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

Carol Peckham


April 01, 2016

In This Article

The Ongoing Issue of Gender Disparity

According to government data, the percentage of male physicians (65%) is still considerably higher than that of female physicians (35%), although the number of women physicians is catching up and even surpassing that of men at younger ages.[5,6] In the current Medscape report, 30% of those who responded were women, similar to the national data. The highest percentages of women responding to the survey were ob/gyns (55%) and pediatricians (53%), followed by pathologists (42%), and psychiatrists and dermatologists (both 38%). About one third of primary care physicians (PCPs) are women: 36% of family physicians and 31% of internists. Women still tend to join nonsurgical specialties, with the fewest women choosing urology (7%), orthopedics (9%), and cardiology (12%).

In our 2016 report, men still earn more than women, whether they are PCPs ($225,000 vs $192,000, respectively) or specialists ($324,000 vs $242,000, respectively). In 2012, male specialists made $242,000 vs $173,000 for women. Male PCPs made $174,000, and their female peers made $141,000. On an encouraging note, women's earnings increased more between 2012 and 2105 than did men's: 40% for female PCPs and 34% for their male peers. For specialists, the percentage increases between those years were 36% for women and 29% for men (notably, the lowest increase in all groups).

Overall, female physicians make 24% less than their male peers do, although the disparity is less among PCPs (15%) than among specialists (25%). When asked about this disparity, Travis Singleton of Merritt Hawkins said, "The persistence of these disparities is puzzling, because we see no contractual bias from our clients against female candidates, and in primary care and ob/gyn, there often is a preference for female physicians." He observed that disparities may exist in work schedules, "particularly with younger female physicians who are in their peak child-rearing years and require flexible schedules, including part-time." He also thought disparities can be tied to productivity patterns (eg, number of patients per day, and hours per week.) Of note, however, the compensation given in the Medscape reports is based on full-time salaries.

The Challenge of Gender Differences in Part-Time Work

In 2010, 48% of medical degrees were earned by women. Given the growing physician shortage, it is concerning that over one quarter of female PCPs are part-time. In this year's report, 12% of men and 25% of women say they work part-time, which has not changed since last year's report. "Part-time" is defined as working less than 40 hours per week. When the percentage of male and female part-timers is examined by age, the percentage of men who work part-time is generally low and increases slowly over time (from 3% to 16%). Among women, however, part-time percentages are never under 12% and first peak at 27% among those aged 40-44 years, when many have children in school, and then again when they reach age 55 years and over (27%-29%) (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Part-Time Physicians, by Age and Gender


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.