Are Psychiatrists Happy?

A Look at Compensation and Career Satisfaction

Michael T. Compton, MD, MPH


October 12, 2011

In This Article

Women in Psychiatry

Female psychiatrists reported a median compensation of $160,000, as compared with a median compensation of $186,000 for males. This sex gap between male and female psychiatrists was fairly modest compared with that in other specialties. Specifically, across all 22 specialty areas, median earnings for male doctors ($225,000) exceeded median earnings for female doctors ($160,000). Compared with other specialties, psychiatry is composed of a relatively high proportion of women, and many female physicians look for work situations with fewer hours to balance work and family commitments. In further explicating the potential sex imbalance in compensation, number of hours worked per week and practice setting must be considered, but our field may have progress to make in terms of rectifying a potential sex imbalance in compensation.

Work-Life Balance

According to the survey, less than 10% of psychiatrists spend more than 50 hours per week seeing patients, approximately 20% see patients 41-50 hours each week, about 40% see patients 30-40 hours, and roughly 30% of psychiatrists spend less than 30 hours per week seeing patients. In contrast, only about 8% of gastroenterologists and 10% of urologists, for example, reported seeing patients for fewer than 30 hours a week. The relatively large percentage of psychiatrists seeing patients 40 or fewer hours per week may indicate that our field has decent opportunities for a satisfying work-life balance. Based on a physician survey in Canada, work-life balance is very important to psychiatrists.[1]

However, another Canadian survey (involving 3213 respondents of the 2007-2008 Canadian Physician Health Study) found that more than one fourth of physicians reported mental health concerns making it difficult to handle their workload, which was more common among female physicians and general practitioners/family physicians as well as psychiatrists.[2] As our field continues to address both equity for women in psychiatry and work-life balance issues, all-too-common mental health concerns, stress, burn-out, and workload must be considered.


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