Physician Frustration Grows, Income Falls -- But a Ray of Hope

Mark Crane


April 24, 2012

In This Article

Which Specialties Earn the Most?

Despite a decrease in mean income, radiologists and orthopedists were the top earners at a mean of $315,000, slightly besting cardiologists and anesthesiologists. Urologists and gastroenterologists were also among the top earners.

As in Medscape's 2011 compensation survey, pediatricians earn the least, at a mean income of $156,000, up from $148,000 the previous year. More internists and family physicians saw a slight increase in income than saw a decline.

"Due to the physician shortage in primary care, their incomes should be increasing," said Tommy Bohannon, Divisional Vice President of Hospital-Based Recruiting for Merritt Hawkins, a physician-recruiting company. "There's strong pressure to recruit primary care doctors. Hiring entities, such as large groups and hospitals, realize that primary care physicians are the ones who make referrals to specialists and fuel the system."

Still a Wide Gap Between Men's and Women's Income

Male physicians across all specialties earn about 40% more than female doctors, which is similar to the previous year's results. In primary care, men earn 23% more. However, the gap in income is narrower in some specialties. Male ob/gyn specialists earn about 14% more than their female counterparts and male pathologists earn 9% more than female colleagues.

In primary care, male physicians earned a mean income of $174,000 compared with $141,000 for female physicians. For physicians overall, male doctors earned a mean of $242,000 vs $173,000 for women doctors.

"The income gap is closing in primary care as well," said Bohannon. "Many women doctors choose to work fewer hours for quality-of-life reasons. But that's true of younger male doctors as well. That's why the disparity in income will narrow."

Aburmishan agrees. "If women physicians worked the same number of hours as men, they'd earn about the same."

Another factor is that more women tend to go into primary care and obstetrics/gynecology rather than the higher-earning specialties.

Asked if they felt fairly compensated, female physicians were only slightly more dissatisfied than male doctors (51% to 49%).


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