Their awards range anywhere from £3,016 to an incredible £77,320!

GP (Family Doctor) Salary

There are different types of GPs and they can earn a wide range of money. 

A salary GP in England can earn anywhere between £58,808 and £88,744. 

Level Pay (£)
Minimum 58,808
Maximum 88,744

GP Salary UK

As you can see, the pay for a GP is not entirely based on the number of years worked. That is because each individual is paid differently based on location and experience (as some GPs may have previously been a specialist, their pay would differ based on that experience).

There is also another type of GP called a partner GP.

The average income for GP partners is £103,800. The reason it is so much higher is that they have a lot more responsibility and paperwork to deal with as they are effectively self-employed.

Pay Banding

The above salaries for UK doctors are only base salaries.

They can be and often are, paid much more than this amount based on the number of extra hours worked. This is where something called pay banding comes in.

Pay banding is essentially a way of calculating overtime pay. 

Doctors are paid a salary based on working 40 hours per week.

If more than 40 hours per week are worked, or a doctor works before 7 am or after 7 pm, they receive a supplement. These supplements are called pay bands.

The value of this supplement depends on:

  • Number of hours worked
  • Time actually spent working
  • The overall pattern of the hours

More information on this can be found on the BMA website.

Summary of UK Doctors Salary

Here is a complete summary of the salary a doctor in the UK will have. 

Level Pay (£)
Foundation Years 28,243 – 32,691
Registrar 38,963 – 49,036
Consultant 79,860 – 107,688

UK Doctors Salary Summary

US vs UK Doctors Salary Comparison

If you compare some of the above information, you may have already started to see a trend.

It is a trend that will probably continue for many years to come.

To put it plainly, US doctors earn a huge amount more than UK doctors, especially if you work in one of the top-paying specialities like orthopaedics.

Training

No one becomes a doctor because they want to be a resident. That’s because they work long hours and don’t get paid much.

However, US doctors are in a better position than UK doctors.

A starting salary in New York as a PGY-1 of $68,000 per year is enough to have a very good standard of living.

F1 doctors in the UK start on around £28,000 per year.

Fully Qualified

Once fully qualified, the differences only just increase.

Even for family medicine, a speciality known for being one of the lowest paying in the US brings in 130% more income than a GP in the UK even when adjusted for income.

Therefore, even if the costs of becoming a doctor in the US are higher because of the steep University fees, it is still a worthwhile investment.

See more detail about the differences in specialities between the US and the UK down below.

Opportunity Cost

However, US doctors are even richer than that.

Opportunity cost is where there is a “loss of potential gain”, which means you might be losing out by choosing one thing over another.

The reason this important is because if you are moving to the US from another country, there is one more factor that needs to be considered. That is the fact that the time to become a fully trained physician is shorter in the US than in the UK.

For example: In the US, it may take 4 years to become a dermatologist, however, in the UK it can take 9-13 years (because a consulting job in the UK is extremely competitive and so may require the attainment of a PhD).

If you wanted to become a GP, there isn’t such a discrepancy. In the US it takes 3 years while in the UK it would take 5 years.

This means that you could be an attending making $300k a year by age 30 in the US while still only be earning £45,000 in the UK and have a few years left of training.

So, when you are both fully qualified, they would have already made hundreds and thousands of dollars more than you.

And you never will be able to catch up as the UK salaries are so much less!

See this article from LibertyMedics for more on the opportunity cost calculation.

What About Private Work?

This 2008 study shows that private income sometimes accounted for over double the contractually obtained income in the UK.

See the table below for a detailed analysis of the private income of 9 different specialities in the UK.

Specialty Total income (£) NHS Income (£)
Private Income (£)
Plastic Surgery £217,727
£75,004
£142,723
Trauma and orthopaedic surgery
£177,915
£74,157
£103,759
Cardiology
£143,227
£78,726
£64,501
Ophthalmology £137,964 £78,904 £59,060
Cardiothoracic surgery £142,435 £94,760 £47,675
Neurology £114,077 £76,165 £37,912
Anaesthetics £104,277 £77,756 £26,520
Paediatrics £84,464 £72,819 £11,645
Paediatric neurology £76,074 £70,930 £5,144

UK Doctors Private Income

Note: This is data from 2003 as it is the best study I could find on the private income of UK doctors. Today’s income will almost certainly be higher.

How Much Does Specialty Matter?

Speciality matters hugely.

Some of the best paying specialities can pay 120% more than the lowest-paying specialities in the US.

However, these specialities are notoriously harder to get into and sometimes require taking years out to boost resumés.

It seems that the highest paying specialities in the US are Orthopaedic surgery and Cardiology. 

Orthopaedic surgeons have earnings of $563,000, followed by interventional cardiologists with earnings of $532,000. This is more than twice as much as the median earnings of a GP, $207,000. 

This 2018 study shows that oncology doctors earned $465,089 (UK doctors earn $179,607).

It also showed that radiology doctors earned $487,897 while UK radiologists earned “only” $162,071.

US Doctor Salaries Based on Speciality

This 2008 study breaks down consultant pay based on specialities. See the study to get a list of all the specialities on the list. I have shown 9 of the specialities below.

Specialty Income
US ($) UK ($)*
Orthopedics 511K 358K
Plastic Surgery 479K 438K
Cardiology 438K 288K
Anaesthetics 398K 210K
Ophthalmology 378K 277K
Neurology 280K 229K
Family Medicine 234K 81K**

Comparison of US and UK Doctors Income Per Specialty

*Note: This is data from 2003. An inflation calculator was used to calculate today’s rate and then converted to dollars using a conversion rate of 1.26 (accurate as on July 2020). Therefore please note that these salary comparisons are an approximation. The UK values do include private income.

**Does not include private work.

Conclusion

The NHS is a great place to work and has a great sense of comradely about it. But even so, you cannot escape the fact that doctors do earn a lot more in the US.

Some would say a ludicrous amount more.

However, money isn’t everything, and shouldn’t be the only thing you look at, especially if you are considering moving to the US as a doctor.

You should think about all the other things involved like lifestyle, culture, food, family and cost.

If you are unsure about whether moving to the US is the right thing to do, then don’t worry, I have a great opportunity for you.

I know how it feels to be thinking about moving to the US.

A few years ago I was toying with the idea. Then, I saw that Liberty Medics was doing a course exactly on this topic.

So I booked it and went.

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This course will take you step by step on how to get into residency training in the US.

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References

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