Pay Rises Slightly for Physicians in Academia

March 17, 2011

Compensation for physicians working in academic settings increased slightly last year, according to a new survey, with strong demand and candidate shortages resulting in higher pay for internal medicine faculty.

Compensation for physicians working in academic settings increased slightly last year, according to an annual survey, with strong demand and candidate shortages resulting in higher pay for internal medicine faculty.

Median compensation for primary care faculty physicians was $163,704 in 2010, up 3.47% from the previous year, while compensation for specialty care faculty increased 2.70% to $241,959, according to Medical Group Management Association’s Academic Practice Compensation and Production Survey for Faculty and Management: 2011 Report Based on 2010 Data.

As is typical, compensation for faculty members continued to trail pay in private practices. Median compenstion for primary care physicians in non-hospital settings was $191,981, while specialty care physicians earned $353,549, according to another MGMA survey.

"Overall, academic practices provide a different environment for their faculty than private practices," said Jonathan Tamir, associate chairman, Finance & Administration, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine said in a statement. "Even the very best academic clinicians will not be as clinically productive as their private-practice counterparts since at least some of their time is devoted to research and teaching efforts -- which are never as well compensated as clinical care."

Increasing demand for internal medicine primary care faculty physicians was higher than average, up 6.84% since 2009, the study found. Average compensation for pediatric faculty was $145,000, an increase of 2.21% from a year earlier.

"Recently, higher salaries have been required to hire internal medicine faculty. It is the law of supply and demand. More applicants are interested in part-time appointments or reduced on-call roles,” Tamir said. “The demand for more highly paid hospitalists is increasing, further reducing the applicant pool, and senior physicians are retiring earlier than in the past. While causes such as increasing paperwork, decreasing reimbursement, the change in the doctor-patient relationship and increasing regulations are certainly a factor, the bottom line is that there aren’t enough internal medicine applicants available."

Specialty care faculty compensation rose at a faster pace than their primary care counterparts. Pay for pulmonary medicine faculty rose 7.38%, while noninvasive cardiologists' compensation increased 6.70%, according to the survey. Ophthalmologists noted slight decreases in compensation.

The highest earners on staff were department chairs and chiefs, with primary care faculty earning $292,243 and specialty care faculty receiving $482,293. Primary care professors earned $190,815 in compensation, and specialty care professors received $268,786.

The MGMA survey covered 18,776 faculty physicians and non-physician providers, and 1,993 managers.