Physician pay is changing: 8 specialties up, 9 down in 2021

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Despite many nonemergency surgery hurdles since the COVID-19 pandemic, plastic surgeons overtook orthopedic surgeons as the highest-paid specialty in the country this year, taking home an average annual salary of $526,000, according to Medscape's "Physician Compensation Report."

Also in 2021, orthopedic surgeons saw the biggest average drop in salary among specialists while physician assistants saw the biggest average increase, according to an Aug. 9 report by physician search and consulting firm Merritt Hawkins.

Nine specialties recorded increases in average starting salaries and eight specialties saw decreases, according to the report.

Editor's note: Figures are based on 2,458 permanent physician and advanced practitioner search assignments that were ongoing or conducted by Merritt Hawkins/AMN Healthcare's physician staffing companies from April 2020 to March 2021. 

Physician pay decreased for these nine specialties:

1. Orthopedic surgery: -13 percent — from $626,000 to $546,000

2. Obstetrics/gynecology: -11 percent — from $327,000 to $291,000

3. Dermatology: -10 percent — from $419,000 to $378,000

4. Pulmonology: -10 percent — from $430,000 to $385,000

5. Anesthesiology: -8 percent — from $399,000 to $367,000

6. Cardiology (interventional): -5 percent — from $640,000 to $611,000

7. Radiology: -5 percent — from $423,000 to $401,000

8. Hematology/oncology: -4 percent — from $403,000 to $385,000

9. Gastroenterology: -1 percent — from $457,000 to $453,000

 

Physician pay increased for these eight specialties:

1. Physician assistants: +14 percent — from $112,000 to $128,000

2. Neurology: +13 percent — from $295,000 to $332,000

3. Nurse practitioners: +12 percent — from $125,000 to $140,000

4. Noninterventional cardiology: +9 percent — from $409,000 to $446,000

5. Pediatrics: +7 percent — from $221,000 to $236,000

6. Certified registered nurse anesthetists: +3 percent — from $215,000 to $222,000

7. Family medicine: +1 percent — from $240,000 to $243,000

8. Psychiatry: +1 percent — from $276,000 to $279,000

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