Ophthalmologist Earnings Are Up; Why So Glum?

Shelly Reese


June 06, 2013

In This Article

A Disgruntled Specialty

According to the Medscape 2013 Ophthalmologist Compensation Report, ophthalmologists have a lot going for them. In general, their pay is holding steady or on the rise. They make more than most specialists. They have less paperwork and fewer administrative burdens to contend with than physicians in other specialties.

But here's the rub: A majority of ophthalmologists are dissatisfied with their medical careers, and the situation is getting worse. In 2012, only 48% were satisfied with their medical careers overall (including compensation, choice of medicine as a career, and choice of ophthalmology as a specialty), down from 53% in 2011.

Factors Affecting Ophthalmologist Compensation

In February, Medscape conducted a survey of nearly 22,000 US physicians representing 25 specialties. In regard to compensation, ophthalmologists placed near the middle of all specialties last year, coming in 11th among the various specialty groups. They had a mean income of $276,000 in 2012, a 5% increase over the previous year.

What's more, ophthalmologists reported greater income stability than they had seen in the prior year. Nearly half (46%) of respondents said their compensation remained unchanged in 2012 compared with 2011. Those who did report a shift were somewhat more likely to report increased earnings (29%) vs decreased earnings (26%). That's an improvement over 2011, when nearly half said their income declined from the previous year.

Still, earnings varied widely. Nearly equal shares of ophthalmologists fell into the top- and bottom-earning categories: 12% make less than $100,000, while 13% make more than $500,000. The largest share (34%) make between $200,000 and $299,999.

For employed physicians, compensation includes salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions. For partners, compensation includes earnings after tax-deductible business expenses but before income tax. Compensation excludes earnings from non-patient-related activities such as speaking engagements.


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