Compensation: Are Physicians Better Off Now Than 6 Years Ago?

Carol Peckham


April 01, 2016

In This Article

Are Physicians Becoming More Content With Their Careers?

Every year, the Medscape survey has included the statement, "If you had to do it all over again..." and asked physicians to respond with three options: whether they would choose medicine in general, their specialty, and their practice setting a second time. The percentage of physicians who would choose medicine again was at a high of 69% in 2011, but then decreased to a low of 51% in 2014. On a positive note, however, the percentage has been increasing since then, holding steady at 64% in 2015 and 2016. Satisfaction with specialty was also highest in 2011 (61%), but has since remained much lower—ranging from 41% in 2012 to 46% in 2014, and sliding back slightly to 45% in 2015 and 2016. Satisfaction with practice setting has been dismally low (around 25%) after decreasing from 50% in 2011 (Figure 8).

Figure 8. If I Had To Do It Over Again, I Would...

To determine the level of general career satisfaction for all specialists, Medscape averaged the percentage of physicians who again would choose medicine; those who again would choose their specialty; and those who thought they were fairly compensated. This year, dermatologists at 65% were the most satisfied, followed by oncologists (59%) and psychiatrists (58%). Dermatologists have consistently led in career satisfaction over the past five annual compensation reports.

Gary Goldenberg, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Dermatology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, offered a reason for this: "I believe it's because our patients tend to do well with treatment. We are also on the forefront of early detection and skin cancer prevention."

At the bottom were nephrologists (47%), internists (48%), and endocrinologists and allergists (49%). Their satisfaction rankings using these criteria appeared to have little to do with their earnings rank. Dermatologists are, in fact, third in earnings, but oncologists and psychiatrists fall somewhere in the middle of physicians. And among the three least unsatisfied groups, only endocrinologists were among the lowest three in earnings.

What Is the Most Rewarding Aspect of Your Job?

Despite complaints about red tape, work requirements, and changes in the healthcare field, a full 98% of physicians found gratifying elements about being a physician and treating patients. This year, about one third of physicians cited their relationships with patients (34%) and being good at their job (32%) as the two most rewarding aspects of their job, which were the same top rewards given 3 years ago (31% and 34%, respectively). Most who commented on this question simply mentioned caring for or helping people.


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