Physician compensation trends "are inverse that of most industries" in that areas higher in cost tend to pay doctors less for their services, according to new data from Doximity, a social network for physicians.
Over the past four months, Doximity compiled anonymous compensation data from more than 18,000 licensed practicing physicians across the United States. The company then broke down by county the salaries of physicians in 48 specialties and created an interactive map called the Career Navigator, which will change continuously as new data is collected.
Doximity co-founder Nate Gross says, "The goal here is to empower doctors with transparency." He says that doctors looking for jobs after their residencies are often unfamiliar with regional salary discrepancies. CEO Jeff Tagney explains, "Medical school teaches the science of medicine, but not the business of medicine," adding, "Our hope is that this up-to-date, local market data helps physicians level the playing field with HR department in evaluating their opportunities."
What the data show
The data generally found that physicians in major urban centers make nearly $1,500 less, on average, than those practicing in rural areas. For example, an internal medicine specialist in Boston could make about $202,000 annually in average compensation, but the same physician based in Greenville, Mississippi, would make nearly $70,000 more per year.
According to Becker's Hospital Review, urban doctors could be making less because they are more likely to be employed at an academic medical center or a hospital owned and operated by the federal government. Employees at such institutions tend to make an estimated 12%—or $28,000—less than those who work in private practices.
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Market saturation is also a huge factor in determining physician salary, according to Doximity. When a new specialist starts practicing in a town of 100,000 people, the specialists are likely to make nearly $1,500 less per year.
Also, the health status of area residents can affect a physician's salary. Doctors who practice medicine in towns with higher obesity rates tend to make slightly more than those who practice is healthier areas (Hamblin, The Atlantic, 1/27; Doximity, 1/27; Rappeleye, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/28).
The takeaway: New data from Doximity show how doctors can bring in higher salaries by working in areas with less competition—namely, rural areas. But Medscape's list of best places to practice medicine suggests that salary shouldn't be the only factor in deciding where to practice.