Due to the vulnerabilities our healthcare system has been subject to, the last few years left many doctors feeling burned out, with some leaving the profession altogether. We’re facing a shortage of medical talent (Doximity’s new compensation survey underscores this concern), so physician recruiters must have an accurate view of physician compensation. That’s why the newly released 5th Annual Compensation Report is one of Doximity’s most important releases yet.
Drawing on responses from more than 160,000 U.S. doctors over five years, the report is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the United States. It focuses on year-over-year trends in physician compensation across Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), the gap in pay between male and female physicians, and absolute physician compensation across specialty, state, region, and gender. We’ve summarized the top five key takeaways for recruiters here.
#1 - The average pay for doctors increased by 3.8% this year. That’s up from an increase of 1.5% last year, and, like last year, the increase did not outpace the rate of inflation. In 2021, the 12-month headline inflation rate was 6.2%, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Thus, on average, physicians experienced a decline in real income over the calendar year compared with inflation.
#2 - Compensation by Metro Area showed strong growth in 2021. Compensation for U.S. physicians grew 3.8% on average between 2020 and 2021, an increase compared to 1.5% last year. This year’s growth may reflect a catch-up from last year’s relatively flat rate, a tight labor market, or a reflection of rising inflation rates in 2021.
The cities with the highest compensation increases are all different from last year’s top 10, suggesting compensation increases may have yearly trends by city. Charlotte, NC boasted the highest average physician pay of any U.S. city in 2021, as well as the highest growth in physician pay at 12.9%. The top five metro areas with the highest growth in pay include:
- Charlotte, N.C. –12.9 %
- Virginia Beach, VA. –12.1%
- St. Louis – 10.5%
- Tampa, FL – 8.1%
- Hartford, CT – 7.8%
The top five metro areas with the LOWEST compensation have all appeared ≥3 times in Doximity’s compensation reports:
- Baltimore, MD – $330,917
- Providence, RI – $346,092
- San Antonio, TX – $355,439
- Washington, D.C. – $356,633
- Boston, MA – $363,545
#3 - The widening gender pay gap may contribute to burnout among female physicians. Doximity’s data showed that the gender pay gap among physicians was 28% this year. Male doctors currently earn over $122,000 more than their female counterparts and earn over $2 million more than women throughout their careers as a doctor. The research also found that women physicians, burdened with increased child care during the pandemic, were more likely to consider early retirement due to burnout.
#4 - Pay varies significantly by specialty. The top 5 specialties with the HIGHEST average annual compensation tend to be surgical and procedural specialties treating adult patients.
- Neurosurgery – $773,201
- Thoracic Surgery – $684,663
- Orthopedic Surgery – $633,620
- Plastic Surgery – $556,698
- Vascular Surgery – $552,313
The top 5 specialties with the LOWEST average annual compensation tend to be surgical and procedural specialties treating pediatric patients.
- Ped. Infectious Disease – $210,844
- Ped. Rheumatology – $216,969
- Ped. Endocrinology – $220,358
- Ped. Hematology – $238,78
- Onc. Ped. Nephrology – $247,861
#5 - COVID impacted physician retirement, and female physicians, in particular, appear to have been disproportionately affected by COVID disruptions. The onset of the pandemic coincided with an additional 2% of physicians being removed from their regular practice. While about half returned as the rate of retirement normalized, a gap persisted between expected and observed retirement, representing over 1% of the physician workforce. Also, 25% of women physicians considered early retirement due to COVID overwork.
This jump in physician retirement compared to the pre-pandemic rate could be an early warning sign of more significant shifts to come. In a recent survey of over 2,000 U.S. physicians, nearly three-quarters report being overworked. Approximately half of all physicians said they are considering an employment change due to COVID-related overwork. This data is concerning and suggests that physicians may feel they are at a breaking point. There has been widespread coverage of the increase in burnout and concerns that one in five healthcare workers have quit or changed jobs.
The physician shortage is likely to play out differently in various regions and markets. As outlined in an earlier article, the Physician Shortage: What Recruiters Should Know, the solution will take a multi-pronged approach. Understanding why shortages are happening and other vital trends like physician compensation can help make you a more informed and more responsive recruiter. We invite you to download the full compensation report now. Also, if you weren’t able to attend our webinar on January 11th which took a deeper dive into the report with Dr. Peter Alperin, you can watch the recording below or view the slides here!