Cardiothoracic surgeons provide tremendous value to the patients and institutions they serve. But understanding that value, and translating it into fair compensation, has always been a challenge. The first annual STS Surgeon Compensation Survey was undertaken to help U.S.-based cardiothoracic surgeons understand their value in the market and strengthen their negotiating position with employers.  

The report, available for purchase now, captures the many compensation nuances of the specialty, including subspecialty, career stage, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, service area, and employment model. STS members receive a discount! (Survey respondents receive a copy free of charge—log into the STS Learning Center with your website credentials to access the report.)

Pricing

  STS Members Non-Members
Individual: Surgeons/Physicians $750 $2,500
Individual: Residents, Fellows, and Medical Students $100 $250
     
Institutions $7,500

 

STS 2023 Cardiothoracic Surgeon Compensation Survey FAQ

Why did STS launch a CT surgeon compensation survey?

Cardiothoracic surgeons provide tremendous value to the patients and institutions they serve. But understanding that value, and translating it into fair compensation, has always been a challenge. 

STS launched its first annual compensation survey in Fall 2023 to help U.S.-based cardiothoracic surgeons understand their market value specific to their specialty, practice, career stage, and geographic region. The report is a tool to help surgeons evaluate employment opportunities and negotiate salaries and benefits.

Another reason for the survey was to affirm gender pay disparities between men and women surgeons. A key benefit of the survey is to support the growing number of women cardiothoracic surgeons, and to arm them with data to alleviate the gender pay disparity in the specialty.

Why are cardiothoracic surgeons paid high salaries?

The STS’s 2023 Cardiothoracic Surgeon Compensation Report affirmed cardiothoracic surgeon compensation commensurate with the many years of specialized training required to successfully perform high-risk, life-saving cardiac, thoracic, and congenital heart surgeries.

According to consulting firm Gallagher, an expert in physician compensation, the total compensation for cardiothoracic surgeons is comparable to other highly trained U.S.-based physicians such as neurosurgeons, orthopedic/spine surgeons, transplant surgeons, and plastic surgeons. STS compensation survey data is consistent with recent surveys published by MedAxiom and Becker’s Hospital Review. 

The STS survey report provides information on total annual compensation, including salary and compensation related to RVUs/productivity – which represents about 80% of compensation – and other services provided. It also captures subspecialty, career stage, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, service area, and employment model. Total compensation can vary widely based on these factors.

The report does not reflect that cardiothoracic surgeon residents and fellows are compensated far less than attending surgeons during their training. They train for an average of 15-16 years and start their first attending job at age 34-35. Many accumulate significant debt during their medical school and training years. A 2024 Thoracic Surgery Residents Association survey found that 53% of residents have more than $200,000 in dept.

Workload is not reflected in the report, but U.S.-based cardiothoracic surgeons work 65 to 80 hours per week, sometimes more, performing both scheduled and emergency operations. Shifts can be long and irregular, as surgeons can be called into work whenever the need arises. Risks include frequent exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
 

What are the limitations of the 2023 survey?

Nearly 850 U.S.-based adult cardiac, general thoracic, and congenital heart surgeons participated, a 27 percent response rate, considered a strong response for a first-time survey. The limited sample size produced some variability, e.g. adult cardiac is underrepresented in the  Northeast and overrepresented in the South. Since it is a first-time survey, there is no trend data. The survey also does not include residents, fellows, or international cardiothoracic surgeons.

This report shows that some cardiothoracic surgeons earn more than me (or other surgeons in my department). Why?

Total annual compensation can vary widely based on several factors, including RVUs/productivity and other services provided, subspecialty, career stage, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, service area, and employment model. This first annual survey is limited in sample size and produced some variability. The survey does not include residents, fellows, or international cardiothoracic surgeons. Efforts will be made so that future surveys more accurately reflect demographics of the specialty in the U.S.

Who did the survey and how is the data shared?

STS worked with consulting firm Gallagher, an expert in physician compensation and valuation services, to collect and analyze data and produce an annual compensation report. Data collected by Gallagher will be kept confidential and will not be shared with STS. The survey will report only aggregated data consistent with federal guidelines to ensure data integrity and anonymity. 

How can I get access to the survey report?

The 2023 Cardiothoracic Surgeon Compensation Report will be provided at no cost to STS members who participated in the survey. Log into the STS Learning Center with your website credentials to access the report.

All others may purchase the report (with STS members receiving a discounted rate) through the STS Learning Center. Choose from the individual or institutional option. 

What are the plans for the future?

STS plans to conduct a compensation survey annually. Data from this inaugural survey will serve as the benchmark going forward. STS members who practice in the U.S. are strongly encouraged to participate in future surveys, so the report reflects the most accurate data, and so they can access the report at no cost.