Physician Salaries Rebounded in 2021. Here are the specialties that earned the most.

April 19, 2022 - After stagnating during the height of the pandemic, physician salaries rebounded 7% towards the end of 2021, with increases seen in primary care and all other specialties.

As medical practices reopened and patient volume returned to pre-pandemic levels, salaries also increased to an overall average of $339,000, up from $299,999 in 2020, which represents a jump of more than 29% since 2015, according to the results of the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2022.

"Compensation for most physicians is trending back up as demand for physicians accelerates," said James Taylor, chief operating officer of AMN Healthcare's Leadership Solutions Division. "At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Merritt Hawkins saw a 30% decrease in client physician recruiting engagements year-over-year. But in the fourth quarter of 2021, physician recruitment engagements hit an all-time high. The market for physicians has done a complete 180 over just seven or eight months."

The report is based on responses from more than 13,000 U.S. physicians across 29 specialties.

The highest-paid physicians were plastic surgeons ($576,000), orthopedists ($557,000), and cardiologists ($490,000), while primary care physicians, pediatricians, and public health and preventive medicine specialists reported the lowest compensation, at $255,000, $244,000 and $243,000, respectively.

But pay gaps along gender and racial/ethnic lines persisted across every specialty, remaining largely unchanged since 2017. In this year's report, male physicians in primary care earned 23% more than female physicians, and male specialists earned 31% more than female specialists. The specialty pay gap narrowed slightly from 37% in 2017, which may reflect efforts by professional specialty organizations to address gender recruitment and pay inequities. Caucasian/White physicians overall earned more than Latinx/Hispanic, Asian American physicians and African American/Black physicians.

"After an extremely difficult two years, physicians are seeing a return to more routine patient practice, and their compensation increases are evidence of that," said Leslie Kane, senior director, Medscape Business of Medicine. "That said, we're seeing little progress on pay equity – although women have made inroads into many of the higher-earning specialties – and physicians continue to raise the issue of workload and administrative demands."

By Heather Landi
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