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Physician salary 2019: Salaries rise again, but so does paperwork

Physician salaries 2019

The latest report on physician salaries shows doctors’ earnings have continued to grow in the past year. For the report, Medscape surveyed approximately 20,000 physicians from 30 different specialties. The overall average salary rose from $299,999 in 2018 to $313,000 this year. According to Medscape, from 2015 to 2019, primary care physician (PCP) salaries increased 20 percent from $195,000 to $284,000, and specialist salaries increased 21.5 percent from $284,000 to $341,000.

chart - average annual physician compensation

Image credit Medscape.com

This year orthopedics took the top position over plastic surgery. The top salaries this year are:

  • Orthopedics ($482,000)
  • Plastic surgery ($471,000)
  • Otolaryngology ($461,000)
  • Cardiology ($430,000)
  • Dermatology ($419,000)

Family medicine, pediatrics, and public health remained at the bottom of the list.

The pay gap between male physicians and female physicians widened, increasing from 18 percent in 2018 to 25 percent this year. However, the salary gap between male and female specialists dropped 3 percent, falling from 36 percent last year to 33 percent this year. The report noted that female physicians tend to select to work in lower-paying specialties such as OB/GYN, pediatrics, diabetes, and endocrinology. However, it also stated that the selection of the lower-salary specialties did not explain why female physicians received less than their male counterparts.

Hours of practice and compensation

Medscape indicated that male physicians spend 9 percent more time seeing patients than female physicians.

As in past years, self-employed physicians show higher earnings than employed physicians. Overhead plays a significant role in profitability for the self-employed. Moreover, the amount of overhead in a given practice varies according to specialty. PCP practices, for example, usually endure larger overheads due to the broad range of services provided compared to a specialist, while independent contractors like locum tenens physicians typically have low overhead costs.

chart - employed v. self-employed physician compensation

Image credit Medscape.com

This year, 74 percent of all physicians surveyed report more time (10 or more hours per week) spent on paperwork than in the past, with a third of these physicians reporting they spend more than 20 hours per week on paperwork. This is an enormous jump compared to past years; in 2012 physicians claimed only 1-4 hours per week of paperwork. This increase in administrative burden has make working locum tenens a more attractive alternative for many doctors, by allowing them to spend more time with patients and less on the business end of healthcare.

While salary is important, feeling fairly compensated also correlates with the satisfaction of a job well done. Public health and preventative medicine, which is at the bottom of the salary bracket, report the highest satisfaction for fair compensation. Of the top five salaries, dermatology reports the highest satisfaction, with orthopedics and plastic surgery in the middle of the field. Most physicians feel satisfied with their performance. However, rules and regulations create the biggest frustrations for physicians. Ultimately, the gratitude and relationships built with patients is the greatest reward. The majority of physicians surveyed would select medicine again, and their given specialty, as a career choice.

Top states for salaries

Oklahoma was first on the top-ten list with an average salary of $337,000 and Indiana placed tenth with an average salary of $332,000. Tennessee and Georgia are new to the list of the top-earning states.

chart - top states for physician salaries

Image credit Medscape.com

For physicians interested in working locum tenens, knowing the top states for salaries is important to make informed decisions regarding assignment locations. Although pay varies from state to state, and within each specialty, locum tenens usually earn more than full-time, on-staff physicians. Earnings can be maximized in states with higher pay, especially because most locum tenens agencies cover the cost of housing and travel as part of the total compensation. The leading states with the highest physician salaries are spread across the United States (the only region of the U.S. not in the top-10 list is the Northwest).

SEE ALSO: Top five states for locum tenens physicians.

To learn more about locum tenens, give us a call at 954.343.3050 or view today’s job openings.

About the author

Heather Linderfelt

Heather Linderfelt

Heather Linderfelt is a geologist, chef, and freelance editor/writer. She specializes in a variety of topics, including healthcare, science, technology, business, and the food industry.

4 Comments

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  • I feel Physicians (IM, FM, Ped etc.) are getting paid less as compared to compensation like 2 decades ago. EVEN A FRESH UNDERGRAD TODAY in CompSci IS MAKING $140-$150K starting salary. After 11 years of hard study and half a million in loans it is very stupid that doctors are paid so less as compared to the amount of time and money they spend in getting their degree. These Undergrads reach total earnings of $200K in first 3 three of their jobs with stock options etc.

    I think the main culprit is Wall Street. IT companies are listed there and are filthy rich today like Amazon and Google and can pay very good salaries to 21 year olds but most hospitals and medical practices are non profit or not listed on Wall Street to make the money to pay their employees. Moreover, Federal Reserve and all QEs are there to prop up the stock market. The insurance companies are busy slashing payments to doctors and increasing profits for wall street to have more money for their CEOs.

    More people will stop choosing medicine as a career in future if the salaries are not fixed soon. Same is the situation with PhDs. B-School profs make it good but all others are paid really low. Avg B-School profs make close to 200K in starting salary and they are not even real doctors. Just publishing some BS papers that no one reads and add no value to society. But they add scam value to wall street.

    What a shame.

    • Having failed to finish residency training, I have been stuck working in a low paying urgent care center for over 30 years. After all this time, I make between 140 and 150K. To add insult to injury, I am driving a Hyundai Elantra with MD plates, At one time, I believed that I had the only Hyundai in town with doctor plates. Once I was stopped by a police officer in New Jersey t see if the plates were stolen He could not believe that a physician would be driving such a P.O.S. car. Funny thing is that nowadays, hardly a month goes by when I don’t see another Hyundai or Kia with said plates.

  • Those software engineers at top tier companies competed with so many other candidates (getting google is harder than entering a renowned university) and PhD spent their time like doctor spent. Are you saying doctors are better than software engineer and PhD? Are doctors better and smarter than the rest of world? Where did you get that ego. I hope you don’t use Internet and AI software the computer science PhD and software engineer built.

    • Doctors have a minimum of 7 years post-graduate training. They aren’t appropriately compensated given the amount of schooling, training hours, 200-300k in debt, and the high competitiveness of the field. They are working typically a of 60-80 hours a week when they are first starting out. Most physicians do not go into the field for the money but it is frustrating feeling you aren’t appropriately compensated for what you are doing, no matter the field you go into.


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