What is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon

In the United States, cardiac surgery (surgery pertaining to the heart) and thoracic surgery (surgery pertaining to all organs of the thorax) training are combined, creating cardiothoracic surgery; a cardiothoracic surgeon, then, is a surgical doctor specializing in organs of the thorax, especially the heart. This includes the treatment of heart and coronary arterial diseases, lung disease, and esophageal diseases.

Work Environment

The working environment for cardiothoracic surgeons is well-lit and sterile. As they are engaging in surgery, such cleanliness is necessary for the good health of the patient. The job itself can be quite taxing, with long hours spent on one’s feet, and long surgeries, depending on the severity of the disease.

The hazards are no different from those of other surgeons, with potential back troubles later in life being the primary concern due to long hours spent bent over the operating table. However, these are not exceptionally common.

Work Schedule

Cardiothoracic surgeons often work long and irregular hours. While they will have typical scheduled work hours, they will also be required to be on call, and may be called in to work in emergency situations. While this can be stressful, the job also allows for an ever-changing workday, with new and different challenges constantly presenting themselves, and a high job satisfaction rate.

Mean Annual Cardiothoracic Surgeon Salary

The average annual cardiothoracic surgeon salary is $417,500. The lowest 10% of  cardiothoracic surgeon salaries are less than $262,000. The top 10% of cardiothoracic surgeon salaries reach more than $613,170.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon Salary: Quick Summary

2014 Mean Salary$417,500 per year
$200.72 per hour
Top 10% Salary$613,170 per year
$294.79 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$262,000 per year
$125.96 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201341,030

Cardiothoracic Surgeon Job Outlook and Prospects

Cardiothoracic surgeon job outlook, being quite specialized, is expected to grow in the coming years, at least on par with the expected 18% of all physicians and surgeons. This rosy outlook is due in part to the overall growth of the medical industry, as well as the continued aging of the population; as the average age increases, and a greater number of people enter geriatric stages, more thoracic and cardiac diseases present, leading to an increased need for cardiothoracic surgeons.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon Salary: Factors and Influences

The average salary of a cardiothoracic surgeon ranges between $262,000 and $613,170 per year, with a median of around $417,500. This is affected greatly by the industry worked, the experience of the surgeon, and the geographic location in which the surgeon works. There is some room for subspecialization to offer pecuniary gains as well, the position the cardiothoracic surgeon holds in their particular workplace can further improve salaries.

Education and Specialization 

Following a four year bachelor’s degree, a cardiothoracic surgeon must complete a four year medical degree. This is often followed by a general surgery residency lasting five to seven years, and finally a cardiothoracic surgery fellowship, which will typically takes two to three years. However, in recent years, some programs have started offering a six year integrated cardiothoracic residency, in lieu of the general residency and fellowship.

While cardiothoracic surgery is itself a well-paying position, the competition for these integrated residencies is fierce, and those that take part are likely to receive a higher salary on completion.

Subspecialization is also a matter for consideration, though it does bring added time requirements; the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, for instance, offers a special certificate in congenital heart surgery, which requires a further year of fellowship.

Experience and Position 

Experience is a definite factor influencing a cardiothoracic surgeon’s  salary; surgeons just beginning their career will typically earn between $62,500 and $408,000, while those with ten or more years’ experience will earn more than $550,000 yearly.

The position worked, while less of a factor than experience, can bring notable salary gains as well. Working as the head of cardiothoracic surgery, for instance, will bring definite salary gains, as will opportunities for educating future surgeons.


Industry worked is a prominent factor in determining how much a cardiothoracic surgeon gets paid. While it is highly dependant on the specific business in that industry, those working for a hospital can earn around $450,000, while those working in their own private practice can earn closer to $475,000. Acute care hospitals bring the best industry wages, with averages for cardiothoracic surgeons nearing $500,000.


Location is one the most important factors affecting cardiothoracic surgeon salary, with a range from approximately $220,000 on average in Puerto Rico, to nearly $450,000 in Ohio. Kentucky follows Ohio, at approximately $446,000, and North Dakota is a close third at $443,500. It is worth noting that, while these are less populous states, the best wages (and majority of the jobs) are generally in the urban centers.

surgeon salary state by state