Specialist physicians in high demand, and their salaries reflect it

Medical specialists are in increasing demand, and their salaries reflect that fact, according to a new report.

Hospitals, medical groups and other healthcare organizations are seeking more medical specialists and fewer primary care physicians, according to a new report by Merritt Hawkins, a physician search firm.

While primary care physicians remain in strong demand, there is an emerging shortage of specialist physicians, more of whom are needed to treat an older and sicker population, according to the annual report that tracks physician salaries and recruiting trends.

Specialists continue to dominate the list of leading salaries. Invasive cardiologists have the highest average starting salary at $648,000, compared to family medicine physicians who earn an average of $239,000.

Here are the top five highest paid specialties' starting salaries:

1. Cardiology (invasive): $648,000

2. Orthopedic surgery: $536,000

3. Gastroenterology: $495,000

4. Urology: $464,000

5. Cardiology (non-invasive): $441,000

The average signing bonus offered to physicians is $32,692, according to the report.

The data were based on a sample of 3,131 physician and advanced practitioner recruitments that the firm conducted from April 2018 to March 2019.

“While demand remains strong for primary care physicians, specialists are increasingly needed to care for an older and sicker population,” said Travis Singleton, the company’s executive vice president. “In some medical specialties, shortages are emerging that will pose a serious challenge to public health.”

For instance, the acute shortage of psychiatrists continued, as it was the company’s second-most requested search for the fourth year in a row. Shortages are also emerging in surgery, geriatrics and infectious disease.

The report indicates that 78% of Merritt Hawkins’ requests for recruitments in the last year were for medical specialists, up from 67% four years ago. By contrast, the number of searches the firm conducted for primary care physicians (family doctors, internists and pediatricians) declined by 8% year over year and by 38% compared to four years ago.

In its latest review of physician supply and demand, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of up to 67,000 specialists by 2032.

Merritt Hawkins doctor salaries chart