High vs low earning specialties: Income gap grows beyond $150,000

By Geir O'Rourke

15 Aug 2022

Internal medicine has been ranked as one of the most financially rewarding careers in Australia, but average earnings will vary dramatically between specialties, new figures show.

Statistics released by the Australian Tax Office show internal medicine specialists had the third highest average taxable incomes of any broad occupation for 2019-20, behind only surgeons and anaesthetists.

Drilling down into specific jobs, medical careers represented 27 of the top 30 highest earning occupations, with the others being judges, magistrates and state or federal MPs, the ATO data showed (explore the interactive tables below).

The top earning medical occupation was otorhinolaryngologist, with the 121 ENTs listed by the tax office bringing in a median income of $420,973 before tax over the financial year.

This was followed by neurosurgeon ($404,494) and cardiologist ($389,229), the most lucrative of the internal medicine specialties, according to the ATO.

But dermatologists, paediatricians, endocrinologists, rheumatologists and general physicians all typically earned less than $250,000 before tax, while GPs reported median pre-tax incomes below $145,000, it said.

The data did not include any breakdown by hours worked, but it did provide a split of salary or wage income, and total income including other sources like shares or rental properties as well as private fees.

This showed that judges and magistrates where the nation’s highest salaried professionals followed by emergency medicine specialists in third place.

Medical practice managers earned a median pre-tax salary of $64,444, while registered nurses earned between $55,000 and $80,963 depending on setting and specialisation.

There was also a significant gender gap in median incomes across all specialties, although again this did not include differences in working hours.

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