How Much Do Doctors Make?

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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I get asked this question a lot. In most cases, people’s guesses are over-estimates of what doctors make. With the Affordable Care Act and other changes coming our way, many doctors across the country feel their income will decrease. How much do doctors make anyway? Which specialists make the most money? Do they like their jobs?

The numbers for 2013 have just been released and here are the interesting points from 25,000 physicians across the country working full time.

1.  The most . . .
Orthopedic surgeons make the most, at about $413,000 per year, followed by cardiologists who make $351,000 per year. Urology, gastroenterology, radiology, plastic surgery, and anesthesiology follow close behind with salaries of about $340,000 per year. The middle group making about $300,000 per year includes general surgeons, oncology, dermatology and ophthalmology.

2.  The least . . .
Family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatrists and rheumatologists are in the bottom of the list making about $170,000 – 190,000 per year.

3.  Which doctors make MORE than they did in 2010?
Rheumatologists for some reason make 15% more in the last three years. Many specialties are up about 1 – 3% including all primary care doctors (OB/GYN, internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine). Psychiatrists, plastic surgeons, general surgeons, and ophthalmology are up more at 6%.

4.  Which doctors make LESS than they did in 2010?
Kidney doctors (nephrologists) dropped 8% in salary in the last three years followed by pathologists, radiologists, pulmonary doctors and cardiologists who make 2% less than they did three years ago.

5.  Will doctors still take Medicare or Medicaid?
60 – 70% of doctors in this survey across the nation said they would continue to take new Medicare/Medicaid patients.

6.  Do you get more time with your patients?
In this years survey half of primary care physicians said they spend 16 minutes or less with their patients, last year that number was 55% so at least there is a trend toward doctors being able to spend more time with their patients. It’s still pretty sad.

7.  Paperwork . . .
This year, 35% of physicians spend at least 10 hours per week on paperwork.

8.  Would you do it again?
Remember when you look at these salary numbers that after college, you spend 4 years in medical school followed by a 3 – 8 year residency where you are making very little money. Fifty-eight percent of doctors said they would choose medicine as a career if they had to do it all over again. What was really interesting here is that the top earners (plastic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists) were less likely to choose it again and internal medicine doctors (my job) were most likely to choose it again with 68% of us saying we’d do it all over again. Yipee.

9.  What is the most satisfying part of being a doctor?
The number one answer was “being very good at what I do, finding answers/diagnoses” followed by gratitude/relationships with patients.

10.  Are doctors scared health insurance exchanges will decrease their income?

Half of physicians expect no change in their income with the introduction of health insurance exchanges, and 7% expect their income to increase. The rest, 43%, do expect it to decrease.

Dr O.

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