Whether you’re exploring possible career paths during residency or you’re looking to step into the next chapter of your professional life, there’s a myriad of factors to take into consideration when choosing a position that fits your needs. Your specialty area is a key piece of the puzzle – as it’ll ultimately dictate your level of happiness in the workplace. Here’s a look at the top 5 specialties known for driving high satisfaction levels for physicians. 


According to a Medscape survey, physicians in the field of Dermatology scored a 41% happiness rating – topping the list of specialty areas that are highly meaningful and satisfying for clinicians. In order to become a dermatologist, it requires those studying the practice to complete a preliminary year along with a three-year residency. 

As with a vast majority of fields, there are fellowship opportunities available, such as pediatric dermatology, dermatopathology, and procedural dermatology to take into consideration. On average, dermatologists in the U.S. make an estimated annual salary of $347,000. 


Following close behind Dermatology is Ophthalmology, which scored a happiness rating of 39%. To earn the credentials needed to become an Ophthalmologist, you’ll need a year-long internship as well as three years in residency – with a focus specifically on ophthalmology training. When it comes to potential fellowship opportunities to evaluate, there are options like medical retina, glaucoma and ophthalmic oncology to consider. 

In terms of salary, you can expect to make an estimated $296,500 yearly – which can be higher or lower depending on geographical location and the type of facility you ultimately partner with. 

Plastic Surgery

Nearly tied for second place is the field of plastic surgery, with a happiness rating of 38%. Besides extremely steady hands, becoming a plastic surgeon requires the completion of both a surgical residency as well as a plastic surgery-focused residency. There are also a plethora of subspecialties to focus your studies on, including hand surgery, craniomaxillofacial surgery, and cosmetic surgery. 

Data from the American Society for Plastic Surgeons revealed nearly 15.6 million cosmetic procedures alone were performed in the U.S. last year. On average, plastic surgeons make an estimated $395,153 in salary annually. 


Another highly-rated field of study for physicians is orthopedics, which scored a 34% happiness rating. Should you opt to explore this vocation, there are two different paths you can take – either orthopedic surgery or non-surgical orthopedics. To navigate the surgical realm, you’ll need to complete an orthopedic residency. 

Those who travel the non-surgical route typically go on to work in sports medicine. Whichever field you ultimately choose to pursue, there are fellowship opportunities available for both options. Orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. make an average yearly salary of $489,369.

General Surgery

Coming in the number five spot is general surgery, with a 33% happiness rating. Moving into this profession will require you to enroll in – and complete – a general surgery residency. Like the other specialty areas, there are a variety of fellowship options and subspecialties to choose from, such as surgery of the hand, cardiac surgery, and colon and rectal surgery. 

It’s worth noting that there is a multitude of other subspecialties to explore as well. On average, those who become general surgeons make approximately $393,350 for their annual salary. 

Although these five professions scored the highest in Medscape’s survey, it’s pivotal to align yourself with a specialty area that complements your passions and values. To learn more about how Polaris can help you discover a rewarding career as a physician, contact our team today.