Cardiologists' Pay Is Second-Highest, but Satisfaction Is Low

Marcia Frellick

April 05, 2016

Cardiologists are the second-highest-paid physicians, with $410,000 annually, the latest Medscape Compensation Report shows, but fewer than half (48%) say they are paid fairly.

Satisfaction with compensation, however, varied widely by gender and whether cardiologists were self-employed. Among men, 61% of the employed and 38% of the self-employed reported fair compensation. Among women, 74% of those employed and 25% of the self-employed were satisfied.

As for bureaucratic tasks, paperwork continues to mount in all specialties. Among cardiologists who responded, 55% of the self-employed and 65% of their employed peers spend at least 10 hours per week on paperwork and administrative tasks; 19% of employed and 8% of self-employed cardiologists spend more than 20 hours per week on such tasks.

Burnout increased for all specialties this year, and among cardiologists, 50% reported symptoms. Critical care, urology, and emergency medicine had the highest rates, at 55%; psychiatry and mental health had the lowest, at 40%.

Cardiology ranked in pay behind only orthopedics, whose physicians made an average of $443,000 this year. The 8% increase in cardiology pay from 2015 was in the middle range of annual increases. The highest 2016 increases were seen in internal medicine and rheumatology, with 12% each. At the bottom were pulmonologists and allergists, who lost 5% and 11%, respectively.

Geographically, pay was highest in the Northwest ($469,000), significantly higher than in the Southwestern states, where the average was $348,000.

Practice settings also drew sharp contrasts. Those working in healthcare organizations earned $454,000, followed by those working in office-based single-specialty groups, at $449,000. Those working in outpatient clinics made the least, at $190,000.

Asked whether they would make the same career choices again, fewer cardiologists are saying yes. Five years ago, 75% of cardiologists said they would select their own specialty. This year, that number dropped to 57%. While 66% said in 2011 they would choose medicine again, 58% answered that way this time.

Dermatologists had the highest percentage of physicians who said they would choose the specialty again — 74%. Pathologists were next with 63%. Urologists were least likely to choose their specialty again at 42%, followed by allergists at 43%.

Again this year, male cardiologists made significantly more than their female peers, this time by $81,000 ($420,000 vs $339,000.) The gender inequality was also prevalent among physicians overall. Women made 25% less among specialists; 15% less in primary care; and 24% less overall. The survey included only full-time positions in salary comparisons.

The survey found that women still tend to join nonsurgical specialties. The fields with the fewest women are urology (7%), orthopedics (9%), and cardiology (12%).

But the survey found that women cardiologists in an office-based setting spent much more time with patients than in medicine overall. In Medscape's report, among all physicians, 41% of men spent 17 minutes or more with their patients compared with 49% of women. Among cardiologists: 44% of men and 61% of women spent 17 minutes or more.

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