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Emergency medicine physician salaries 2020: Modest compensation growth but high job satisfaction

Graphic for 2020 emergency medicine salary report

This year’s Medscape physician compensation report reveals that emergency medicine physician salaries are on the rise, and they are one of the highest-ranked physician specialties in terms of job satisfaction. Most say they would choose the same specialty again if given the chance, and they are one of the specialties with the least amount of paperwork and administration.

Emergency medicine physician compensation has remained relatively stable

It’s important to note that the survey this report is based on was completed prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, so the virus’ impact on emergency medicine salaries in 2020 is still unclear. However, compared to the prior year’s report, the average annual salary for an emergency medicine physician increased slightly from $353K in 2019’s report to $357K in 2020. Emergency medicine remained in 13th place among all 29 reporting specialties, the same ranking it held in 2019.

Average Annual Physician Compensation

Chart - average annual physician compensation

High satisfaction with compensation

Emergency medicine physicians are one of the top three specialties in terms of compensation satisfaction. Sixty-seven percent said they felt fairly compensated, tied with oncologists and radiologists. This dropped only slightly from the prior year, when 68% reported being satisfied with their compensation.

Which Physicians Feel Fairly Compensated?

Chart - which physicians feel fairly compensated

Incentive bonuses for emergency medicine physicians

The average incentive bonus for emergency medicine physicians is $40K, ranking 14th out of 19 specialties, followed by neurology ($35K) and pediatrics ($31K). By comparison, orthopedic surgeons report the highest incentive bonuses, at $96K. According to the report, the average incentive bonus is 13% of total salary, it but can vary by specialty.

Physicians’ Average Incentive Bonuses by Specialty

Chart - average physician bonus by specialty

More than half (56%) of all physicians said they’re offered incentive bonuses. Sixty-seven percent of specialists reported that the number of hours they had to work to earn their bonus hadn’t changed. However, nearly one-third reported they’ve worked more hours in order to achieve their incentive bonus, saying the prospect of an incentive bonus encouraged them to work longer hours. Specialists reported earning an average of 69% of their incentive bonus.

Emergency medicine physicians spend less time on paperwork

When asked about the time they’re spending on administration and paperwork, EM physicians reported spending an average of 12.8 hours per week — one of the lowest ranked of all specialties surveyed. On average, physicians spend 15.6 hours per week on paperwork and administrative duties.

Hours per Week Physicians Spend on Paperwork and Administration

Chart - hours per week physicians spend on paperwork and administration

Self-employed physicians versus employed physicians

Self-employed physicians — a group which includes locum tenens doctors — reported a 20% higher annual salary than compared to employed physicians ($357K vs $297K). This is slightly higher than last year, which showed a nearly 18% difference in salary ($390K vs $331K). These numbers show the potential for locum tenens emergency medicine physicians to earn more money than their employed counterparts.

Emergency medicine physician job satisfaction

Eighty percent of emergency medicine physicians reported they’d choose the same specialty if given the chance, which is up from last year (75%). This, however, only puts them in 20th place overall, and is significantly lower than the number one spot held by orthopedics, 97% of whom say they would choose the same specialty.

I Would Choose the Same Specialty

Chart - Physicians likelihood to choose the same specialty

COVID-19’s effect on these statistics

This survey was conducted prior to COVID-19, and the pandemic has dramatically affected physicians’ earnings, whether it is a result of layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, or a change in the structure of incentive bonuses. As a result of the pandemic, practices reported a 55% decrease in revenue and a 60% decrease in patient volume on average, resulting in hospitals and physician groups nationwide having to layoff, furlough, and cut the pay of their physicians. Significantly, 43,000 of healthcare workers were laid off in March 2020.

Although the full impact of the pandemic on physician compensation remains to be seen, to date it appears that emergency medicine physicians are highly satisfied with their career choice and salaries overall. Those who are interested in working locum tenens as an emergency medicine physician have the opportunity for increased earnings.

To learn more about working as a locums emergency medicine physician, give us a call at 954.343.3050 or view today’s emergency medicine locum tenens job opportunities.

About the author

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Jen Hunter

Jen Hunter has been a marketing writer for over 20 years. She enjoys telling the stories of healthcare providers and sharing new, relevant, and the most up-to-date information on the healthcare front. Jen lives in Salt Lake City, UT, with her husband, two kids, and their geriatric black Lab. She enjoys all things outdoors-y, but most of all she loves rock climbing in the Wasatch mountains.

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