Hepatology is a medical specialization that is closely related to gastroenterology. Previously, the career’s focus was Hepatitis-C but has shifted to the study and treatment of various diseases affecting the liver.
The field received recognition as a separate discipline, according to the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), and the need for specialists is growing at an alarming rate.
To become a Hepatologist, one must complete an undergraduate degree, acquire a graduate degree as a Doctor of Medicine, complete a residency in gastroenterology, take on a fellowship in hepatology, and focus their continuing education studies on diseases of the liver.
After completing their education, they can choose to specialize in surgical or non-surgical, with many learning Transplant Hepatology.
In addition to treating the growing rate of liver diseases, Hepatologists also study and treat the gallbladder and pancreas.
This specialized field of medicine is expanding as the need for transplant hepatologists is increasing because of the increase in liver disease in America. Surgical and non-surgical hepatologists see a variance in their annual salary ranges.
Hepatologist Salary Info
Non-surgical specialists make an average annual wage of $ in the United States, while surgical specialists see an increase in salary at an average of $$. These numbers reflect a 6.5 percent increase from their non-surgical counterparts. This gastroenterology-related field has seen an upwards momentum in pay, reaching as high as $$$, as discovered in a survey of doctors in the profession.
The BLS states that physicians and surgeons, inclusive of hepatologists, are amidst some of the highest earners in the United States. Their mean average wage can reach or exceed $$ annually. Due to the rise of disease, the advancements of technology that allow for more patients to receive treatment, and the referrals of doctors outside the fields emitting referrals, this number will increase with time.
Global Salary Comparisons
Individual branches of the field provide different salary ranges. Transplant hepatologists, for instance, are in high demand and require more specialized education.
- United States — $$ to $$+
- United Kingdom — $$ to $$
- Canada — (CAD) $$
- Australia — (AU) $$
Contributing Factors In Salary Differences
As mentioned previously, there are different subset specialties that a budding Hepatologist can choose. Choosing a niche, along with global region will, in turn, affect the salary range.
Since medical spending in the United States is significantly higher than in other countries, hepatologists have the advantage of making more money than their global colleagues.
Entry level hepatologists in the U.S. will enter the workforce at a starting salary of around $$ according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After gaining experience through their practice, the salary will increase.
Working for a hospital garners a lower salary than opening a private practice. According to a 2018 survey conducted by AMGA, (the AMGA 2018 Medical Group Compensation and Productivity Survey), 62.1 percent of medical groups said they were owned and operated by a hospital.
The medical groups surveyed focus on the practice of medical specialties, like Hepatology.
Since medical emergencies are rarely predictable, Hepatologists can work a variety of irregular hours. Because of the nature of the field, they work full time.
This full-time schedule includes working weekends, pulling long overnight shifts, and treating patients during holidays, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Besides the regularly scheduled hours, hospital-employed physicians may be on-call.
Hepatologists are also expected to continue their education to stay up to date on medical trends and growing technologies.
Aside from treating patients, a hepatologist may put in hours contributing to research for the field. Continuing research advances the knowledge and experience of a hepatologist which could relate to increased salary.
The work environment for a hepatologist comes down to a choice. Around 50 percent of physicians and surgeons worked in a physician's office. The remaining percentage gains employment by hospitals, academic organizations, or for the government. There's also an influx of doctors working in medical group practices, health organizations, and hospitals.
This influx is occurring because it reduces the pressure of treating a patient roster by one’s self. It allows the hepatologists to have more time off and less time on-call. It also allows them to provide more specialized care for their patients since they can discuss treatment plans with their peers and colleagues. The offset of this, however, is the decrease in pay compared to a privatized practice.
There are a variety of hepatology specializations. The most desired field is Transplant Hepatology. The AASLD offers a Transplant Pilot program for Hepatologists wanting to specialize in this surgical field. In this aspect of Hepatology, a doctor learns how to perform liver transplants to patients facing the end-stage liver disease.
The process to become a transplant hepatologist requires a hepatologist to be previously certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine as a gastroenterologist. They must then show clinical competency and retain a valid medical license. Beyond that, they are required to pass a competency exam after 12 months of specialized training.
Though pediatric liver disease is rare, it does exist, and therefore it creates a medical subset for Pediatric Hepatology. This particular specialization treats liver disease and issues with liver function in children, transplantation, nutrition, and other related illnesses. Pediatricians refer their patients with these rare diseases to Pediatric Hepatologists for this niche field of treatment.
To become a Pediatric Hepatologist, one has to complete medical school and hold a residency in General Pediatrics. The field then requires two years of practice in its specialized subset of gastroenterology. After obtaining the required knowledge of gastroenterology, which serves as a foundation for hepatology, a doctor would have to complete a fourth-year fellowship in Pediatric Hepatology.
Nailing down these extremely particular subsets of Hepatology will increase the salary range of a hepatologist. These fields take even more years of specialized training in their subgroups after medical school. They require additional fellowships, clinical studies, residencies, and continued education certifications in place by the ABIM and the AASLD.
Due to the exponential increase in liver diseases cropping up among our healthcare needs, Hepatologists are in high demand. In addition to regular physicians, even Gastroenterologists are now diverting referrals to their liver-focused colleagues. The need for hepatologists is higher than it has ever been because of this increase in referrals to this specialized field.
Again, we look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to see those career projections are expected to show growth upwards of 13 percent until 2026. The new advancements and technologies that achieved in the medical field are also contributing to this growth. It will allow more patients to receive treatment with a higher level of specialized care. The ability for more patients to be treated means more doctors.
Growth prospects are even better for physicians and surgeons willing to practice in rural and low-income areas. After completing their education, medical students match with residencies mirroring their specialties. Finding a job in hepatology should be achieved with ease. By the year 2026, the estimated number of surgeons is projected to be 51,500.
Though hepatology is a relatively new field that is recognized as a separate specialty from gastroenterology, it is proliferating. The need for specialists that are well-versed in liver diseases, as well as issues with the gallbladder and pancreas, is increasing.
This increase is directly related to the abounding epidemic of liver disease. This position is recognized globally but under-compensated compared to the States.
The field requires continuing research and study after obtaining a doctorate because of the advancements in medicine. This research requirement, as well as the general demanding hours of any medical field, contributes to irregular hours.
Despite these irregular hours and because of their niche specialty, hepatologists are some of the highest paid physicians and surgeons in the U.S.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released projections that this field to grow with leaps and bounds into 2026. With growth projections of 13 percent in the area, it’s going to be one of the highest growing careers.
Advancements in technology will allow for the treatment of the increasing number of patients facing the liver disease. It is one of the highest paid professions in the job market.
This newly-introduced field can be advantageous to a medical professional. It requires a certain kind of person to put in the long and irregular hours, additional years of education, and continued research to ensure that they provide the best level of treatment to their patients with liver disease.
The salary ranges of a hepatologist specifically reflect this level of dedication as it surpasses other salaried careers.