Rheumatologists Report Big Pay Increase in 2015

Marcia Frellick

April 12, 2016

Rheumatologists' yearly increases in pay have ping-ponged from highest among specialists in 2014 (15%) to lowest in 2015 (-4%) to highest again this year at 12%.

The latest Medscape Physician Compensation Report shows that they shared the highest increase this year, surprisingly, with internists.

According to the report, when asked about the reasons for their increase, rheumatologists responded that they were working harder and for more hours. Some said they had more patients or productivity, and others had received raises or bonuses.

Overall, rheumatologists were below average in their annual compensation at $234,000, but it was up substantially from last year's reported income of $205,000. Orthopedists and cardiologists were the highest paid at $443,000 and $410,000, whereas those at the bottom of the scale were endocrinologists and pediatricians at $206,000 and $204,000, respectively.

That said, pay among rheumatologists varied greatly by office setting. Those in single-specialty office-based group practices made $260,000, while those in hospitals made $177,000. Those in academic, military research, or government roles made $154,000.

Satisfaction with pay was low at 44%. Only endocrinologists, allergists, and urologists had lower satisfaction. Every year since 2012, dermatologists have topped the pay satisfaction chart, this year at 66%.

For male rheumatologists, satisfaction with compensation was fairly even, whether they were employed (51% said compensation as fair) or self-employed (48%). For women, the gap was clear: Only 20% of the self-employed said compensation was fair compared with 77% for the employed.

Most Would Choose Medicine Again

Rheumatologists were near the top of specialists rankings in the percentage who would choose medicine again, at 70%. Only family medicine and internists were higher. But rheumatologists were in the middle in numbers who would choose their specialty again: 48%, which was down from 66% in 2011. Dermatologists had the highest percentage (74%) and internists had the lowest at 25%.

This year, only 24% of rheumatologists said they would choose the same practice setting, half the number that answered that way in 2011 (49%).

Among rheumatologists responding to this year's survey, 63% of those who are self-employed and 60% of those employed spend at least 10 hours per week on administrative tasks; 23% of the self-employed and 21% of the employed spent at least 20 hours a week on such tasks.

Meanwhile, 67% of rheumatologists report spending 30 to 45 hours per week seeing patients, and a third spend more than that.

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