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Doctors' Incomes Up, Orthopedic Surgeons Lead

April 30, 2013 -- Most doctors' incomes are going up, with orthopedic surgeons once again leading the way, according to a new Medscape survey of nearly 22,000 U.S. doctors.

Orthopedic surgeons earn an average of $405,000 a year, while HIV/infectious disease specialists earn the least, averaging $170,000 a year.

On average, the annual salaries of the top specialists, after the orthopedic surgeons, are:

  • Cardiologists, $357,000
  • Radiologists, $349,000

At the bottom of the scale, after infectious disease specialists, are:

  • Pediatricians, $173,000
  • Family practice doctors, $175,000

Among the surprises: A high income did not always translate to overall fulfillment. Just 44% of the orthopedic surgeons report satisfaction with their medical practice. But 53% of the HIV/infectious disease specialists do.

Doctors' Income Trends

This is the third year for the Physician Compensation Report. The survey is conducted by Medscape, WebMD’s site for health care professionals.

The online survey, conducted during the month of February, received responses from 21,878 doctors in 25 specialties. The doctors replied to questions not only about their income, but also about their profession, the time they spend on patient care and paperwork, and other information.

Here are some other survey highlights about doctor incomes:

  • Incomes for orthopedists rose 27%, credited partly to an aging population in need of surgery and other treatment for hips, knees, and other joints.
  • Salaries for endocrinologists declined by 3%. Oncologists' incomes dropped by 4%.
  • Male doctors, on average, earn 30% more than female doctors, down from 40% in last year’s survey. This year, male doctors brought in $259,000 annually on average, while women doctors took in $199,000.
  • Doctors in the North Central region earned the most, averaging $259,000 annually. Northeast doctors earned the least: $228,000 a year.
  • Overall, 48% say they feel their income is fair compensation.

How Doctors Spend Their Time

Patient care and paperwork, including computer-based reports, take up the bulk of most doctors' time.

About a third of the doctors say they spend 30 to 40 hours per week, on average, on patient care.

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