Medscape report: Despite recent rise in physicians’ salaries, dissatisfaction over pay persists

According to the latest findings of the 2024 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, in 2023, physicians saw a steady increase in total compensation. Still, any contentment about their compensation gains was undercut by the effects of high inflation rates. Sixty-one percent of physicians said they believe medicine is an underpaid profession.

Moreover, 51% felt personally underpaid relative to their job duties. These perceptions raised the question: Can physician pay both be generous and not enough to justify the amount of stress and sacrifice?

As in previous years, this year’s report found gender disparity in physician compensation, with male physicians earning approximately 29% more than their female counterparts, underscoring ongoing concerns regarding pay equity within the medical profession. Over the previous year, the gender gap declined slightly for primary care physicians, but widened slightly for specialists.

Additionally, the report reveals notable trends in racial and ethnic compensation disparities. Compensation for Black physicians grew more than twice as fast as for any other racial or ethnic group. However, they are still the lowest-compensated group, earning $37,000 on average less than white doctors.

The report also found that total physician compensation experienced a modest 3% growth, increasing from an average of $352,000 to $363,000 in 2023. Notably, specialized doctors earned $117,000 more on average than their primary care counterparts. Orthopedics, plastic surgery and cardiology emerged as the Top 3 compensated specialties, with physiatrists and neurologists experiencing the biggest one-year gain in compensation. Conversely, infectious disease, pediatric and diabetes-endocrinology physicians reported the lowest levels of compensation.

West North Central states such as Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota reported the highest earning compensation (more than $400,000), while mid-Atlantic states, such as New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania reported the lowest compensation at $351,000.

Jon McKenna, executive editor, Medscape Reports, emphasized the significance of the report’s findings, stating: “The 2024 Medscape Physician Compensation Report offers a comprehensive view of the evolving landscape of physician compensation. From gender and racial disparities to the influence of economic factors, these insights provide valuable context for understanding the challenges and opportunities facing physicians today.”

Medscape surveyed 7,000 practicing physicians in the U.S. for the annual report. Physicians across 29 specialties participated in the online survey between Oct. 2 and Jan. 16.