Cardiothoracic Surgeon Salary

What is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon?

salary for a Cardiothoracic SurgeonWhen you look at the word cardiothoracic you can see it is a combination of two different medical fields. Cardio is a physician who specializes in the heart and cardiovascular system and Thoracic is a physician who specializes in the organs within the chest. Put them together and this is a physician specialist you would go to if you needed to have surgery on your lungs, chest arteries, lungs, and heart. This is the surgeon you would go to if you need to have surgery to prevent complications in the future like taking out a tumor that looks suspicious to see if it is cancerous or non-cancerous, or unclog an artery.

Job description of a Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Most of the surgeons in this medical field specialize by performing a specific type of operation or by working with a certain population of patients. There are times that they may be called into the emergency room to perform an emergency operation to restore the functioning of a patient’s heart or lungs if they have failed due to an accident, heart attack, etc. If a person has been diagnosed with disorders of the heart and lungs they may need to have surgery if they are not responding to other forms of treatments. When you become a cardiothoracic surgeon you will be trained to perform operations on people with heart disease, atherosclerosis, which is hardening of the arteries, lung cancer, congenital defects, and many other life-threatening and non-life threatening medical conditions.

Some of the surgeries that a cardiothoracic surgeon may have to perform can include serious surgeries where they will be required to expose the lungs or heart in order to correct the medical problems to something small and invasive as making a small incision in the chest cavity so they can insert a small camera and manipulate tiny surgical tools through this small incision to either operate or see what type of problem the patient has.

When you are ready to start your career of being a cardiothoracic surgeon you can work with people of all ages or specialize in the field of working entirely with the elderly, adults, or children. A cardiothoracic surgeon could also specialize in certain specific procedures like bypass surgery, heart transplant, or cancer excision. In addition to doing operations a cardiothoracic surgeon will spend part of their time conducting research on the latest different surgical procedures and medical conditions. You may also have to attend seminars to learn about the latest technological advances in surgical equipment and cardiothoracic surgery.

How to become a Cardiothoracic Surgeon?

To become a cardiothoracic surgeon you can look at many years of schooling and residency training. After completing premed and medical school you will then go into residency training. The first part of residency is completing a general surgery residency that takes approximately five years followed by another two to three years in a cardiothoracic surgery residency. The certification a cardiothoracic surgeon gets is not based on the time that they have spent in the program but is based on the number of surgeries that they have performed in the operating room as the operating surgeon along with being able to pass a rigorous board certification test. There are also some colleges that have an option that instead of doing residency training for all those years you can do a six year cardiothoracic residency. This takes the place of the general surgery residency and cardiothoracic residency. As of 2015 there are only twenty approved programs in the United States where you can get the six year residency program.

Some of the colleges that offer this approved program include:

  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • University of North Carolina
  • Columbia University
  • Mount Sinai Hospital in New York
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Indiana

Before you get to the residency requirements you have to have premedical and medical training. When you are an undergraduate premedical student you can enroll in any major but you need to make sure that you are taking the prerequisite courses in medicine such as chemistry, physics, calculus, organic chemistry, and generally biology. You will be required to take at least a year of premedical courses. When you reach your junior or senior year you should start to get ready to take the Medical College Admission Test, which can take six to seven months of advance preparation. When you get to medical school you will have two years of introductory courses in clinical medicine and basic science along with twelve months of training in every one of the major clinical disciplines. When you are in your last year of medical school you will apply for residency training in general surgery.

When going the regular route of general and specialty residency in general surgery residency training you will do clinical rotations in various surgical fields to help you decide just what field you want to specialize in. During your last year of residency you will apply for the clinical specialization training that you have decided on, which in this case is becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. When you complete this residency training you are eligible to take their qualifying exams through the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. You will have an oral and written exam along with demonstrating your clinical competency. Once you are certified you are required to maintain those credentials by taking certification exams and continue education training in that field.

Work environment/schedule

When you are a cardiothoracic surgeon you will be relying on nurses along with other surgeons to assist you during operations to make sure that the patients remain stable. One type of nurse that will work with a surgeon is a surgical nurse who will be responsible making sure that the cardiothoracic surgeon has the tools that are need for the surgery they are doing. There will also be an anesthesiologist working with them to make sure that the patient stays asleep during the operation. In addition, two of the people who work with a cardiothoracic surgeon will also have experience in this field. Those two people are the nurse practitioner and the cardiothoracic surgery physician’s assistant.

A cardiothoracic surgeon will typically work in a hospital surgical ward. You will perform both emergency and scheduled operations. There are some who even choose to work in teaching hospitals helping new surgeons hone their skills as a cardiothoracic surgeon. Before you decide to become a cardiothoracic surgeon you need to know that they often work long hours that are irregular. Many times when they work in a hospital setting they work as an on-call surgeon in that field and if an emergency arises where the patient needs surgery immediately they will have to go do it whether it is 8 p.m. or 2 a.m. If you are a member of a large team everyone takes turns being on-called. Working as a cardiothoracic surgeon there are no two work days the same. One day you may do three operations, the next day it may be five operations, you may work night shift being on-call, etc.

When you are doing operations there can be on-the-job hazards even thought everyone tries to make it a safe sterile working environment. Working with sharp surgical tools like scalpels, syringes, saws, etc, you could accidentally cut or prick yourself leaving you exposed to a variety of diseases and the patient’s bodily fluid. Because you spend a majority of your time bent over the operation table you could over time develop orthopedic problems. You will also be on your feet many hours of the day. You may also have to make life or death decisions which can make the job very stressful at times and can lead to burnout, anxiety, or depression.

Pros and cons of being a cardiothoracic surgeon

A cardiothoracic surgeon has a huge salary and the main rewarding in this job is that you are in the first line of defense for lives. You have great opportunities of work in each and every health care institution and facilities, but one of the major cons related to this job is that it can become extremely stressful on a daily basis.

Pressure is mainly due to the environment in which you are working. Saving a life will consist many times in the need to invest yourself a lot during each operation. You will have to make those instant choices that will change the direction of the events and work in the favor of your patient.

The pro is that you’ll get a chance to be there for the patients that you saved. Then, you can see the results of your work and the energy you invested with your own eyes. It’s all worth for the saved lives. The cons are all related with the job and this career that you choose to follow.

You’ll confront with some cases in which one surgery could last up to 10 hours and even more so you’ll have to be really fit and trained to resist physically and psychically. You’ll have to be every dedicated to your job, having to be always on call for the rest of your life. It’s a good job choice for any single person, because things tend to change when you have a family. Still, there are some professionals who succeed in keeping them both: their jobs and their families too.

Working as a cardiothoracic surgeon in the first few years assumes a nonexistent free time, and many hours to be at your job. One other con is that you cannot save each life every time, and there will be occasions when you’ll have to face the patient’s death.

The pros will still continue to stay as a solid argument. If you are dedicated to your job and you love this career you’ll have many opportunities to develop and grow while you practice in this field.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon job growth

The job growth for cardiothoracic surgeons is mainly related to the number of demanding in the health care system for these types of cases and the number of needed surgeries. The good news is that there is a real growth in the cardiothoracic services due to the number of several patients with various ages.

For the next five to ten years there are great job opportunities and increased chances in the number of demanding. There are also estimated increases in the number of those who will supply the cardiothoracic surgeons that are at the age of retirement, as well as a rise in the surgical procedures that reach a level of being correlated with the number of present and future cases. These professionals are among those that are searched for in the medical field.

The people are in great need for cardiothoracic services since there are plenty of individuals that are dealing and confronting with cardiothoracic diseases. This specialty is much known for the challenging surgical procedures that many times occur, the innovation that it brings and, of course, that rewarding of being able to help a life –in other words, great personal satisfaction.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon salary

Although you may work long stressful hours and put in a lot of sleepless nights during college, medical school, and residency training a cardiothoracic surgeon is well compensated. According to the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, you can earn between &134,000 to $631,000 a year. How much you would make is based heavily on how much experience you have being a cardiothoracic surgeon. On average a cardiothoracic surgeon with twenty years experience can make from $245,000 to $434,000 a year. Other factors that weigh in on how much you would make as a cardiothoracic surgeon can include:

  • Education—if you have a PhD will make more than a physician who is just an MD.
  • Geographic location—how much the salary is differs from state to state. It is based on the demand for these types of surgeries, whether it is a big city or rural area, and the standard of living in that state. The two highest paying states are Pennsylvania and Illinois.
  • Type of employment—if you are working for a non-profit agency you usually will make more with working in a hospital being the second highest type of employment.

When looking at the salary of a cardiothoracic surgeon you also need to figure in the benefits like health insurance, paid vacation days, profit sharing, bonuses, life insurance, paid sick days, pension, etc. On average you can expect profit sharing that ranges from $9,800 and $46,000 a year. If they give out bonuses they can range from nine thousand seven hundred dollars to forty thousand dollars a year. Depending on the benefit packages you are offered it can add thousands of dollars to your salary factor.

Here are some examples of different working environments and the salary a cardiothoracic surgeon can make if they work there.

  • Acute care hospitals between one hundred fifty-five thousand dollars to three hundred ninety-eight thousand dollars a year.
  • Medical services industries between one hundred thirty-three thousand dollars to three hundred eighty-six thousand dollars a year.
  • Health care industries between one hundred thirty-seven thousand dollars to three hundred eighty-five thousand dollars a year
  • Working in a hospital between one hundred thirty-five thousand dollars and three hundred eighty-three thousand dollars a year.

Salary of a cardiothoracic surgeon in 2015

In the US, the average recompense of a cardiothoracic surgeon reaches $408,426 per year, and it’s among the highest well-paid jobs in the health care system. The annual average of a cardiothoracic surgeon is estimated to range between $122,835 and can up to $554,010 per year. A bonus will be many times included that will reach $51,756.

In 2015, the salary for a cardiothoracic surgeon is in growth due to the number of demands that increases with each case. Also, there is overtime that the cardiothoracic surgeons will complete, not to mention that people are in need for these professionals and their skills and knowledge for saving their lives. A cardiothoracic surgeon works many hours and on weekends as well. He also has to be on call, always, and with this parts of his job duties, the cardiothoracic surgeon salaries in 2015 in this career are estimated to have a growth.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon Salary in 2016

The year 2016, in the US, brings an increase in demand in the medical field since it continues every year to develop and grow. The salary for a cardiothoracic surgeon varies a lot according to several factors that impact the earnings. The most encountered factors that affect the profits are the years of experience that one has at his or her working site, or the geographical location- state, city, area, as well as the educational level that one individual has achieved.

These incomes are also influenced according to the type of employment. The average figures usually are estimated on a yearly average to be comprised between $134,230 per year more or less and up to $656, 010 per year. Cardiothoracic surgeons that already have accomplished for up to twenty years and even more at the working field can expect to take home an income that is mainly comprised between 245,340 per year and up to $434,510 annually.

When it comes to the geographical location factor, the salaries will vary and differ according to the cost of living and the living expenses encountered in each state. Another factor that impacts the economic flux of the salary of a cardiothoracic surgeon is based upon the number of demanding for these types of surgeries. The states that are ranked as higher in the top of paying incomes for this field are Illinois and Pennsylvania.

To the average income, you can also add the benefits that are to be received such as paid vacation days, health insurance and life insurance, bonuses and profit sharing and other as well. You can expect that the profit sharing that you’ll receive to vary from employer to employer and state to state being usually comprised between $9,890 and $46,210 per year. With other words, the benefits packages differ, and it will add thousands of dollars to your salary.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon salary in Canada, Australia and UK

In other areas of the world like Australia, the UK, and Canada the salaries for cardiothoracic surgeons are not as lucrative as they are in the United States. If you were a cardiothoracic surgeon in Australia you would only earn on average A four hundred one thousand dollars a year but in Canada the average is even lower with it being only C three hundred twenty-five thousand dollars a year. In the UK cardiothoracic surgeons are some of the highest paid physicians but it still is not equal to what one could make in the United States. In the United Kingdom the average yearly compensation is one hundred twenty thousand dollars which is equivalent to approximately one hundred ninety-two thousand dollars a year in the United States.

Conclusion on Cardiothoracic Surgeon salary

When looking at the salaries of a cardiothoracic surgeon in the United States along with their salary in Australia, Canada, and the UK, it is easy to see that it much more in the United States. Although they put many years into schooling and work crazy schedules they can still earn over a million dollars a year. Cardiothoracic surgeons do perform some very delicate surgeries so what they earn each year is well deserved.


In this article it is about what a cardiothoracic surgeons’ salary is each year. You may feel that getting over a million dollars a year is too much or ridiculous but when you look at all the schooling they have to have to along with years of residency and crazy work schedules they have worked hard to get this type of yearly salary. When you are a cardiothoracic surgeon you can have your own practice where you can set your own hours but most will usually work for a hospital or be associated with a hospital, a non-profit agency, in a teaching environment, etc where there are no set hours. Depending on where you work you may always be on-call and have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to take care of an emergency. If you are lucky enough to work for a large group of doctors you may just be on-call one week every month or so. It is also a very stressful job as many times you will hold someone’s life in your hands. As a cardiothoracic surgeon you are bending over an operating table many hours a day which can lead to back problems. Looking at all these things, what a cardiothoracic surgeon earns a year they deserve it.

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  • First Published Date: 12 June, 2014
  • Last Updated Date: 19 June, 2016