The average OB/GYN salary has been steadily increasing since 2018 — slightly over 1% a year. However, according to Medscape’s 2021 OB/GYN Compensation Report, this modest increase is tempered by the fact that 45% of OB/GYNs reported a decrease in income in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. Even so, average income overall for OB/GYNs in 2020 was up by just over 1% from the prior year ($312,000 in 2020 compared to $308,000 in 2019).
How OB/GYN pay compares to other specialties
Many physician specialties saw their compensation increase year over year in 2020, but this wasn’t true for all specialties. Pediatrics saw a 5% drop in compensation, and orthopedics, which topped the list last year, reported their compensation remained unchanged ($511,000).
Plastic surgery and orthopedic surgery have consistently vied for top spot in specialty physician compensation over the past few years, with plastic surgery first this year at $526,000 followed by orthopedics ($511,000) and cardiology ($459,000). OB/GYN salary falls in the middle, a position which remains virtually unchanged since at least 2017.
At $221,000, pediatrics was the lowest-paid specialty in 2021, below public health and preventive medicine ($237,000) and family medicine ($236,000). These three specialties continue to hover on the bottom of the physician compensation list.
COVID-19’s impact on OB/GYN salary
Although OB/GYN salary was up overall, a vast majority of those who experienced a drop in income in 2020 cited it was the result of pandemic-related factors such as job loss, reduction in hours, and decreased patient volume (91%). Only 21% said their income loss was unrelated to the pandemic.
However, 41% are confident their income will return to pre-COVID income levels in the next year, and 45% believe they will recover in the next two to three years. Eleven percent said they didn’t think they would ever return to their pre-pandemic income level.
Female OB/GYNs earn less than their male counterparts
Even though a majority of OB/GYNs are women (60%), female OB/GYNs earned approximately 20% less than male OB/GYNs ($286,000 versus $348,000). This follows the universal disparity in male and female physician compensation, in which female physicians earn 21% less than male physicians ($211,000 to $269,000, respectively).
This pay gap is much more striking among physician specialists overall, where male specialists earn 33% more than female specialists.
Annual incentive bonus not impacted by the pandemic
The average incentive bonus for OB/GYNs was approximately $48,000, up nearly 10% from 2020. This is far lower than many other physician specialty incentive bonuses, ranging from $116,000 (orthopedics), $87,000 (ophthalmology), and $72,000 (urology).
Fifty-nine percent of OB/GYNs reported achieving more than three-quarters of their potential bonus payout, about the same as in 2020 (60%). This number is in line with other physician specialties.
Employed vs. self-employed OB/GYNs
In 2021, self-employed physicians reportedly earned $32,000 more a year than employed OB/GYNs, who brought in $300,000 on average. This includes OB/GYNs who work locum tenens. Self-employed physician specialists overall earned more than employed physicians, and bring in an average of $352,000 annually compared to $300,000 for staff physicians. In 2019, the average independent contractor salary was $336,000.
Working locum tenens has allowed OB/GYN Dr. Roseann Freundel to enjoy the lifestyle she always wanted. “I was paid more as a locum tenens than as a staff physician,” she says. “My biggest fear was would I be able to pay off my student loans, but I’m able to since locums pay rates are at or above local market value.”
Increased administrative burden
OB/GYNs say they spent nearly 15.1 hours per week on paperwork and administration, up from last year where they reportedly spent an average of 14.3 hours per week. This is less than some specialties — like infectious disease (24.2 hours) and public health and preventive medicine (20.7 hours) — but more than other specialties. Ophthalmology (10.3 hours) and anesthesiology (10.1 hours) spent the fewest number of hours each week on administrative work.
Dr. Freundel says in her staff role, she had to split her time and attention between patient care and administrative, managerial, and committee responsibilities. Now that she has transitioned to working locum tenens, she says it has relieved some of that burden. “Even if you have a heavy patient load, you know you’re going to be with your patients. You’re not going to be pulled out for some meeting.”
OB/GYNs satisfied with job but not feeling fairly compensated
OB/GYNs are in the bottom third of physicians who report feeling fairly compensated. However, despite only 55% feeling fairly compensated, most say they’d choose the same specialty (74%), indicating a high degree of job satisfaction. These numbers remain virtually unchanged from last year’s report.
Although the pandemic has caused an increase in physicians’ administrative workloads, fewer weekly hours worked, and a nearly 40% reduction in patient volume, the survey reveals that most OB/GYNs are cautiously optimistic about post-COVID recovery.
Chart images from Medscape.com