by Dr. Vicki Rackner
Here are the major findings of the Medscape Physician Compensation Report based on the self-report of almost 25,000 US physicians in 25 specialties:
- Incomes vary by specialty. Radiologists, orthopedic surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists and urologists all reported incomes in the $300,00 range. The bottom-earning specialties were pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine, all between $156,000 and $180,000.
- Decreasing reimbursement–a top concern for doctors–is far from uniform. Some specialities saw increased compensations, including ophthalmology (+9%), pediatrics (+5%), nephrology (+4%), rheumatology (+4%), and oncology (+4%). The largest declines were seen in general surgery (-12%), orthopedic surgery (-10%), radiology (-10%) and emergency medicine (-8%).
- Male physicians across all specialties earned about 40% more than female physicians..
- The highest-earning physicians practice in the North Central US, while physicians in the Northeast earned the least.
- Partners in private practice far out-earned physicians in any other work environment.
Wealth, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. Physicians’ perception of their compensation is the most eye-opening part of the report.
- Overall, only about 11% of physicians said that they consider themselves rich.
- Even among some of the higher-earning specialties, 45% said that although their income probably qualifies them as rich, they have so many expenses that they don’t feel rich.
Here are 3 ways to explain the disconnect between level of earnings and physicians’ experience of wealth.
- Physicians carry heavy financial burdens. Half of medical school graduates begin their careers with $100,000 or more in debt. The cost of running medical practices continues to rise sharply. The regulatory changes that accompany health care reform will increase the financial burden.
- Physicians’ current salaries fall short of expectations. Boomers embarked on a career in medicine believing their significant investment –with great personal sacrifice–would result handsome financial rewards. That implied promise was broken in the 1990‘s with managed care.
- Physicians no longer experience rich career satisfaction. Boomers mourn the loss of their autonomy in both clinical decision-making and management of the business side of their practices. In 2012, just over one half of all physicians (54%) would choose medicine again as a career, far less than in the prior year (69%).
No matter what your circumstances are, you can enjoy greater wealth. It might mean working with a financial planner to make your money work for you smarter and harder. It might mean making a shift in your practice so you experience greater career satisfaction.
A calling drew you to a career in medicine. You can still tap into the rich rewards.