Endocrinologists See Small Salary Rise in 2020, Despite Pandemic

Nancy A. Melville

May 20, 2021

As reported by most physicians across specialties, a sizable proportion of endocrinologists report earnings decreases in 2020, yet their average compensation, in fact, increased slightly compared with 2019, according to the Medscape Endocrinologist Compensation Report 2021.

In the survey of nearly 18,000 physicians in more than 29 specialties, endocrinologists reported average earnings of $245,000 in 2020, rising above the $236,000 reported in 2019.

That places them at the lower end of the annual earnings spectrum overall, above only public health & preventive medicine ($237,000), family medicine ($236,000), and pediatrics ($221,000). Topping the list is plastic surgery, with a reported $526,000 in average annual earnings.

Overall, earnings reported by physicians in all medical specialties did not vary widely between 2019 and 2020, despite the pandemic, according to the report.

As many as 42% of endocrinologists did report some decline in earnings, however, with the main cause, reported by 87%, being the obvious factor — the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while 47% of endocrinologists expect a return to pre-COVID-19 earnings levels within the next year, 46% say they feel the recovery could take 2-3 years. Five percent felt their income will never return to the pre-COVID-19 level.

Compensation Satisfaction?

With only 50% of endocrinologists reporting that they feel fairly compensated, the specialty is next to the bottom of the list in terms of being satisfied with their earnings, above only infectious disease specialists (44%).

That rate is nearly the same as that reported in 2019 (49%). Among specialties with the highest percentages feeling fairly compensated are oncology (79%), psychiatry (69%), and plastic surgery (68%).

Nevertheless, as many as 79% of endocrinologists report that they would pick medicine again, if given the choice, similar to the rate of 82% in 2019.

And a slightly higher percentage, 81% of endocrinologists, would choose endocrinology again.

Of note, despite the extreme challenges brought about by the pandemic, the rate is in-line with the 78% reported by physicians overall who would choose a career in medicine again in 2020. In comparison, in the 2013 Compensation Report, only 51% of physicians said they would choose medicine again.

Most endocrinologists report that the most rewarding part of their job is "gratitude/relationships with patients" (36%), followed by "knowing that I'm making the world a better place (eg, helping others)" (22%).

Among the most challenging aspects is "dealing with difficult patients" (19%), along with three other parts of the job that all tied for second, at 18% each: "having to work long hours," "having so many rules and regulations," and "difficulties getting fair reimbursement from or dealing with Medicare and/or other insurers."

Workload Remained Steady Amid Pandemic

The survey, taken between October 2020 and February 2021, showed a steady workload of hours per week, despite the pandemic, compared with 2019. Endocrinologists report working an average of 50 hours per week — the same as 2019. Similarly, most physicians report working about the same number of hours now as in 2019.

The average number of patients seen by endocrinologists, however, declined by about 5%, from 74 to 70 patients per week, due to COVID-19–related office safety protocols and other factors.

Among specialties reporting the highest average declines were pediatricians, reporting decreases from 78 patients per week to 64 in 2020, about an 18% reduction.

And as many as 50% of endocrinologists say they believe up to 25% of their reductions in patient volume are likely permanent, while another 3% believe the permanent reduction is more in the 26% to 50% range.

The amount of time endocrinologists spend on paperwork and administration outside of medical-related patient visits, such as EHR documentation and managerial work, however, increased from 16.5 hours in 2019 to 18.4 hours in 2020, placing endocrinologists seventh among the specialties. The average reported by physicians overall is 16.3 hours.

Most endocrinologists (78%) report planning to continue to accept new and current Medicare/Medicaid patients, 13% have not decided yet, and another 12% report not accepting new Medicare/Medicaid patients and/or no longer treating those patients.

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