The gender wage gap in physician compensation persists but is narrowing. According to information gleaned from self-reported compensation surveys, collected by Doximity and completed by 90,000 full-time, US-licensed physicians, while wages for men idled between 2017 and 2018, they increased for women by 2%.1 So, whereas the gender wage gap was 27.7% in 2017, it dropped to 25.2% in 2018. This translates to female physicians making $90,490 less than male counterparts in 2018 vs $105,000 less in 2017.1
Gender wage gap and geography. Metropolitan areas with the smallest gender wage gaps according to the Doximity report include Birmingham, Alabama (9%); Bridgeport, Connecticut (10%); and Seattle, Washington (15%). Areas with the largest gender wage gap include Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky-Indiana (40%); New Orleans, Louisiana (32%); and Austin, Texas (31%).1
Gender wage gap and specialty. Specialties with the widest gender wage gaps are pediatric pulmonology (23%), otolaryngology (22%), and urology (22%). Those with the narrowest gaps are hematology (4%), rheumatology (8%), and radiation oncology (9%).1
Interestingly, although female physicians continue to earn less than men across the board, women were the slight majority of US medical school applicants (50.9%) and matriculants (51.6%) in 2018.2
What are physicians earning?
The overall average salary for physicians in 2019 is $313,000, according to a Medscape report, and the average annual compensation for ObGyns is $303,000, up from $300,000 in 2018.3 Doximity’s figure was slightly different; it reported average annual compensation for ObGyns to be $335,000 in 2018, ranking ObGyns 20th in specialties with the highest annual compensation.1
Compensation by specialty. The specialties with the highest average annual compensation in 2018 according to the Doximity report were neurosurgery ($617K), thoracic surgery ($584K), and orthopedic surgery ($526K). Those with the lowest were pediatric infectious disease ($186K), pediatric endocrinology ($201K), and general pediatrics ($223K).1
While women make up 61% of the ObGyn workforce, fewer than 15% of cardiologists, urologists, and orthopedists—some of the highest paying specialties—are women, although this alone does not explain the gender wage gap.3
Compensation by employment type. While average annual compensation increased from 2017 to 2018 for physicians working in single specialty groups (1%), multispecialty groups (1%), solo practices (3%), and industry/pharmaceutical (17%), compensation decreased for those working in health maintenance organizations (-1%), hospitals (-7%), and academia (-9%).1 Only 14% of private practices are owned by female physicians (TABLE 1).1
Satisfaction with compensation. Exactly half (50%) of ObGyns report feeling fairly compensated.3 Those physicians working in public health and preventive medicine are the most likely to feel fairly compensated (73%), while those working in infectious disease are least likely (42%).3
Location matters and may surprise you
Contrary to what many believe, less populated metropolitan areas tend to pay better than larger, more populated cities.1 This may be because metropolitan areas without academic institutions or nationally renowned health systems tend to offer slightly higher compensation than those with such facilities. The reason? The presence of large or prestigious medical schools ensures a pipeline of viable physician candidates for limited jobs, resulting in institutions and practices needing to pay less for qualified applicants.1
The 5 markets paying the highest physician salaries in 2018 were (from highest to lowest) Milwaukee; New Orleans; Riverside, California; Minneapolis; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Those paying the lowest were Durham, North Carolina; Providence, Rhode Island; San Antonio; Virginia Beach; and New Haven, Connecticut.1 Rural areas continue to have problems luring physicians (see “Cures for the famine of rural physicians?”3,4).