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July 16, 2020

The highest- and lowest-paid physicians, charted

Daily Briefing

    Most physician specialties saw increases in average offered salary from 2019 to 2020, but the coronavirus epidemic has "flipped" America's physician job market from a "buyer's" to a "seller's" market, a new report from physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins.

    Advisory Board's take: Why it's so important to get physician compensation right

    For the report, which the company released Tuesday, Merritt Hawkins reviewed a sample of 3,251 physician and advanced-practitioner recruiting engagements conducted by the firm between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020. Merritt Hawkins calculated average starting salaries or guaranteed incomes for the positions. According to the report, those figures do not include any bonuses or other monetary incentives tied to the positions.

    The highest—and lowest—starting salaries among specialty clinician recruits

    The report found that, in 2019/2020, invasive cardiologists had the highest average offered salary among the top 20 recruited specialties at $640,000—down from $648,000 in 2018/2019. On the other end of the spectrum, physician assistants had the lowest average offered salary among the top 20 recruited specialties at $112,000 in 2019/2020, up from $110,000 in 2018/2019.

    According to the report, orthopedic surgeons and radiologists saw the largest year-to-year increases in average offered salary among the top 20 recruited specialties from 2018/2019 to 2019/2020, at 16.7% and 9.3%, respectively.

    Coronavirus epidemic 'flips' America's physician job market

    In the report, Merritt Hawkins stated that, as hospitals have had to delay scheduled procedures and have seen their overall patient volumes decline amid America's coronavirus epidemic, many health care facilities throughout the country have closed—and many physicians have seen their hours dramatically drop or have lost their jobs altogether.

    According to the report, as a result of the epidemic, "the market for physicians has flipped—from a buyer's market in which physicians had multiple practice opportunities from which to choose, to a seller's market in which physicians may have to compete for job openings."

    For instance, the report stated that, among Merritt Hawkins' clients, "search engagements" for clinicians have declined by more than 30% since March 31 of this year. In comparison, according to the report, search engagements had been increasing among Merritt Hawkins' clients between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020.

    "Today, we are seeing a growing number [of physicians] who are unemployed with a limited number of roles available," Travis Singleton, EVP of Merritt Hawkins/AMN Healthcare, said. "This is unprecedented. Covid-19 essentially flipped the physician job market in a matter of 60 days."

    However, Merritt Hawkins predicted that, once the epidemic subsides, demand for physicians will rise.

    "Demand for physicians on the front lines of virus care, including emergency medicine physicians, pulmonologists/critical care physicians, and infectious disease specialists is projected to increase as a result of Covid-19," the report stated.

    "While the pandemic will change how health care is delivered, physicians will remain indispensable caregivers, and we anticipate a renewed demand for both their clinical services and their leadership in the post-pandemic world," Singleton said (Japsen, Forbes, 7/14; Gamble, Becker's Hospital Review, 7/14; Reed, FierceHealthcare, 7/14).

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