What they're paying

January 8, 2001

That depends on where you work and what kind of practice you join. Check out the latest data on physician salaries.


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What they're paying

Jump to:Choose article section...1999 compensation by specialty Specialists lose most under capitation Go west, young doctor? Okay—but there's more gold down south Which groups are most generous Starting salaries vary widelyProductivity compensation methods yield better pay Tip:

That depends on where you work and what kind of practice you join. Check out the latest data on physician salaries.

By David Azevedo
Professional Editor

If you're fresh out of residency or thinking of changing jobs, how much should you expect to be paid in your new position? The answer depends on any number of variables: where you practice, the size of the practice, how your new group divides income, how much managed care has penetrated the practice.

Perhaps no factor is more important than the type of community you select. In the past few years, rural areas have been where the money is, because that's where doctors have been scarce. For example, The Health Care Group of Plymouth Meeting, PA, which does an annual starting-salary survey, found that an FP who started out in rural Wisconsin drew a guaranteed $125,000 a year for two years, plus a $20,000 signing bonus and a $5,000 bonus after one year's work. The area's relatively low cost of living makes those numbers even more impressive—and appealing.

In contrast, an FP in suburban New York accepted a salary of $75,000, plus a 20 percent share of the practice's net after expenses. In urban Pennsylvania, an FP started with only a $65,000 salary that could rise as high as $130,000, depending on productivity.

Generally speaking, your best bet for a high-paying position would be to join a midsized group in an area of the South with low managed care penetration. Not everyone can aim at such a narrow target, of course, so consult the following tables to see how your specialty fares under a variety of circumstances.

For more resources on physician income, see "Where to go for help: your career resource guide".


1999 compensation by specialty

We present data from three different surveys because they target distinctly different universes. The Medical Economics Continuing Survey sample includes MDs and DOs in office-based private practice of any size, including solo offices and partnerships. The American Medical Group Association exclusively surveys MDs in large multispecialty groups. The Medical Group Management Association gathers information from its member organizations, which represent groups of all sizes.

Unless otherwise stated, dollar figures for this and other tables are median total compensation for 1999.

 Medical EconomicsAMGAMGMA
Cardiologists (invasive)$274,170—$299,994
Cardiologists (noninvasive)207,780—278,712
General surgeons184,950243,362236,572
Orthopedic surgeons269,570293,525313,541

1For incorporated physicians, figures include total compensation from practice (salary, bonuses, and retirement set-asides) before income taxes. For unincorporated doctors, compensation is individual practice income minus tax-deductible professional expenses, before income taxes. 2Annual compensation is based on current salary rate plus deferred compensation, tax-deferred annuities, and any anticipated cash distribution during the next 12 months based on prior year performance, but excluding any payments under the normal retirement, pension, or profit-sharing plans. 3Compensation includes salary, bonuses, incentive payments, research stipends, honoraria, distribution of profits, and all voluntary salary reductions, such as 401(k) contributions. 4Fields not analyzed separately. 5Includes only FPs without OB.


Specialists lose most under capitation

 Percent of revenue from capitation
 0%10% or less11-50%51% or more
Cardiologists (invasive)$340,276$321,475—*$244,269
Cardiologists (noninvasive)300,000284,492$256,205—*
FPs (without OB)148,990140,295137,411139,152
General surgeons262,893261,553221,896204,076
Orthopedic surgeons339,017301,945292,499265,413


Go west, young doctor? Okay—but there's more gold down south

Cardiologists (invasive)$312,530$328,025$343,063$245,709
Cardiologists (noninvasive)288,745278,818350,201220,197
FPs (without OB)137,714140,435155,103135,126
General surgeons214,254250,037281,799214,043
Orthopedic surgeons312,215336,642365,625272,542


Which groups are most generous

 Number of FTE doctors
 10 or fewer11-2526-5051-7576-150151 or more
FPs (without OB)$132,500$138,516$141,800$145,190$145,059$141,849
General surgeons—*206,046224,415250,858255,954220,475
Orthopedic surgeons—*—*258,101312,874322,567273,554


Starting salaries vary widely

Cardiologists (all)$165,000$238,000$350,000
General surgeons145,000189,000300,000
Orthopedic surgeons170,000257,000300,000


Productivity compensation methods yield better pay

 100% productivity50-99% productivity51-99% guaranteed salary100% straight salary
Cardiologists (invasive)$417,600$324,632$292,119—*
Cardiologists (noninvasive)288,263301,397274,999$222,852
FPs (without OB)146,129141,148141,965127,061
General surgeons255,711260,861209,997225,000
Orthopedic surgeons334,838309,600286,953242,530



—David N. Gans, Research Director, MGMA


David Azevedo. What they're paying. Medical Economics 2001;1:29.