Radiology Still Top Three in Highest Paid Specialties

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According to the annual Medscape Physician Compensation Report, radiology remains in the top three for highest paid medical specialties, with an average annual income of $349K. The 1% rate of increase since 2011, however, places the specialty 23rd out of 25.

The report backs up a recent New York Times article that revealed the current situation whereby radiologists still make “twice as much as family doctors,” but are high on the list of specialists whose incomes are in steepest decline.

At $405K per year, orthopedics finished at the top for highest average annual salary. A 27% rate of increase (since 2011) also placed the musculoskeletal specialty at the top of the heap.

“As the economy has gotten somewhat stronger, many people who have been putting off elective procedures are now getting them,” says Tommy Bohannon, a vice president at Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruiting company in the Medscape report. “As the population ages, more knees and hips are giving out and need to be fixed.”

In the “satisfaction by specialty” category, radiology finished 15 out of 25, with dermatology at the top and surgery at the bottom. Closely related to the satisfaction measure is the question of: If you had to do it all over again, would you? Slightly more than half (51%) of physicians in 2013 answered “yes.”

The 51% figure is down from 54% in 2012, and Medscape researchers point out that it represents “a huge decline from the 2011 report in which a whopping 69% said they'd choose medicine again.” The specialty most apt to “do it over again” was dermatology at 74%.

In an environment of widespread reimbursement declines, less than half (48%) of physicians believed they were “fairly compensated.” The 48% figure represents an erosion, declining from 51% in 2012, and 53% in 2011. “Although the yearly change is small,” write Medscape researchers, “it’s clearly headed in one direction.”

At least some of the compensation satisfaction numbers are influenced by geography, with physicians in the North Central region (Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota) earning the most money at $259K. Physicians in the Northeast earned the least ($228K).

“There’s less managed care in the North Central region, fewer doctors, and a lower cost of doing business,” explains Bohannon in the report. “The opposite is true in the Northeast.”