Racial, gender disparities continue in physician compensation, survey finds

Disparities continue when it comes to physician salaries.

Disparities in physician salaries continue, with African-American doctors earning significantly less than their white counterparts and a gender gap still separating female and male doctors, although it is starting to shrink, a new survey found.

African-American doctors earn 15% less than their white colleagues (an average salary of $262,000 versus $303,000), and approximately half of them believe they are being unfairly compensated, according to Medscape’s 2017 Physician Compensation Report, which surveyed 19,200 physicians working in more than 27 disciplines. Yet, despite the salary disparity, African-American doctors are happier than white physicians in their jobs.

Medscape chart
Courtesy of MedScape

The salary gap persists when it comes to gender, as well. Male physicians between ages 55-69 make 27% higher salaries than women. However, an indication the gap is slowly closing, it shrinks to 18% for physicians under age 34, the survey found. Male specialists earned 31% more than women and male primary care physicians made 15% more.

Yesterday was "Equal Pay Day," which symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Nearly 8 in 10 doctors would choose medicine again as a career despite too many rules and regulations and more time spent on paperwork. That’s the largest increase in job satisfaction (77%) since Medscape first conducted the survey in 2010. More than 60% say relationships with patients and being good at helping patients are the most rewarding parts of the job.

“We see that more physicians this year are satisfied with their career choice, which we think has important and positive implications for the future of the profession,” said Leslie Kane, senior director of Medscape Business of Medicine, in a release. “While doctors continue to deal with many work-related frustrations, there has also been an increased emphasis on physician wellness, team care and other aspects of medical practice that may be making it more rewarding to be a physician.”  

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Rural states have higher salaries. Physicians in North Dakota are the highest paid in the country, followed by Alaska, South Dakota and Nebraska. New York is among the lowest paid states.
  • Specialists earn more than primary care doctors. Salaries average $294,000 per year. Specialists earn about $100,000 more than primary care doctors ($316,000 compared to $217,000). Among specialists, orthopedists are the highest paid, averaging $489,000. Family physicians and pediatricians are the lowest paid ($209,000 and $202,000).
  • Most physicians saw their salaries increase in 2016, with plastic surgeons experiencing the biggest jump (24% to $354,500). Pediatricians saw a decrease of 1%.