Half of docs think they're underpaid

The results are in from Medscape's 2012 Physician Compensation Survey of nearly 25,000 physicians across 25 specialty areas. According to the data, obtained by a third-party online survey collection site, respondents reported the following specialties earnings in 2011:

  • Pediatrics -- $156,000
  • Psychiatry -- $170,000
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology -- $220,000
  • General surgery -- $265,000
  • Plastic surgery -- $270,000
  • Cardiology -- $314,000
  • Orthopedics -- $315,000
  • Radiology -- $315,000

Although physician income declined in general compared to Medscape's 2011 survey, ophthalmologists gained a 9 percent pay increase, followed by a 5 percent bump for pediatricians and 4 percent increase for both rheumatologists and oncologists. Hardest hit with decreases were general surgery with a 12 percent decline, followed by orthopedic surgery and radiology down 10 percent and emergency medicine down 8 percent.

The survey also measured several physician attitudes. In particular, the survey found that physicians are split almost evenly in whether they're compensated fairly, with 51 percent of all physicians and 56 percent of primary care physicians reporting their income was fair for the work they perform.

On a similar controversial note, a mere 11 percent of the doctors surveyed said they considered themselves rich, mostly because of heavy debt burdens and/or the expenses of running a medical practice. If they had it all to do again, more than half (54 percent) said they'd still choose medicine as a career, 41 percent said they'd choose the same specialty and 23 percent would choose the same practice setting.

While acknowledging that physicians are among some of the highest-paid professionals in the United States (and disclosing that he has no compensation complaints of his own), plastic surgeon Anthony Youn addressed the public's assumptions on physician pay in a post on CNN's The Chart blog. "NBA players average $5.15 million per year. Just for putting a ball in a hoop," he writes. "When you consider these numbers, the thought of pediatricians making $156,000 a year doesn't seem unreasonable."

To learn more:
- check out Medscape's Physician Compensation Report 2012
- see the story from msnbc.com and Kaiser Health News
- read the post from CNN