Bigger payday for doctors at private hospitals versus academic medical centers

Doctor putting money in pocket
On average, doctors who work in private hospital centers earn more than those who work at academic medical centers. (Getty/Niyazz)

Doctors who work for nonacademic, private hospital systems outearn their counterparts in academic settings—some by as much as $123,000, according to an analysis of survey data by the Medical Group Management Association.

The research based on the 2017 MGMA DataDive Physician Compensation and Production Survey found a stark difference in pay for doctors in the two settings. The survey included responses from more than 17,400 providers in more than 437 academic hospitals and 96,000 providers working in more than 5,000 nonacademic settings.

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The survey also revealed:

  • Primary care physicians in nonacademic hospitals make $57,129 more than those in academic settings.
  • The greatest difference was seen in specialty care, with a nonacademic physician making $122,795 more than counterparts in an academic institution.
  • Starting salaries reflected the same disparity. New hires in first-year post-residency or fellowship positions at nonacademic institutions earned more than those in academic institutions. For primary care doctors, where the difference was greatest, those in nonacademic settings earned roughly $86,000 more than academic counterparts.
  • In terms of productivity, specialty care physicians had the biggest difference of work relative value units (RVUs) between nonacademic and academic providers. Specialty care nonacademic physicians report 1,200 more work RVUs per year than academic counterparts, namely because those who work in academic settings report less billable clinic time.
  • Specialty care physicians who are full-time and devote their hours to clinical care reported earning a base compensation of $67,290 more than those doctors who spent 67% or more time on research. However, primary care physicians, who were full-time but spent most of their time on research, reported making $9,556 more in base compensation than those who spent most of their time providing clinical care.

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"This data arms practice owners and operators with the information needed to better run their practices and stay educated about what others in the industry are doing," said Halee Fischer-Wright, M.D., president and chief executive officer at MGMA, in an announcement about the survey findings.

While they may not pay as much, several academic medical centers are on’s top 10 list of healthcare organizations that provide the best overall work experience for healthcare professionals Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, is considered the best hospital to work for in the country. Other teaching hospitals that rounded out the top 10 included Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, The University of Michigan Health System, Yale New Haven Health and Stanford Health Care.