Physician Resources

Physician salary report 2024: Increased earnings, but at slowing rates

Graphic depicting an abstract image of a physician with the text Physician Salary Report 2024

Despite a modest rise in average earnings, half of physicians report being dissatisfied with their compensation in 2023 — and nearly 40% supplement their income by pursuing medical-related side gigs. This data comes from Medscape’s newest Physician Salary Report for 2024, which surveyed more than 7,000 physicians across 29 specialties for insight into income, hours, compensation satisfaction, and the profession’s challenges.

This year’s report explored the ongoing effect of the physician shortage on supply, demand, and earnings and the effects of efforts designed to address gender pay disparity.

Average income for physicians increased

Physician salaries continue to increase due in large part to physician shortages brought on by the pandemic. Average physician income across all providers was $363,000 in this year’s report, compared to $352,000 the prior year.

However, the averages differ significantly across two physician groups: primary care providers took home an average of $277,000 this year (a $12,000 increase from last year’s $265,000 average), whereas specialists averaged $394,000 in 2023 (up from $382,000 in 2022).

On average, physicians’ compensation rose about 3% year over year compared to the prior year’s report. Earnings are up roughly $24,000 over the past two years, rising from $339,000 in 2021.

Healthcare staffing experts predict the upward trend in income will continue as more physicians retire, reduce their hours, or transition to shift work and virtual care.

Average physician earnings in 2024

Chart showing physician pay in 2023 and 2022 for all physicians, PCPs, and specialists.

Highest-paid specialties remain the same

Of the 29 specialties surveyed by Medscape, the highest-paid specialties remain the same as last year: orthopedics ($558,000), plastic surgery ($536,000), and cardiology ($525,000). Urology ($515,000) and gastroenterology ($512,000) round out the top five highest-paid specialties.

Top 5 highest-paying specialties

Chart showing the top 5 highest-paying physician specialties in 2023

Among the lowest-paid specialties are providers who work in diabetes and endocrinology, pediatrics, infectious diseases, and public health and preventative medicine.

New specialties report an increase in earnings

Specialties with earnings on the rise include physician medicine and rehabilitation (up 11%), neurology (up 10%), and nephrology, allergy, and immunology (up 9%). In last year’s report, these specialties experienced modest gains or even losses in salary.

Specialties that gained or lost ground in pay in 2023

Chart displaying which physician specialties earned more in 2023 and which earned less

Interestingly, on the other end of the scale, high-wage specialists like orthopedists and plastic surgeons saw a downward trend in compensation in 2023 (down 3% and 13%, respectively).

Gender pay disparity widens among specialists

The report illuminates the enduring pay disparity between men and women: Male physicians earned, on average, about 29% more than female physicians in 2023 — bringing in about $400,000 in compensation compared to $309,000 for women.

Female primary care physicians reported increased pay rates in 2023, shrinking the pay gap among primary care providers from 19% in 2022 to 17% last year. However, the gap widened among specialists. Male specialists earned 31% more than female specialists this year, compared to 27% last year.

Comparison of male and female physicians’ earnings in 2023

Chart showing the pay disparity between male and female physicians in 2023 for overall physicians, PCPs, and specialists

Self-employed physicians report higher compensation

The pay differences between self-employed (which includes locum tenens physicians) and employed physicians are significant.

In 2023, self-employed physicians outearned their employed counterparts, earning an average of $391,000 compared to $353,000.

Comparison of employed and self-employed physician pay

Graph showing the pay difference between employed and self-employed physicians in 2022 and 2023

The reported income of self-employed physicians is up $17,000 in this year’s report compared to the prior year’s earnings.

Physicians continue to take on extra work

More and more physicians are taking on extra work to supplement their income. 

Percentage of physicians taking on extra work to supplement their income

Graph showing percentage of physicians who took on supplemental work outside of their primary job, broken down by job type

Nearly four in 10 physicians take on extra work to supplement their income, which remains unchanged from the prior year’s report. Of the 39% who pursue side hustles, most gigs are medical-related, including moonlighting, which includes locum tenens. Only 6% of respondents earning supplemental income cite pursuing non-medical-related work to increase their earnings.

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Physicians earn more in the Midwest

Physicians in the West North Central region, comprising North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri, earned the most, averaging a salary of $404,000.

The West South Central region (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) earned an average of $375,000, and the East North Central region (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio) earned an average of $367,000.

Regions where physicians earned the most

Map showing average physician pay in 2023 by region

As indicated by these survey results, rural areas often offer physicians more opportunities to increase their earnings, as the low number of doctors and lack of competition drive up pay. Likewise, income may be lower in more competitive areas like California and New York City, which also come with a higher cost of living.

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Physicians’ feelings about pay vary by specialty

Overall, half (51%) of physicians surveyed reported being dissatisfied with their income. An additional 10%  of respondents believe that most physicians are underpaid.

However, these views become more nuanced when viewed through the lens of different specialties.

Over 60% of physicians in public health and preventative medicine, dermatology, psychiatry, oncology, and neurology feel fairly paid. At the same time, fewer than 40% of specialists in plastic surgery, urology, ophthalmology, diabetes and endocrinology, and infectious diseases feel satisfied with their pay.

Interestingly, those who feel most fairly paid are on the lower end of the earnings spectrum, whereas those dissatisfied with their pay are among the top earners.

Additionally, inflation likely influences physicians’ attitudes toward their paychecks. In late 2023, research firm Bankrate reported that 60% of all U.S. employees believe their incomes aren’t keeping pace with rising costs, even for those who have received a pay bump.

If you’d like to increase your earnings, locum tenens might be what you’re looking for. To learn more, view today’s job opportunities or give us a call at 954.343.3050.

About the author

Alisa Tank

Alisa Tank is a content specialist at CHG Healthcare. She is passionate about making a difference in the lives of others. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and exploring Utah’s desert landscapes.