by Internet Medical Society
The data in the Physician Compensation Report come from more than 24,000 doctors in 25 specialties, who responded to Medscape’s annual survey with information on their compensation for 2013.
The graph below shows the average earnings for each surveyed specialty. Orthopedists were the highest earners:
In an explanation of their findings, Medscape notes that: “As in the past, those who perform procedures have the highest incomes compared with those who manage chronic illnesses.” Some primary care practices saw a slight increase in earnings, “which could reflect early changes in reimbursement resulting from the Affordable Care Act.”
Earnings also vary by region. Average physician income ranges from $US239,000 in the Northeast to $US258,000 in the Great Lakes area. Certain regions of the country may have to pay more to attract doctors, so physician salaries often reflect the level of competition more than the cost of living. Doctors in rural areas actually tend to earn more.
The Medscape survey also found that doctors are about evenly split on whether they think they are compensated fairly, though that varies somewhat by specialty. Dermatologists were the most likely to say their compensation was fair; plastic surgeons were the least likely.
While dermatologists earn $US308,000 and plastic surgeons earn $US321,000, 65% of dermatologists are satisfied with their careers, compared to just 37% of plastic surgeons. And only about one in four dermatologists spends more than 40 hours a week seeing patients, compared to more than half of plastic surgeons.
That suggests that the demands and joys of the job shape how much compensation seems “fair” more than just the salary itself.
In fact, doctors with some of the lowest earnings were the most likely to say they would choose medicine as a career if they had to do it all over again. Almost 70% of physicians in internal medicine, HIV/Infectious Disease, and family medicine would choose medicine all over again, compared to just 44% of orthopedists.
Overall, just 10% of all surveyed doctors said “making good money” was the most rewarding part of the job.