Physicians are already near the top of the list as some of the highest-paid professionals. How much you can make depends on your experience and your specializations.

Certain fields are more complex and in-demand than others, netting you a higher salary. One of those areas is that of the trauma surgeon. 

As an extremely high-pressure, demanding job, it’s not for everyone. But if you have what it takes to work well under duress and you have the skills to do the work, you could be making a lot more money.

If you’re looking into becoming a trauma surgeon, or you already are one and want to earn more, these tips will help you negotiate your contract. It’s an extremely important specialty, and you deserve to get paid well for the hard work you do!

1. Increase Your Education

As a physician, you already have a lot of school behind you. To become a well-paid trauma surgeon, you’ll need even more knowledge and training.

The role of a trauma surgeon requires you to treat patients who are in urgent need of care. They may have been in a car accident, assaulted, or had a myriad of other situations occur. But no matter the reason, they have critical or traumatic injuries and need help now.

With a fellowship in high-risk procedures, you’ll be more likely to get the higher-paying positions. Jobs in trauma centers and emergency rooms are common, and you can expect to earn anywhere from $300,000 – $400,000 per year.

The more specializations you have attached to your degree, the more complex cases you can take on and not refer out. This amounts to higher earnings and greater job satisfaction.

Trauma surgeons can specialize in lucrative fields like orthopedic trauma surgery, critical and/or acute care surgery, and cardiology.

2. Change Locations

All base job salaries are determined partially by the geographic location of the business. Rural positions often pay less than highly populated urban locales.

The more experience you have behind you, the higher your salary will be. But if you want to make even more, you should look into the pay of the counties around you. It might be worth moving or increasing your driving time.

Check Payscale or Glassdoor to see how much a trauma surgeon with your experience makes in the areas you’re willing to relocate or drive to. Then start watching for openings in those places. It might take some time, but knowing where to look for the best salaries is the first step.

3. Switch to a Different Practice

As an in-demand physician, you get to choose whether you want to work for yourself or for someone else. If where you’re at currently isn’t paying enough, you might be better off changing the type of facility you’re working at.

The ability to pay a trauma surgeon top-dollar depends on the facility’s profit and the demand for the type of care you provide. These are the most common places for a trauma surgeon to work:

  • A trauma center: At this type of facility, patients come to you specifically because they need the healthcare you offer. However, there are different levels of trauma care. The higher the level, the more pay you’ll receive, as the work becomes more complex.

In a trauma center, though, you’re not the only doctor who provides your services. Because of this, there could be competition for the hours and cases you get unless you negotiate these amounts in your contract upon hire.

  • Private practices: In most private practices, a surgeon doesn’t work on his or her own. They’ll collaborate with other surgeons to form a group with overlapping or unique specializations. These private practices often are engaged by hospitals that need a surgeon to perform trauma care but can’t afford to hire anyone full-time.

Private practices are often the most lucrative because you bill out your services and get paid directly. They’re also risky until you get your reputation and billing practices solidified.

  • Government practices: If your goal is to make a difference in your country and get great benefits at the same time, working as a trauma surgeon in the military might be for you.

Military trauma surgeons don’t get paid at the level of civilian physicians, but they usually have their student loan debt taken care of for them. They also get other benefits, like healthcare and continuing education.

Trauma surgeons are rarely bored or out of work. If you’re looking for more money or a change, it could be as easy as switching facilities.


Whether you’re just starting out in trauma surgery or looking for a career change, it’s a field that is as rewarding as it is in-demand. If you’re willing to go back to school to add specializations or relocate, you can afford to be choosy and follow the money.

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