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The 10 Most In-Demand Physician Specialties

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The need for more doctors continues to be one of the most pressing needs in the US healthcare system. However, some types of specialists are more in-demand than others.

The need for more doctors continues to be one of the most pressing needs in the US healthcare system. However, some types of specialists are more in-demand than others.

Each year the recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins releases a report on the number and type of physician positions it has been asked to fill. The report also sheds light on the pay and incentives being offered in order to fill those job openings.

The report found recruitment isn’t just a problem in rural areas anymore. Some 41% of the jobs the firm was asked to fill were in communities of 100,000 or more.

Below is a list of the Top 10 in-demand specialties, according to Merritt Hawkins.

Demand for neurologists has been somewhat up and down in recent years, according to Merritt Hawkins’ data. However, the specialty has remained in the Top 20 in-demand specialties for each of the past 20 years. According to the report, neurologists were offered between $180,000 and $400,000 in base pay during the 2013/2014 fiscal year. There were 12,916 neurologists practicing in the US, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Merritt Hawkins has only reported data for physician’s assistants for the past three years, but demand has been steadily rising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 86,700 physician’s assistants were practicing in the US in 2012. Those placed by Merritt Hawkins were offered salaries ranging from $71,000 to $150,000.

Obstetricians and gynecologists remain an in-demand specialty, though demand was down slightly last year. The Association of American Medical Colleges counted 40,377 OG/GYNs practicing in the US in 2010. New OB/GYNs included in Merritt Hawkins’ study made between $215,000 and $380,000.

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Demand for emergency physicians was also down in 2013/2014, according to Merritt Hawkins. Those who were hired received starting pay ranging from $220,000 to $400,000. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, there were 33,984 emergency physicians practicing in 2010.

The number of pediatricians practicing in the US was 55,509 in 2010, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. However, that’s not enough to meet demand. Merritt Hawkins has seen a demand increase in each of the past 3 years. Pediatricians made between $130,000 and $240,000 in starting pay, according to the study.

Demand for nurse practitioners has increased more than 5-fold since 2011/2012, according to the Merritt Hawkins survey. New nurse practitioners made between $70,000 and $150,000 in starting pay. An estimated 113,370 Americans hold the title of nurse practitioner, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With 38,389 psychiatrists practicing in the US (according to the Association of American Medical Colleges), the specialty is a relatively large field within medicine. However, the data suggest it needs to be larger. According to Merritt Hawkins, starting psychiatrists made between $150,000 and $350,000 in 2013/2014.

The number of hospitalists in the US is climbing rapidly. The Society of Hospital Medicine says there are now more than 44,000 hospitalists in the US (and counting). Those placed by Merritt Hawkins earned between $145,000 and $350,000 in starting salary, according to the firm.

Internal Medicine has been a consistent second-place finisher in Merritt Hawkins’ list. Some 109,048 internists work in the US, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. They made between $145,000 and $360,000 in starting pay, according to Merritt Hawkins.

The most in-demand field is family practice — by a wide margin. Merritt Hawkins saw nearly 3 times as many requests for family doctors in 2013/2014 as it did internists. In fact, the number of family doctors requested is more than the next 3 specialties combined. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, there were 106,549 family practitioners in 2010. Those placed by Merritt Hawkins made between $140,000 and $293,000.


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