Gastrointestinal (GI) surgeons perform different surgical procedures on the abdominal area, organs and intestines to diagnose or treat GI conditions. Many of these surgeries are performed using specialized instruments, such as laparoscopes, to make the procedures minimally invasive. These techniques require GI surgeons to stay informed about the latest surgical technologies. GI surgeons are highly trained, specialized physicians, and their salaries often reflect their knowledge and expertise.
Physicians and surgeons who practice in medical specialties, such as GI surgeons, earned median annual wages of $339,738, according to the 2008 Medical Group Management Association's Physician Compensation and Production Survey. Surgeons often earn more than physicians who perform nonsurgical diagnostic and treatment procedures in their specialties. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported mean hourly wages of at least $108.36 for surgeons in May 2010 and mean annual wages of $225,390. The American Medical Group Association Medical Group Compensation and Financial Survey in 2009 reported median annual earnings of $405,000 for physicians and surgeons in the gastroenterology field.
GI surgeons who work for hospitals, physician group practices and other locations where they are salaried typically receive a comprehensive benefits package in addition to their monetary salaries. These surgeons usually receive medical, dental, vision and life insurance, as well as retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, profit sharing and pension plans. They may also receive discounts on certain products from companies that their hospitals or offices do business with. Since GI surgeons who work for these external groups are usually salaried, they receive paid time off for vacations, some holidays and illness, though they often work more than 40 hours in a typical work week.
Surgeons in physician offices and outpatient care centers typically earn more than GI surgeons who work in general and specialty hospitals and colleges and professional schools, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. GI surgeons who work in states with large rural areas often earn more than surgeons in states with large metropolitan areas because there are fewer surgeons in the rural states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paying states for surgeons in May 2009 were Wisconsin, Wyoming, Tennessee, Utah and South Dakota.
GI surgeons who open their own practices often make more money than salaried surgeons. Self-employed surgeons must maintain their own facilities and equipment and must provide their own insurance, however. They are also responsible for self-employment income taxes. After taking the additional expenses into consideration, some self-employed GI surgeons still make more than their salaried counterparts, though some do not. Opening a personal practice does allow the surgeon to set his own hours and keeps him in control of his own patient load, however. To minimize the costs of equipment and facilities, many GI surgeons will open a practice together to split some of the expenses.