April 27, 2015 -- Although money is still a sore issue for many doctors, according to Medscape's 2015 Physician Compensation Report, most had modest to significant salary gains.
The top three earners in this year's report are orthopedists ($421,000), cardiologists ($376,000), and gastroenterologists ($370,000).
The average salary for a primary care physician (PCP) in 2014 was $195,000. For a specialist it was $284,000.
The three lowest earners for patient care were pediatricians ($189,000), family doctors ($195,000), and endocrinologists and internists (both at $196,000), the report shows.
More than 19,500 doctors in 26 specialties responded to this year's survey between Dec. 30, 2014, and March 11, 2015. They revealed their salaries, number of hours worked, and how they felt about their careers.
Which Doctors Are Satisfied?
About half of PCPs (47%) and half of specialists (50%) are happy with their salaries.
Forty-eight percent of family physicians and 45% of internists feel they're fairly compensated. Ophthalmologists (40%), allergists, and general surgeons (both 41%) are the least happy.
Dermatologists (61%) and emergency medicine doctors and pathologists (both 60%) are the most satisfied with their annual pay. Salaries increased by 12% for emergency medicine doctors and pathologists in the past year.
According to the new report, the doctors with the highest career satisfaction are dermatologists (63%), followed by pathologists and psychiatrists (both 57%). Those with the least satisfaction are internists (47%) and then nephrologists and general surgeons (48% and 49%, respectively).
If they could do it all over again, 64% of doctors say they’d still choose medicine as a career, but only 45% would stick with the same specialty.
Pay Cuts and Raises
Compared with last year's report, this year's salaries for rheumatologists fell the most, by 4%, followed by urologists, whose income dropped by 1%.
Salaries rose for all other doctors, with the greatest among infectious disease physicians (22%), followed by primarily hospital-based doctors: pulmonologists (15%) and emergency medicine doctors and pathologists (both at 12%).
Salaries for family physicians rose by 10%.
Pay Varies by Location
Overall, the highest salaries in this year's survey were reported in the Northwest ($281,000) and South Central ($271,000) regions of the U.S. The lowest earnings were in the Northeast ($253,000) and the Mid-Atlantic ($254,000).
This year's report shows the lowest-paying regions were the District of Columbia ($186,000), Rhode Island ($217,000), and Maryland ($237,000) -- all of which are on the East Coast. New Mexico and Utah were the only non-Eastern states in the bottom 10 for pay.
Employment vs Self-Employment
In this year's survey, most doctors (63%) are employed and make significantly less than the 32% of their colleagues who are in private practice. According to a major physician recruiter, 11% of doctors were employed by hospitals in 2004, and this rose to 64% in 2014.
PCPs who are employed make $189,000, and self-employed PCPs report annual earnings of $212,000. These figures are far less than average salaries for employed ($258,000) or self-employed ($329,000) specialists.
Women Earn Less, Work Fewer Hours
Women still earn less per year ($215,000) than their male counterparts ($284,000), according to the report. But the overall difference between women and men has shrunk slightly since 2011, the first year Medscape did this survey.
Almost a quarter (24%) of female doctors who completed the survey work part-time, compared with 13% of men.
Even women who are employed full-time work fewer hours per week and see fewer patients than male doctors. Greater flexibility and shorter hours may help improve female doctors’ sense of job satisfaction and fend off burnout.