Otolaryngologists treat diseases, conditions and injuries of the head and throat. This includes treating the nasal passages and sinuses, the ears and the larynx through surgical and non-surgical means. They're often referred to as ENT -- or ear, nose and throat -- doctors. Otolaryngology is a complex field, employing a range of surgical and non-surgical techniques to treat patients. Salaries of ear, nose and throat specialists place them comfortably in the mid-range of physician compensation.
Specialized recruiting firm Profiles performs an annual physicians' salary survey, to establish benchmarks for physicians in their first year of practice. The 2011-2012 edition of the survey reported a median income of $222,000 per year for otolaryngologists in their first year of practice. Over time, this figure increases substantially. A comparable 2011 salary survey performed by the American Medical Group Association reported an overall median income for otolaryngologists of $377,430 per year. A median is the point at which half of a group earn more and half earn less.
While medians are a useful measure of income, many other surveys report physicians' salaries as averages. Staffing firm Merritt Hawkins reports in its own annual survey that in 2011 the average salary offered to otolaryngologists was $359,000. The survey reported salaries ranging from $230,000 at the low end of the scale to $500,000 at the high end. Rival firm Jackson & Coker reported a slightly higher average in its own 2011 survey, placing the average base salary of otolaryngologists at $372,479 per year. Jackson & Coker's survey is especially useful because it covers benefits as well as salary. Otolaryngologists averaged $74,496 per year in benefits, for total compensation of $446,975.
Physician salaries cover a broad range, with family doctors and other primary care physicians at the lower end and a handful of surgical specialties at the high end. Otolaryngologists fall between the two extremes. For example, Merritt Hawkins reports an average income of $521,000 for orthopedic surgeons, with a salary range of $300,000 to $700,000 per year. Invasive cardiologists' average salary was $532,000, with a range of $380,000 to $650,000 per year. By contrast the average salary in family medicine was $178,000, and the salary range ran from $130,000 to $290,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for physicians will grow by 24 percent between 2010 and 2020, generating over 160,000 new positions. This is higher than the average for all occupations. The aging of the baby boom generation and the rise of the so-called "echo boom" of their children both present opportunities for otolaryngologists. Elderly patients frequently require the care of otolaryngologists for respiratory problems, dysphagia -- trouble swallowing -- and reconstructive surgery after cancers or other procedures. Younger patients often need care for ear-related problems, injuries and allergies, all of which fall within the otolaryngologist's area of practice.