Ophthalmologists Highly Satisfied With Their Chosen Career

Nicola M. Parry, DVM

April 17, 2017

Ophthalmologists' satisfaction with their chosen career is high, data from the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2017 show. When asked whether they would choose medicine again as a career, 79% of ophthalmologists indicated yes, ranking them in the upper half of physicians who answered affirmatively to this question.

Ophthalmologists were also highly likely to re-choose their own specialty: 93% said they would still select ophthalmology, a percentage that ranks them near the top among all physicians who would pick the same specialty again. Dermatologists headed this list, with 96% indicating they would choose dermatology again, if given the chance. Again, this year, internists (64%) and family physicians (67%) were at the bottom of the list for re-choosing the same specialty.

The highest-paid physicians this year, as in 2016, were orthopedists, at $489,000, while pediatricians ($202,000) were the lowest paid. Ophthalmologists ranked above the middle among all physicians, at $345,000.

When asked whether they were compensated fairly for their work, ophthalmologists also ranked above the middle, with 53% answering "yes." The specialists most satisfied with pay were emergency medicine physicians, at 68%, and the least satisfied were nephrologists, at 41%.

Ophthalmologists also reported the fourth largest (12%) pay increase from 2016. Plastic surgeons topped this list, reporting a 24% pay rise, while pediatricians were at the bottom of the list with a 1% drop in pay.

As in all specialties, in ophthalmology, women made less than their male counterparts. This year's data showed a 37% pay gap between the average annual earnings of male and female specialists ($345,000 vs $251,000) — a 4% rise from last year ($324,000 vs $242,00). This year, male ophthalmologists earned 39% more than females ($370,000 vs $267,000).

The data also highlight a wide sex gap in participation in ophthalmology, with 68% of responses coming from men. This gap persisted by race/ethnicity, with men representing 80% of white respondents and 69% of Asian respondents. Other racial groups made up too low a percentage of respondents for comparison.

Pay varied widely by geographic location. Ophthalmologists were paid the least in the Southwest ($296,000) and highest in the Northeast ($452,000). By comparison, for physicians overall, respondents in the mid-Atlantic region reported the lowest earnings ($282,000), while those in the North central region reported the highest ($317,000).

Just 3 years ago, data from the 2014 report showed that 35% of employed and 26% of self-employed physicians devoted at least 10 hours a week on paperwork and administration. These bureaucratic tasks remain the primary cause of physician burnout, and physicians continue to spend increasing amounts of time on them. This year, more than half of all physicians (57%) spent the same amount of time on these tasks.

However, among the physician specialties, responses suggested that ophthalmologists were less burdened by these tasks. They ranked below the average rate among all physicians, with 41% of ophthalmologists saying that they devote 10 hours or more each week to paperwork and administration.

Overall, 19,270 physicians from more than 27 specialties responded to the compensation survey, including 385 ophthalmologists.

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