Physician shortage persists, fueling physician income growth
Each year, Medscape releases its Physician Compensation Report evaluating trends and insights related to physician compensation and earnings. For its 2023 report, Medscape surveyed more than 10,000 physicians across 29 specialties for insight into income, hours, job satisfaction, and challenges facing the profession.
In 2020 and for several years thereafter, the report and its findings were marked by the effects of the pandemic. In this year’s report (reporting on 2022 income and insights), old and new themes emerged, including the ongoing effect of the physician shortage on supply, demand, and earnings as well as the effects of efforts designed to address gender pay disparity.
Average physician compensation
Physician salaries continue to increase, due in large part to physician shortages brought on by the pandemic. Average physician income was $352,000 in this year’s earnings report, compared to $339,000 the prior year. Healthcare staffing experts predict the upward trend in income will continue, as more and more physicians retire, reduce their hours, or transition to shift work and virtual care.
Consistent with prior years, plastic surgery, orthopedics/orthopedic surgery, and cardiology topped the charts for the highest-paid specialties again in 2022. These specialties have held the highest paid distinction for more than a decade, with the exception of plastic surgery, which began its ascent in 2017.
Among the lowest-paid specialties include pediatrics and public health/preventive medicine.
Specialties with earnings on the rise include oncology (up 13%), gastroenterology (up 11%), anesthesiology, radiology, critical care, and urology (all up 10%). As Covid restrictions ease, specialties involved in procedures are seeing a rebound in earnings as the volume of these procedures increases.
At the other end of the scale, specialties such as ophthalmology and emergency medicine saw a downward trend in compensation (at -7% and -6%, respectively).
Physician views on pay by specialty
Overall, 52% of physicians surveyed reported being satisfied with their income. Interestingly, some of the lowest-paid specialties feel most fairly compensated, including psychiatry, dermatology, public health and preventive medicine, and critical care.
When asked whether they would pursue a career in medicine again, a majority (73%) agreed that they would, a figure not quite yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels (77% in 2018).
When asked whether they would pursue the same specialty again, an overwhelming majority (90%+ in the top ten specialties indicated they would.
Gender pay disparity
The report continues to illuminate the enduring pay disparity between men and women. However, encouragingly, this year hinted at progress toward greater equity. While male physicians earned 19% more than female physicians this year, the figure represents an improvement over the last several years’ disparity of 25%.
A similar trend was witnessed among specialists. Male specialists earned 27% more than female specialists this year, compared to 31% last year and 33% the prior year. Female physicians surveyed believe as more women become role models in historically male-dominated specialties, more and more women will be able to envision themselves in these positions and specialties.
Self-employed vs. employed physicians
Self-employed physicians, including locum tenens, out-earned their employed counterparts in 2022 (average earnings of $374,000 compared to $344,000).
And while the percentage of self-employed physicians is decreasing somewhat, more and more physicians are taking on extra work (including medical moonlighting and other medical-related work) to supplement their income.
Physician compensation by state
Wisconsin ($397,000), Indiana ($372,000), and Georgia ($363,000) topped the list of highest-earning states for physicians overall. Also included in the top ten are California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona, which — together with Georgia — are the five states predicted to have the largest physician shortages by 2030.
Maryland, Colorado, and Virginia came in last for average physician earnings by state, at a range of $306,000 – $330,000.
Most rewarding, challenging aspects of the job
When asked what aspects of their job they find most rewarding, 30% of physicians surveyed said they find satisfaction in being good at what they do. An additional 24% pointed to a feeling of gratitude and appreciation they feel from patients, and 19% found a sense of purpose in making the world a better place, including “knowing that I am doing something most days that makes a difference in the lives of others.
Regarding challenges, 20% of physicians surveyed said rules and regulations are the most difficult aspects of their job. And an additional 16% cited the demands of long hours.
Compounding the long hours is the administrative work required of physicians. Studies show charting into an electronic health record (EHR) system can add up to 1.5 hours to a physician’s day. Physicians practicing physical medicine & rehabilitation report spending the most time, on average, on administrative duties (up to 19 hours per week).
For more findings on physician compensation, view the full 2023 report here. Interested in earning more with locum tenens? Give us a call at 800.453.3030 or view today's locum tenens physician job opportunities below.