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How Much do Emergency Room Doctors Make

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If you’re a fan of popular medical television dramas, you will know about the importance of emergency room doctors and their role in the emergency department. From stabilizing a critical patient to running a battery of tests to come up with a diagnosis, an ER doctor can quite literally mean the difference between life and death for some patients.

But how much do emergency medicine physicians earn? Do their salaries match their role? Let’s find out more about emergency room doctors – from what it takes to become one and the average salary one could expect.

The Role of Emergency Medicine Doctors

ER doctors are among the most important in the emergency department of any hospital, including urgent care centers. Often seen running around shouting orders, the role of an ER doctor is never-ending. 

ER doctors are responsible for the following:

  • Stabilizing patients as they come into the emergency department
  • Running tests and diagnosing patients
  • Referral of patients to the relevant units 

While this list of tasks does not sound like much, the work of an ER doctor can sometimes be the massive difference between life and death for a patient. Correct diagnosis is necessary for proper treatment, and this task often lies solely on the shoulders of an ER physician and their team. 

From treating a patient after a heart attack to delivering life-saving measures to accident victims, these doctors are the real heroes. 

How Much Does the Average Emergency Medicine Doctor get Paid?

The average income of emergency medicine doctors is between $300,000 to $350,000, based on data taken as of April 26th, 2022. This equates to only 2% more than a normal physician. 

While there are special fields that can expect a higher annual income, like orthopedic surgeons, gynecologists, cardiovascular surgeons, and more, an ER doctor is often the first medical doctor a patient will see when they come into the emergency room with chest pains, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath. 

Once the ER doctor has stabilized the patient, he will run tests and then refer the patient to a specialized unit for medical care.

Factors That Affect an ER Doctor’s Salary

The annual salary of an ER doctor is based on a few factors. These are:

  • Education 
  • Certification
  • Skills
  • Years of experience

The salary of emergency medicine physicians also differs by state, with doctors in San Francisco earning 36% more than doctors in other states and averaging around $440,000 per annum. 

Most doctors and physicians can charge hourly rates for their services and medical treatment. ER doctors are paid an annual salary based on education credits, time of service, market rate, and specialty of emergency medicine. 

Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics Run and Pushing the stretcher

What Qualifications are Needed to Become an ER Doctor in the Emergency Department?

First, and probably the most obvious qualification needed to become a doctor, is a medical degree. Other qualifications include:

  • Board certification from an approved hospital board
  • Necessary state and national licenses to operate in that state or city
  • An average of two to six years in a residency training program in a network hospital

Training to be a doctor is not a decision that one takes lightly, as it takes immense dedication to the job, as well as years of personal sacrifice to complete a residency program and then a degree in their field of specialty. 

Becoming a successful doctor does not only require medical education, degrees, and certifications but also many interpersonal and personal skills as well. One of the most important skills a medical doctor must possess is great communication skills. From speaking to patients and their families to leading their team, ER doctors are constantly communicating with those around them.

Dealing with sick patients who are often frightened or those who have life-threatening conditions can be stressful. A good doctor requires patience, a proactive approach to testing and diagnosing a patient, and excellent decision-making skills, even under extreme pressure and working against the clock. 

Other skills that are helpful to possess are:

  • Good time-management skills
  • A keen eye for detail
  • The special ability to remain calm and collected in even the most chaotic of situations
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Leadership skills
  • The successful ability to work as part of a team in a stressful environment
  • Great hand-eye coordination for tricky procedures and diagnostic testing
  • The patience to be understanding and supportive of a patient’s fears

A Day in the Life of an ER Doctor

A typical, long day in the life of an ER doctor requires them to work a 12-hour shift. During this time, they will attend to patients, update and maintain medical records, fill out prescription forms, order tests to diagnose an illness, and much more. 

Typical tasks completed during a shift include:

  • Maintaining and signing off on all patient medical charts
  • Work closely with the staff of the ER department
  • Interpretation of bloodwork results, ECGs, X-Rays, and more to determine the cause of a patient’s pain or illness
  • Discharge patients and complete the necessary paperwork 
  • Respond to emergency situations like cardiac arrest immediately and make quick, often life-saving decisions 

Is a Career in Emergency Medicine Worthwhile?

The primary goal of any doctor, regardless of their field of specialty, is to provide medical care to patients. It can take countless years of hard work and sacrifice and is truly a passion for those who wish to help others. While most people choose a career based on salary and job satisfaction, there is no denying the satisfaction that doctors get from saving people’s lives.

If you are considering a job or career in medicine or emergency medicine, you will need to prepare yourself for many years of extremely hard work, sacrificing your personal and social life, and dedicating every available moment to your studies. The sacrifice does not stop once you have finished your studies, as there are years of on-the-job training and residency programs to look forward to. 

What is a residency program, and do residents get paid?

A residency program is a compulsory postgraduate training program where qualified medical students operate as licensed physicians under the supervision of a more qualified doctor or specialist. 

During your residency program, you can work in all the different departments in a hospital before choosing your specialty. This is a great way to get a feel for where your passion truly lies, and you will receive on-the-job training and knowledge from a specialist in that field. 

Residents are, of course, paid a salary that is in line with the market average. Residency programs are run at most hospitals across the country. The program typically lasts around three years in total but can be longer depending on your field of specialty.


Emergency room doctors are among the highest paid in a hospital. With their long list of tasks and responsibilities, ER doctors need to hold more than a medical degree to operate in the emergency department; they need excellent interpersonal and personal skills too.

ER doctors are passionate about the work they do and have a high level of job satisfaction. The true heroes of any hospital, ER doctors perform a life-saving job daily with passion, dedication, and a genuine love for helping others. And this is why they make the money that they do.

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