What is an Otolaryngologist

An otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT or ear, nose, and throat specialist, is a physician who diagnoses and treats diseases of the ears, nose, and throat, as well assisting with any illnesses closely related to the head and neck. Their treatments, while often non-invasive, can occasionally include surgery.

Work Environment

The work environment for an otolaryngologist is similar to that of many physicians and surgeons; that is to say, they often work in hospitals, clinics, or private offices. They are less limited than many physicians in their work areas, as they do take part in surgery as well, however they are more likely to be found in a standard examination room or their own office.

Regardless of whether they are in the examination or operating room, an otolaryngologist will work in a clean environment, with plenty of good lighting. They may need to alter the ambient lighting during examinations, and some may find the examination of the ears, nose, or throat distasteful; it would behoove such persons to seek another specialty.

Work Schedule

The work schedule for otolaryngologists is quite similar to most other physicians and surgeons; typically they will work fifty to sixty hours per week, not including on call time and emergency call-ins. Those taking part in residencies will see longer hours, often as much as eighty hours per week including on call time every third night. They may also see shifts as long as 24 hours without sleep.

Otolaryngologist Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for otolaryngologists specifically is not available, but the outlook for physicians and surgeons generally is quite promising, with an expected 18 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022. While this is an average of all physicians and surgeons, the medical field as a whole expected to grow in the coming years due to a growing population, as well as a continued shift upwards in the average age. The elderly are more susceptible to potential diseases, including those of the ear, nose, and throat; this will create a great demand for otolaryngologists’ services.

Otolaryngologist Salary: Factors and Influences

The median annual salary for otolaryngologists is nearly $300,000; though a starting doctor may earn less than $100,000, the highest paid earn well over $400,000, and in some cases half a million dollars per year. These salaries are affected by the education required to become an otolaryngologist, as well as the experience the physician has and their geographic location. The industry they work has less of an impact, though it is not insignificant.

Education and Specialization 

The education to become an otolaryngologist can be a long one, with a four-year bachelor’s degree followed by a four-year medical degree. On completion, an otolaryngologist must then complete a one-year general surgical residency, and finish with a four-year otolaryngology-head and neck surgery residency. Further fellowships are often recommended as well, to gain specializations or further skills.

The school of education and the hospital at which the residency is completed will help in improving the salary of an otolaryngologist. The more well known and prestigious the program, the more the physician can expect to be offered on completion.

There are numerous sub-specialties that can improve an otolaryngologist’s salary as well. These can be divided by the favored part of the otolaryngology, with those focusing on the ears specializing in hearing or balance; those focused on the nose can explore allergies, sinusitis, or apnea; and those focused on the throat specializing in voice or swallowing disorders, or phono-surgery.

Experience and Position 

Experience is a prime factor influencing salaries, with starting otolaryngologists earning around $100,000, while those with fifteen or more years’ experience often earning in excess of $300,000.

Position often follows experience; the more knowledgeable and skilled physicians will head a department or run a group practice, leading to higher wages for the added responsibility. 


The Bureau of Labor and Statistics does not have the specific data on industry differences for otolaryngologist salaries, however, generally speaking, specialized hospitals will pay more than general medical or surgical hospitals. The best salaries in the medical field, however, are usually found among those running a private practice.


Location is another prime factor that can improve the salary of an otolaryngologist, with those in Texas earning slightly under the average, at $295,000, while those in Washington earn slightly more, at $308,000. California has the second highest average, at $320,000, and New York leads the pack at $340,000.