When exploring career options in medical school or residency, you should keep in mind that your physician job will affect all aspects of your life. A 2020 Medscape Survey was conducted to discover how specialties stack up when it comes to career happiness.

2020 Happiest Physician Specialties

Top 5 Specialties* for Physician Happiness

  1. Dermatology 
    At a 41% happiness rating, dermatology tops the list. To become a dermatology physician, you will need to complete a preliminary/transitional year and a three-year residency. There are fellowship options like dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology, and procedural dermatology to consider. According to Salary.com1, the average dermatologist salary is $347,700.

  2. Ophthalmology 
    Ophthalmology has a happiness rating of 39%. Ophthalmology requires an internship year and three years of residency training in ophthalmology. There are also fellowship options to consider, like glaucoma, medical retina/uveitis, and ophthalmic oncology. The average ophthalmologist salary2 is $296, 500. 

  3. Plastic Surgery
    Plastic Surgery follows closely behind at a 38% happiness rating. To become a plastic surgeon, you will need to complete a surgery residency and a plastic surgery residency. You can also consider subspecialties like craniomaxillofacial surgery, hand surgery, and cosmetic surgery. The average plastic surgeon's salary3 is $395,153. 

  4. Orthopedics
    Orthopedics comes next at 34%. There are two options for orthopedics: 1. orthopedic surgery and 2. orthopedic - non-surgical. To become an orthopedic surgeon, you must complete an orthopedic residency. For non-surgical orthopedics, you will be working with sports medicine. There are fellowship options available for both! The average orthopedic surgeon's salary4 is $489,369. 
  5.  Surgery, General
    Closing out the top 5, Surgery, General has a 33% happiness rating. You will need to complete a general surgery residency. There are multiple fellowship options to subspecialize in like: cardiac & cardiothoracic surgery, surgery of the hand, and colon & rectal surgery, to name a few. The average general surgeon makes5 $393, 350. 

What else contributes to physician happiness? 

  1. Work-life balance: Having a balance between work and personal life can help physicians manage stress and prevent burnout.

  2. Autonomy: Physicians who have more control over their work schedule, patient care decisions, and overall practice management tend to report higher levels of happiness.

  3. Financial compensation: Adequate financial compensation can provide a sense of security and allow physicians to focus on patient care rather than financial worries.

  4. Patient relationships: Physicians who have positive and meaningful relationships with their patients often report greater job satisfaction and fulfillment.

  5. Professional development opportunities: Physicians who have access to ongoing education, training, and mentorship are more likely to feel fulfilled and engaged in their work.

  6. Positive work culture: A positive work environment that fosters collaboration, support, and open communication can contribute to physician happiness.

Overall, physician happiness can stem from a combination of factors related to work-life balance, autonomy, financial compensation, patient relationships, professional development, and work culture.

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