physician placing cash in his white lab coat pocket

Healthcare Professionals Top ‘Best Paid’ List in the Nation

Physicians and dental specialists hold 9 of the 10 top spots on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, with most of the healthcare professionals earning more in 2012 than in 2010.

“Salaries are up more than the average American salary and the primary driver is the change in practice,” said Michael Smith, MD, clinical medical editor of WebMD. “More doctors are leaving private practice, opting to work for hospitals and medical groups. There is also the improving economy, and more patients are getting certain elected surgeries, such as hip and knee replacements.”

Health systems are attracting physicians with the promise of higher pay, and more physicians are leaving solo practice and group practice because of lifestyle and partially because of pay, Smith added. For the first time ever, the 2013 Medscape Physician Compensation Report found employed physicians were making higher salaries than those in private practice. The salaries of employed physicians increased 13 percent over 2012. Risk also plays a role.

“The Lifestyle survey we did shows surgeons and OB/GYNs are at the top of the income range, but they also have a higher risk of being sued,” Smith said.

Anesthesiologists earned the most in the government study, a mean annual wage of $232,830 up from $220,100 in 2010; followed by surgeons, $230,540 up from $225,390; and obstetricians and gynecologists, $216,760 up from $210,340. The bureau calculates the estimates using data collected from employers in all industry sectors in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas in every state and the District of Columbia. It does not include self-employed individuals.

Primary care physicians were not too far behind. Internists earned a mean annual wage of $191,520; family and general practitioners, $180,850; and pediatricians $167,640.

A closer look at physician salaries

The 2013 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, which compiled data from almost 22,000 U.S. physicians across 25 medical specialties, found some significant differences from the government data. For instance, it found anesthesiologists reported earning a mean of $337,000, significantly more than the government data. Medscape also found OB/GYNs earning more, reporting $242,000 for an annual mean.

However, for some specialties, the two are much closer, with the BLS reporting psychiatrists earning $177,520 and Medscape indicating $186,000. For internal medicine, the government estimates a mean annual wage of $191,520, while Medscape pegs it at $185,000.

The way the data is collected may contribute to the differences, with the government only reporting salaries of those employed and Medscape including all physicians. Additionally, some variance is attributable to the government grouping multiple specialties together, but Medscape reporting the salaries separately.

Just as the government data suggested physicians are earning more, Medscape’s results showed 23 or 25 specialties earning more money. Orthopedic surgeons reported the greatest increase, of 27 percent. Only oncologists, who have experienced a decrease in chemotherapy reimbursement, and endocrinologists did not report salary increases.

Again this year, Medscape found a large gap between what male and female physicians earn, with men earning 30 percent more than women overall but only 17 percent more in primary care.

“We are seeing a narrowing,” said Smith, explaining that more physicians are working standard hours for health systems. In the past, women physicians typically worked fewer hours than men. And more men are in the higher-paying specialties, such as orthopedics.

Medscape found physicians practicing in the north-central part of the country, which includes Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, earned the most, and those in the Northeast, including New York and Massachusetts, the least.

“In the North Central region, where doctors make the most money, there is less managed care, fewer doctors, and a lower cost of doing business,” Smith explained. The opposite is true in the Northeast.

Overall, only 48 percent of physicians told Medscape they felt fairly compensated, down from 51 percent in 2012 and 53 percent in 2011. But 51 percent of primary care physicians indicated they were fairly compensated.

“The frustration with medical practice is on the rise, and half wouldn’t choose a medical career again,” Smith said. “While they might be making more money, they are not finding much satisfaction.”

BLS data for nurses and other healthcare workers

For the first year, the government added nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurses midwives to the Standard Occupational Classification system. All three earned high wages relative to the U.S. annual mean of $45,790. Nurse anesthetists had an annual mean wage of $154,390; nurse practitioners, $91,450; and nurse midwives, $91,070.

Registered nurses (RNs) earned a mean annual wage of $67,930 in 2012, about the same as the $67,720 in 2010. However, the figures no longer include the nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives, which together in 2012 represented 145,670 employed workers.

Healthcare and social assistance represented the industry sector with the largest employment in May 2012. Registered nurses and nursing assistants were the largest detailed occupations in this sector, with about 2.3 million and 1.3 million jobs, respectively. About 71 percent of RNs worked in hospitals, while nursing and residential care facilities employed nearly 63 percent of nursing assistants in the sector.

At the low end of the Labor Department’s rankings of 76 detailed health and health support positions, home health aides faired the worst, earning $21,800; followed by pharmacy aides, $23,460; and physical therapist aides, $25,410. Still none of them ranked as one of the 10 lowest-paid workers, who tended to work in food services, farming, recreation, and hair salons.

Position Mean Average Wage
Anesthesiologists $232,830
Surgeons $230,540
Obstetricians and Gynecologists $216,760
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons $216,440
Internists, General $191,520
Orthodontists $186,320
Physicians and Surgeons, All Other $184,820
Family and General Practitioners $180,850
Psychiatrists $177,520
Prosthodontists $168,120
Pediatricians, General $167,640
Dentists, All Other Specialists $164,780
Dentists, General $163,240
Nurse Anesthetists $154,390
Podiatrists $132,470
Pharmacists $114,950
Optometrists $109,810 
Veterinarians $93,250
Physician Assistants $92,460
Nurse Practitioners $91,450
Nurse-Midwives $91,070
Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners, All Other $85,740
Physical Therapists  $81,110 
Radiation Therapists $80,410
Chiropractors $79,550
Occupational Therapists $76,400
Audiologists $72,890
Speech-Language Pathologists $72,730
Nuclear Medicine Technologists $70,840
Dental Hygienists $70,700
Orthotists and Prosthetists $69,960
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists $67,960
Registered Nurses $67,930
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers $66,360
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists $65,410
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists $58,640
Respiratory Therapists $57,200
Therapists, All Other $56,760
Radiologic Technologists $56,450
Dietitians and Nutritionists $56,170
Genetic Counselors $55,820
Occupational Therapy Assistants $53,090
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians $53,050
Physical Therapist Assistants $52,320
Occupational Health and Safety Technicians $50,150
Exercise Physiologists $47,610
Respiratory Therapy Technicians $47,510
Hearing Aid Specialists $46,780
Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other $44,400
Recreational Therapists $44,280
Athletic Trainers $44,010
Surgical Technologists $43,480
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses $42,400
Massage Therapists $40,350
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician $39,340
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians $36,770
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians $35,590
Dental Assistants $35,080
Opticians, Dispensing $35,010
Medical Transcriptionists $34,650
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics $34,370
Healthcare Support Workers, All Other $33,880
Psychiatric Technicians $33,140
Medical Equipment Preparers $32,260
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians $31,470
Phlebotomists $30,910
Medical Assistants $30,550
Pharmacy Technicians $30,430
Occupational Therapy Aides $29,870
Dietetic Technicians $28,680
Psychiatric Aides $26,680
Orderlies $25,700
Nursing Assistants $25,620
Physical Therapist Aides $25,410
Pharmacy Aides $23,460
Home Health Aides $21,830
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  

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