Use salary survey data with caution during physician compensation negotiations

Doctor putting money in pocket
Use physician salary surveys as a guidepost when negotiating compensation. (Getty/Niyazz)

How much does the average neurologist make? Is it almost $315,000? Or less than $250,000?

It depends on which salary survey you look at, which is why doctors should use those compensation reports with caution when trying to determine whether they are fairly compensated, according to the American Academy of Neurology.

The salary surveys can be helpful in giving physicians a general sense of what other doctors in their field make and how much money they should ask for, but the numbers vary depending on how the surveys are done, which can result in vastly different results.

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“Take in all this information you see—and take it with a grain of salt. Use it as a guidepost, but don't expect things to go well if you're trying to make a hard-and-fast decision based on what's black and white on a salary survey somewhere,” Tommy Bohannon, vice president for AMN Healthcare, told the group's publication, Neurology Today. The company owns Merritt Hawkins, which does an annual salary survey.

And keep in mind that some colleagues in the same specialty will earn more money than the average doctor, such as those with “rockstar status” who can attract new patients and increase an organization’s prestige or those who take on leadership roles, as FierceHealthcare has reported.

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Many other companies and professional organizations do their own salary surveys, and they each use a different methodology. Consider factors such as the time period for the survey and how many physicians were included.

The American Academy of Neurology does its own survey of its members and breaks it down by average compensation for more than a dozen subspecialties.