Dermatologists were hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to Medscape’s 2021 Dermatology Salary Report. Prior to the pandemic, dermatologists were seeing a steady increase in compensation, but they’ve seen a steady decline in salary from 2018’s high, when dermatologists earned an average of $419,000.
Dermatologists made less in 2020
Dermatologists surveyed reported earning $394,000 on average, a drop in salary of slightly more than 4% from 2019, when the average dermatology salary was $411,000. Many dermatologists attributed this loss to the COVID-19 pandemic, since many patients were hesitant to see physicians in the office, and telemedicine makes accurately diagnosing dermatologic conditions trickier.
This drop in salary follows a downward trend that began prior the pandemic. Before 2019, dermatologists were seeing a steady 2% increase in salary year over year.
One of the hardest-hit specialties
Nearly all (99%) of dermatologists surveyed say the decline in income was a result of the pandemic, citing factors such as job loss, reduction in hours, or reduction in patient volume. A recent survey of dermatologists found that in the weeks following the start of the pandemic dermatology saw a 50% decline in patient visits.
Twelve percent of dermatologists surveyed don’t expect to ever return to their pre-COVID-19 income levels; however, 54% believe they’ll return to pre-pandemic levels within a year, and nearly one-third say it’ll return in the next two to three years.
Dermatologists feel fairly compensated
Although dermatology salaries have been on the decline, 67% of dermatologists reported feeling fairly compensated, surpassed only by oncology (79%), psychiatry (69%), and plastic surgery (68%).
Dermatologist Dr. Nicole Cassler says she has worked locum tenens assignments on the side to bolster the pay she earns as a physician in the Navy. “There’s a high demand for dermatologists in the military, but locums is a great supplement to my military income. It’s a great side-gig.”
Dermatologists happy with career and specialty choice
Despite the pandemic’s impact on dermatology salaries, 96% say they would choose the same specialty, sharing the top spot with orthopedics and oncology. Public health (67%), internal medicine (68%), and family medicine (71%) are the specialties where physicians are least satisfied with their career choice.
Dermatologists spend less time on paperwork
On average, dermatologists spend 14.6 hours per week on paperwork and administration, far below the 24.2 hours spent by infectious disease specialists. This number is up slightly from 2019, when dermatologists spent 13.2 hours per week on paperwork.
Dermatologists report a high rate of burnout, and according to a recent survey 70% of dermatologists say that bureaucratic tasks are the primary cause of their burnout, much higher than the 60% that other specialists report.
Dermatologists find work rewarding despite challenges
Of the dermatologists surveyed, 27% report the most challenging part of their job is having so many rules and regulations, followed by difficulties getting fair reimbursement from or dealing with Medicare and other insurers (18%) and working with an EHR system (16%).
Despite these challenges, nearly one-third of dermatologists report the most rewarding part of their job is their relationship with patients. A quarter of dermatologists say the most rewarding part of their job is being good at what they do, and 18% say the knowledge they’re making the world a better place and helping others is what they find rewarding.
Most dermatologists happy with profession
While we can’t fully know the long-term consequences of the pandemic’s impact on dermatology compensation, it’s clear that dermatologists continue to take great pride in their choice of specialty and find satisfaction in their work caring for patients.
Chart images from Medscape.com