If you’re a resident, staying on top of physician compensation trends is important, since they can greatly influence the way you approach your job search. Even if you’re not actively searching for a job, it’s a good idea to stay informed and up to date.

Plus, there’s always that element of natural curiosity — it’s perfectly fine to be interested in how much you make compared to others, as long as you don’t become obsessed with money. Work-life balance, a purpose-driven career and job satisfaction should factor into your overall definition of success.

I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at Medscape’s 2012 Physician Compensation Report and break down some of the information that’s most important to graduating residents.

2012 Physician Compensation by Geographical Region

If you’re a resident who’s just beginning the job search, the first thing to consider is where you want to live and practice.

In addition to having an impact on your happiness and well-being, your location influences how much money you’ll be able to make (just take a look at this post on how physician compensation varies by geographical region).

According to the 2012 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, physicians in the North Central region make the most money. Here’s the full breakdown of mean incomes per region:

  • North Central: $234,000
  • Great Lakes: $228,000
  • South Central: $228,000
  • Southeast: $226,000
  • West: $225,000
  • Northwest: $216,000
  • Mid-Atlantic: $214,000
  • Northeast: $204,000

In general, organizations in smaller or rural communities pay more, while those in metropolitan areas pay less. It all has to do with competition, supply and demand.

The Top Three Lowest and Highest Earners

These figures haven’t changed much in the last few years. According to Medscape’s 2012 Report, the top three highest earners (by mean income) are:

Radiology: $315,000

Orthopedics: $315,000

Cardiology: $314,000

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the following:

Pediatrics: $156,000

Family Medicine: $158,000

Internal Medicine: $165,000

To view the entire breakdown of income by specialty, view the Medscape Report here.

Who Considers Themselves “Rich”?

Of all of the data accumulated by the 2012 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, I found this question to be the most interesting: “Do you consider yourself rich?”

Only 11% of physicians said yes — even those in the highest earning specialties. Of course “rich” is a relative term, but the findings are still interesting. The “rich doctor” stereotype is so prevalent, but the fact is, most physicians have a tremendous amount of educational debt to pay off.

Not to mention that some unfortunately take the “rich doctor” stereotype to heart, spending more than they can afford and becoming wage slaves. Someone who makes $350,000 per year can indeed be a wage slave — it’s more common than you think.

Think about how you would answer that question. What do you define as wealth? To me, wealth isn’t just monetary — it’s about honoring my values, too. The “rich” life (in my opinion) is one that’s balanced and driven by purpose.

Of course, charting that on a graph is a little difficult, isn’t it?

What are your thoughts on the 2012 physician compensation trends?     


Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Alexian Brothers supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Alexian Brothers is making practice purposeful.