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What Should Your Physicians Get Paid? 2018 Compared to Now.

The annual Merritt Hawkins salary numbers came out and it’s time to compare 2018 to 2019. Although we are most concerned about our primary care physicians, we thought it would be insightful to review if all of the salaries of our doctors.

Across the U.S., unemployment for all sectors remains low. With physician shortages much on the minds of most healthcare executives, it’s a safe guess to assume we’ll pay more for clinical talent in the coming years.  Below are the latest numbers for your consideration.

You Guessed It: Salaries are Increasing

Merritt Hawkins has tracked clinical wages for 26 years. They get their information from a variety of sources including offers from healthcare permanent placement agencies like UHC Solutions. This year they analyzed 3,131 recruiting assignments dating from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019.

The most recent report shows that 13 of the top 20 recruited clinical specialties showed an increase over the past year. Only seven saw a decrease. The report views this as a positive trend; the 2017 to 2018 statistics showed only nine of the top 20 specialties saw a wage increase.

Invasive Cardiologists remain at the top of the list of salaries and they even saw an increase this year to an average salary of $648,000. However, as you’ll see, another specialty provider edged them out as the number one percentage of salary increase from the prior year.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the lowest average physician salaries remain with family medicine doctors, at a national average of $239,000 (this includes FQHCs, physician-owned clinics, hospital-owned clinics, etc.), which is a reduction from the prior year. However, family physicians remain highly in demand.

The study tracked the five specialties that saw the largest salary increase from 2018 to 2019:

  • Urology increased by 20.2%.
  • Invasive Cardiology increased by 9.8%.
  • Anesthesiology increased by 8.9%.
  • Emergency Medicine Physicians increased by 8.5%.
  • Neurology increased by 5.3%.

But doctors aren’t the only ones receiving a salary increase this year. Certified Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) had a slight average salary increase from 2018. However, Nurse Practitioners (NPs) saw a slight dip from 2018 to a national median of $125,000.

Other specialty areas scoring an increase from 2018 included:

  • Orthopedic Surgeons from $533,000 in 2018 to $536,000 this year.
  • Gastroenterologists from $487,000 to $495,000, a 1.6% increase in average salary from 2018.
  • Psychiatrists saw a 4.5% increase in salary on average this year, moving from $261,220 to $273,000 nationally.
  • Internists salary average also increased from $261,000 to $264,000 in 2019.

The average annual salary for dermatology took a $5,000 dip this year in average salary to $420,000. Pulmonology took a substantial dive in average salary this year to $399,000 from $418,000 last year. The average hospitalist saw a slight average decline in salary, from $269,000 to $268,000. OB/GYNs took a bigger hit, moving from an average salary of $324,000 to $318,000.

What to Expect in 2020

The market for physicians remains tight; with the anticipated shortage of doctors looming and an increase in the number of baby boomers reaching retirement age, it seems we may reach the perfect storm where doctors can request higher salaries and benefits for any role they consider. For advanced practitioners and other clinical providers, the job outlook also looks positive. For example, predictions indicate a 30% increase in the number of roles for physician assistants in 2020.


It’s a good time for physicians and healthcare workers to take advantage of the candidate’s market we’re experiencing now – and will likely see in the years to come. Talk with the UHC Solutions team about your options.


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Unlock the Latest Salary Trends in Community Healthcare

Download UHC Solutions’ Salary Guide eBook for 2024 salary ranges, key data, insights, and more.