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September 19, 2022

Charted: How much doctors in 18 specialties are paid

Daily Briefing

    Physician starting salaries have largely rebounded after declining during the pandemic, with the majority of salaries in different specialties now up year-over-year, according to a new review by AMN Healthcare's physician recruitment division Merritt Hawkins.

    Physicians' average base salaries and recruitment bonuses

    For the review, Merritt Hawkins analyzed 2,695 permanent physician and advanced practitioner search engagements that its staffing companies had conducted or were ongoing between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022.

    The majority (64%) of Merritt Hawkins' search engagements were for physician specialists, such as cardiologists, neurologists, and oncologists. In comparison, only 17% of search engagements were for primary care physicians, down from 18% last year and 20% the year prior, reflecting a further shift to convenient care versus office-based primary care.

    Rather than tracking total annual physician compensation like other surveys, Merritt Hawkins' review tracks starting salaries and other recruiting incentives, reflecting what companies offer physicians and advanced professionals to attract them to new practice settings.

    Overall, Merritt Hawkins found that physician starting salaries have largely rebounded from the declines seen in the pandemic. Out of the physician specialties tracked in the review, 14 saw year-over-year increases, and only three saw declines.

    Orthopedic surgeons had the highest average starting salary at $565,000, while pediatricians had the lowest average starting salary at $232,000.

    In addition to base salaries, 92% of engagement searches offered recruiting bonuses. On average, physicians received a bonus of $31,000, up from $29,656 last year. Among the top four requested physician specialties, the average recruiting bonuses were:

    • Family medicine ($35,557)
    • Radiology ($32,163)
    • Psychiatry ($24,615)
    • Obstetrics/gynecology ($22,841)

    High demand for physicians results in a 'buyer's market'

    Although the demand for physician services lulled during the pandemic, it is now surging again, particularly as patients seek care they had previously delayed.

    In addition, there is a growing shortage of physicians that will also add to increased demand over time. Some factors contributing to the physician shortage include an aging population, pervasive ill-health among Americans, and poor distribution of physicians, particularly in rural areas.

    According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States could face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034, including up to 48,000 primary care physicians and 77,000 specialists.

    Burnout due to the pandemic has also contributed to increased volatility in the physician workforce, which has resulted in higher rates of turnover and retirement. In the 2020 Survey of America's Physicians, 11% said they switched jobs or moved into a non-clinical role because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and 45% said they planned to retire in the next year.

    Taking into account the current physician shortage, burnout, and several other factors, "physician recruiting once again takes place in a buyer's market where physicians typically have a variety of practice opportunities to choose from," Merritt Hawkins wrote. (Gooch, Becker's Hospital Review, 9/15 [1]; Gooch, Becker's Hospital Review, 9/15 [2]; AMN Healthcare/Merritt Hawkins "2022 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives," accessed 9/16)

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