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Top 6 Physician Salary Trends

Whether you just completed your residency or you’re planning a move to another state, you’re probably wondering what to expect in terms of physician salary trends. You’ve worked hard to get where you are and it’s important, you’re adequately compensated. However, it’s important that your expectations are realistic too. 

Medscape released its annual physician compensation report for 2019. The report sampled 19,328 respondents across 30+ specialties. All respondents were required to currently be practicing medicine in the United States and data was collected during a 10-minute online survey.  

Let’s take a closer look at the physician salary trends and what you can expect moving forward. 

  1. Physician salary trends - incomes are on the rise. In 2015, primary care physicians earned an average salary of $195,000 while specialists earned an average salary of $284,000. Medscape’s physician compensation report found that in just four years, those numbers increased 21.5 percent and 20 percent respectively, with the overall average salary for physicians sitting at $313,000. For medical specialists, there’s even more earning potential. The report found that the top five earning physician specialties are orthopedics, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, cardiology, and dermatology. 
  2. Physician salary trends - A significant pay gap exists. With the rise of social movements such as #MeToo and Equal Pay Day, you might think the salary gap is quickly closing, especially in science-based fields like medicine. Unfortunately, Medscape’s report suggests this isn’t the case. The report found that on average, male physicians earn more than female physicians. And during 2019, male physicians earned 25 percent more on average than their female counterparts. The pay gap is greater for specialists. Medscape’s report found that male specialists earned an average of 33 percent more. The report also found that with the exception of OB/GYNs, many women practice in a lower-paying specialty. What’s more, women account for less than one-fifth of high-paid specialists in fields such as plastic surgery, urology, and cardiology. 
  3. Physician salary trends - The link between race and pay. Physician salaries also vary depending on race. Medscape’s report found that Caucasian physicians earn more than physicians of other races, with an average income of $319,000. African American physicians, on the other hand, earned an average of $287,000. Additionally, Caucasians represent the highest percentage of physicians who practice specialty medicine (75 percent) and the lowest percentage who practice primary care (25 percent). 
  4. Physician salary trends - Being self-employed has benefits. Owning your own medical practice is a lot of work, but according to Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report, it also pays off financially. Generally, self-employed physicians earn more than employed physicians. However, the study notes that age may play a role. For example, 64 percent of self-employed physicians are over age 50 compared to only 46 percent of employed physicians. The study also notes that for a practice to be profitable, overhead must be low. Primary care practices are particularly costly because they require more operating resources and see more patients on average. However, specialty practices require less paperwork, bureaucracy, and are easier to manage, in general. 
  5. Physician salary trends - Location matters. Not surprisingly, location also impacts income. In 2019, Tennessee and Georgia entered the ranks of states that pay physicians the highest. Oklahoma, Alabama, Nevada, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Connecticut, and Indiana rounded out the top 10 list. 
  6. Physician salary trends - There’s more to compensation than money. Making a healthy income certainly makes paying the bills easier, but it isn’t the only factor physicians consider when ranking job satisfaction. In fact, some of the higher-earning specialties such as plastic surgery and orthopedics report lower levels of satisfaction, even with higher salaries. Medscape’s report found that for the sixth year in a row, dermatology was among the top-ranking specialties regarding satisfaction with compensation. 

This isn’t a comprehensive list of salary trends, but we hope it provides you with some key insights on what to look for during your physician job search. 

Once you have a better idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to begin your search. Since 2001, we’ve been the nation’s leading physician and physician assistant job board. We’re dedicated to helping talented medical professionals–like you–find rewarding opportunities that build your resume, expand your skillset, and provide satisfaction. Take the first step toward finding your dream job and start browsing our job listings today.  

Top 6 Physician Salary Trends
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.