Docs' Salary Slowest Growing in Health Care

Over the last 15 years physicians salaries grew very little and much less than other health care professionals (particularly pharmacists).

Physicians have unhappily watched the increase in their wages go up less over the past few years, but they’d be even more disgruntled when comparing their salary increases to other health care professionals.

In addition to being paid less than counterparts in other countries, over the last 15 years, the earnings growth of physicians has been considerably less than that of other health care professionals.

According to a research letter published in JAMA by RAND Corp. and Harvard University researchers, while adjusted earnings for physicians didn’t grow much from 1996-2000 to 2006-2010, other health professionals during those time periods did see their adjusted earnings continue to grow.

“Comparing physicians and other health professionals is necessary to assess whether physician labor earnings have outpaced or lagged behind earnings growth of other workers in the health care sector,” the researchers wrote in the letter.

The study analyzed earnings from 1987 to 2010, during which time earnings fluctuated. From 1987 to 1990, physician earnings increased by 9.6%, less than other health care professionals. During that same time period, for instance, pharmacists’ incomes increased by 44%.

The difference between earnings in the 1987-1990 time period and the 1996-2010 period was a 19.9% increase for physicians. However, after that, there was no significant growth seen (-1.6%), although adjusted earnings did increase for other health care professionals. During that time period, income for pharmacists was up 34.4%.

The survey included 30,556 respondents who reported working as health professionals across all years. Of the total, 20.5% were physicians.

"Despite lack of recent growth, physician earnings remain higher than other occupations,"

the authors wrote.

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Trend in the Earnings of Health Care Professionals in the United States, 1987-2010