When you think about “physician jobs” you probably think about what healthcare jobs are growing the fastest and what factors are driving this growth.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician and surgeon jobs are projected to grow by 7% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all other occupations.
Two components that are driving this growth are:
- The increased demand for healthcare services by the growing and aging population. These consumers are now seeking a level of care that incorporates some of the latest technology.
- The change in demand associated with the expansion of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act – including the assumption that all states expand Medicaid.
If you’re thinking about becoming a physician and/or surgeon, you have to really understand what the process (education, training, licenses/board certification) is to become one and see if you’re willing to make the commitment.
Having a full understanding of the physician job outlook can also help you identify trends, opportunities as well as ways to assess the future. In addition, it can give you great insights into physician compensation and tips to starting your physician job journey.
PHYSICIAN & SURGEON OVERVIEW
Physicians and surgeons are amongst the highest paid professionals in the country.
Both professions share similarities as well as distinct differences. Let’s recap both.
The most common similarity between physicians and surgeons are their education. Both professions
require a doctoral or professional degree. Once physicians are in their third and/or fourth year of
medical school, they choose their medical specialty, while undergoing clinical rotations and before
applying for residency.
Another similarity is that after residency, physicians must apply and pass all examinations to obtain
their medical license in the state they plan to practice. Board certification is optional – so if they choose to go this route, both physicians and surgeons must abide by the American Board of Medical Specialties requirements.
Lastly, physicians and surgeons also share similarities when practicing and dealing with patients. For example, they both examine patients, take medical history, update patient charts and more.
One main factor that distinguishes physicians and surgeons is that surgeons operate on patients.
Other differences among physicians and surgeons include:
Medical Specialties: The amount of medical specialties between physicians and surgeons vary. Physicians
alone have over 19 medical specialties to choose from – not including subspecialties. While surgeons, can
choose to become a general surgeon or pursue one of the 13 surgical subspecialties.
Length of Residency: Prior to residency, physicians choose their medical specialty. The length of residency for a general physician is approximately 3-4 years while the length of residency for surgeons is around 5-8 years.
So, you might ask yourself, can anyone become a physician and/or surgeon?
The answer is yes. IF of course, the person completes all education requirements (undergraduate, doctoral/professional), trainings (residency), and pass all licensing exams (USMLE and state). Let’s go more in-depth into each requirement:
- Bachelor’s Degree: As a student, trying to figure out which undergraduate degree is best for medical school can be challenging. According to the Association of American of Medical Colleges (AAMC), the most common undergraduate degrees for students who want to become physicians and/or surgeons are biological sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, humanities, specialized health sciences, math and statistics.
- Doctoral or Professional Degree (from an accredited medical school): After completing an undergraduate degree, students apply for medical school. The first 2 years of medical school are mostly spent on labs and in the classrooms. Labs include practicing how to take medical histories, examining patients and diagnosing illnesses. While courses in the classroom cover topics such as anatomy, biochemistry, psychology, medical ethics and more. The last 2 years of medical school involve gaining experience from working with patients (supervised) at hospitals and/or clinics. These “clinical rotations” help students gain an understanding of the various medical specialties (i.e. internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery etc.) available.
- Residency Program: Once medical school is over; all graduates must apply for a residency program focused on their medical specialty. This training can take anywhere from 3-8 years depending on the medical specialty chosen.
After all educational requirements and trainings are completed, physicians and surgeons must take and pass the standardized national licensure exam, the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The goal of the USMLE is to assess a physician’s ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles, to demonstrate fundamental patient-centered skills that are important in health and disease, and to constitute the basis of safe and effective patient care.
And lastly, all physicians and surgeons must get licensed. Licensing requirements vary per state so it’s important for physicians and surgeons to obtain this information from their states medical board.
TRENDS IMPACTING PHYSICIAN JOBS
Healthcare is an industry that is constantly evolving.
So, it’s safe to say that the way healthcare looks now will probably be different in the future.
Things like M&A’s, telemedicine, technology among other trends are sometimes out of our reach and have an impact on physician jobs. Therefore, it’s important for physicians to be flexible and willing adapt to these trends, which could offer new opportunities for them to explore.
Let’s look at 6 trends that are impacting physician jobs:
1. Healthcare Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): Healthcare mergers and acquisitions rose 8% in 2019 with 768 transactions announced or closed in 2019, according to Hammond Hanlon Camp LLC. M&A’s tend to have a positive and negative effect on not only how physicians’ practice, but also on patients receiving care and the communities around.
2. Telemedicine: Telemedicine is an emerging trend that continues to grow. According to our “ emerging healthcare trends & how it benefits medical organizations ” blog we’ve learned that telemedicine offers patients the freedom and accessibility to receive healthcare “virtually”. For physicians and healthcare facilities, this means reducing healthcare costs for patients and improving patient engagement. This is a great option for “busy professionals” or patients who live in rural areas.
3. Concierge Practice: Concierge practice is the perfect example of a direct pay model of care. Physicians have turned to concierge practice in order to avoid dealing with the requirements of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and other insurance companies. With the basic concierge model, patients pay a monthly fee regardless of whether they visit their physician or not.
4. Mobile EMRs: Just like the healthcare industry, technology is also an industry that constantly grows and evolves. The rise of technology globally has had huge impacts in society and businesses. For healthcare, it’s played a role in the upcoming of electronic medical records – which allow physicians and other healthcare practices to be more coordinated and run more efficiently providing a better patient experience.
5. Nurse Triage Services: Nurse triage services have become more popular now due to the fact they’ve helped enhance physician productivity. This new model allows for physicians to work simultaneously with two clinical assistants – a registered nurse (RN) and a licensed practical nurse (LPN). The purpose of this model is for each of the clinical assistants to assume more responsibility for each patient they encounter, so that physicians can focus more on providing high-quality and preventative care to patients.
6. Locum Tenens: The demand for locums over the last few years has continued to rise. In fact, healthcare employers (i.e. hospitals, urgent care, primary care clinics etc.) are starting to partner with physician recruiting firms to explore locum tenens as an option to overcome their staffing and recruiting challenges.
PHYSICIAN JOB OUTLOOK
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty to the healthcare industry this year. Despite this, top healthcare organizations MGMA and Medscape released their 2020 physician compensation and production reports utilizing a combination of 2018, 2019 and 2020 data.
Here’s a brief recap of this year’s physician compensation overview:
Physician and Specialist Compensation Continue to Grow
- Primary care physician (PCP) compensation grew 2.5% (from $237,000-$243,000) between 2018-2019
- Specialist compensation grew 1.5% (from $341,000-$346,000) between 2018-2019
- The largest salary increases were led by urgent care ($259,661 to $277,393) and pulmonary specialists ($385,024 to $406,245)
- The top 5 increases in total compensation for established healthcare providers between 2018 and 2019 were:
- Psychiatry (7.69%)
- Urgent Care (6.83%)
- Pulmonary Medicine (5.51%)
- Internal Medicine (4%)
- Urology (3.85%)
Physicians Still Feel Fairly Compensated
- The top 5 physicians include:
- Oncology, Emergency Medicine and Radiology at 67%
- Psychiatry and Otolaryngology at 66%
New Hire Compensation Has Increased
- The top 6 specialties include:
- Cardiology (non-invasive) 15.38%
- Gastroenterology 14.29%
- OB/GYN 4.68%
- General Surgery 3.70%
- Radiology (diagnostic) 3.69%
- Neurology 3.19%
The Top 5 Earning States for Physicians Are
- Kentucky $346,000
- Tennessee $338,000
- Florida $333,000
- Alabama $332,000
- Utah $328,000
Self-Employed Physicians Earn 20% More Than Employed Physicians
- 41% of self-employed physicians are 45+ versus 21% who are younger than 45
COVID-19 Made An Impact
- On average, practices reported a 55% decrease in revenue and 60% decrease in patient volume since the start of COVID-19
- Since March 2020, a reported 43,000 healthcare providers were laid off
- Telehealth has increased by 225%
Physician compensation reports provide an immense amount of information, which if dissected correctly can be beneficial to both healthcare providers and organizations.
These yearly reports typically give insights into physician salary (present and future), hours worked, incentive bonus, time spent with patients, participation in payment models etc. In addition, information of this caliber can also help healthcare providers and organizations make key decisions, identify trends and growth areas, understand what affects salaries, in-demand specialties and how they change, how pandemics like COVID-19 affect both physicians and organizations financially and more.
Let’s focus on in-demand specialties for a moment. As we all know, there are many different types of physicians and many different specialties a physician can choose, everything from gastroenterology to dermatology to orthopedic surgery, though at any given point in time, not all physician specialties are equally in demand. What’s more, as times change and the world adjusts, the specialties that are most in demand change as well.
Whether you’re a medical student choosing a residency or licensed physician selecting a specialty, identifying which fields are most in demand at the time you’re ready to make that choice can help guide you to those areas where employment is most abundant, salaries may be highest and, most of all, you can serve the greatest pressing need.
Healthcare network Doximity puts together an annual report known as the U.S. Physician Employment Report that analyzes job listings data for physicians in the biggest 50 metropolitan locales. From this report, you can glean what specialties are most in-demand in any given year, as well as the average salaries for those positions and the estimated rate of growth in demand for those positions over the near term.
According to this and other, similar, reports, the average rate of demand growth in the medical field is below 10%, whereas the most in-demand physician specialties are growing at rates much faster than that, including some estimated to be growing in demand 15% or more through 2026. The average salaries for these positions at the 2020 time of this writing range between $232,000 and $438,000.
Here are the top 10 most in-demand physician specialties as of Doximity’s 2019 rankings, starting with the most in-demand:
- Family Medicine
- Internal Medicine
- Emergency Medicine
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
Having a glimpse of what physician specialties are in-demand can allow you to make great strategic choices for your medical career. However, when it’s time to consider a physician job, you should also explore what states and cities are most suitable for you to live and work as a physician.
According to an annual Doximity study over a 12-month period between 2019 and 2020, over 400,000 physician positions were available, marking a 5% increase over the previous period nationally.
Physicians have a great deal of choice in where they reside and practice medicine. In fact, because we are still living in COVID-19 times, they should consider many different factors that can affect both their personal and professional lives when determining where to live and work.
Some of these factors include how happy they will be inside and outside of work in a particular area and how likely they are to experience burnout in that area. Physicians must also consider factors about how physicians are treated in a given city and state, including prevailing salaries, and of the overall healthcare system there in general. Finally, physicians must consider the overall livability of any area.
By combining these factors and the results of the Medscape study, we’re able to obtain the best locations for physicians to practice (per state and city) during COVID-19 times.
The top 10 states for physicians to practice include:
- North Dakota
- New Hampshire
Drilling down further, the top 10 cities for physicians to practice are:
- El Paso, Texas
- Miami, Florida
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Denver, Colorado
- Portland, Maine
- Seattle, Washington
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Los Angeles, California
STARTING YOUR PHYSICIAN JOB SEARCH
Starting a physician job search can be daunting especially if it’s your first time.
Therefore, to ensure that your physician job search is successful, here are 5 things to-do prior to starting your physician job search:
- Understand the Type of Job You Want – Prior to starting your physician job search, evaluate, ask questions and understand the type of job and benefits you desire.
- Setup a Google Account (email and voice) – Make sure to set up a professional email account, so recruiters can take you seriously. It is also recommended that you create a Google voice account. This free phone number will actively be used while job searching. List both Google email and voice accounts on your CV/resume.
- Set Up “Job” Alerts – Dig up employment website and job boards such as Indeed, Monster and Glassdoor and set up job alerts. Every time there is a job that matches your qualifications, you will get “pinged” and you can easily apply as your information is already on file.
- Evaluate your References – Prior to starting your physician job search, think of 2-3 people that can best highlight your skills and accomplishments. Once you identify these people, call them to ask if you can list them as references – also, give them a heads up to expect an email or call from particular companies you are applying too.
- Hire a Physician Recruiter – Finding a job can be overwhelming. One way to ease your physician job search is to hire a physician recruiter. Physician recruiters are known for their “connections” including list of extensive networks in the industry and job insights.
Whether you decide to hire a physician recruiter to help you find the “right” opportunity or if you decide to go through this journey alone, one factor you must understand is physician compensation.
Physician compensation is not just your annual salary – it’s a bit more complex.
First, there are many types of physician compensation plans. Some plans are strictly 100% salary while some are a combination of your annual salary, quality measures and production bonus incentives. Therefore, it’s important to know the 5 types of physician compensation plans, what makes each plan different and what factors influence your physician compensation package.
When physicians think about compensation, they immediately jump to “salary”. However, salary is one of the many factors that influence the physician compensation package you receive.
Here’s a brief overview of the 4 other factors that play a role:
- Practice Setting: Your compensation can be affected depending on the type of practice setting you choose to work in. Physicians working under an academic setting tend to make less when compared to a physician working independently or in a private practice.
- Specialty: Physician specialty plays a huge role in physician compensation. According to the
University of California, Davis School of Medicine , physician specialists earn twice as much as primary care physicians.
- Salary: Prior to accepting any offers, do your research to get an idea of what you should be getting paid (salary) and the types of incentives (i.e. signing bonuses, student loan repayment, reimbursement for relocation etc.) you could be receiving.
- Location: Location and market size play a huge role when it comes to physician compensation. After receiving an offer, analyze the location where you plan on taking the job to understand cost of living expenses and to determine how much your salary/income will stretch.
- Other Factors: Other typical factors that affect physician compensation include individual performance, organizational performance, and patient satisfaction. As you begin to get offers, make sure to review and/or ask the healthcare facility or private practice you are considering, how these additional factors will affect your compensation.
While these 5 factors can affect your physician compensation package, don’t be alarmed. As a physician, you can still earn a nice 6 figure salary.
When it comes to salary, physicians must understand the correlation between salary and cost of living – as this will determine how much value you actually get from your salary.
Cost of living can affect physician compensation if not properly calculated. So, if you’re a high-earning physician living in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., your money might not stretch very far.
Therefore, as you start to receive offers, keep these 2 things top of mind:
- Location: We previously discussed location and how important it is. As we know, the price of goods and services vary from one location to another, so calculating the cost of living to determine how much more or less money you need is key to being able to maintain a certain lifestyle.
- Salary and Expenses: Cost of living comes with a few expenses we cannot avoid. Those expenses include housing prices (homeowner and renter), housing affordability, utilities, entertainment costs, transportation, food prices, taxes, healthcare, and more. When considering an offer, factor in these expenses to see how far your salary will go in that particular city.
Now that we’ve covered almost everything you need to know about physician compensation – let’s focus on compensation driven questions you should ask your potential employer during your job interview.
Asking compensation driven questions during your interview can give you an overall snapshot on the type of compensation structure and package your potential employer offers. One tip, when discussing compensation, don’t make it seem like you only want the job for the money.
Here are 5 physician compensation questions you should ask your potential employer:
- Can you describe your physician compensation structure?
- What benefits/incentives are included in your physician compensation package?
- What is my guaranteed base salary and how long is this guarantee?
- After my guaranteed based salary, will I be asked to transition to a productivity-based compensation plan? If so, what is the process?
- In terms of compensation, what is the range of what are other physicians (regardless of specialty) are earning in your practice or facility?
As you wrap up you interviews, within time you will start to get offers.
Remember not to jump the gun into accepting the first offer that comes your way. As previously mentioned, do your due diligence to make sure you are receiving the best offer possible.
Here are 4 factors to consider when evaluating a job offer:
- Salary: Don’t get “sold” on the salary alone. When reviewing your salary, keep in mind cost of living expenses to determine how much you’ll actually earn.
- Employer Financials: Take a look at your potential employer’s company financials. If a healthcare employer doesn’t have great finances, then you have to consider the possibility of not having a job for long IF the company is not profitable. On the other hand, if your potential employer has great financials it is a good indication and you should consider the job offer and other opportunities they can offer.
- Monthly Employee Turnover Rate: Ask your physician recruiter or potential employer what is their monthly employee turnover rate? Understanding this rate will tell you how many physicians are leaving and entering the company.
- Culture Fit: Ask your potential healthcare employer what their organizational culture is like, how physicians treat each other, what makes their culture different compared to its competitors. Is this an organization you see yourself in?
Now that you have a clear vision of the physician jobs outlook, you are ready to take action. As you pursue a career in healthcare, we hope that this guide can help you navigate through your physician jobs journey by making wise decisions and finding the “right” opportunity.
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