Pediatricians’ Incomes Rose Faster Than Many Others’ in 2021

In an unprecedented year when income increased for all specialties, pediatricians did better than most, according to a recent survey by Medscape.

Pediatricians reported an average income of $244,000 for 2021, an increase of 10.4% over 2020 that was topped by only three of the 29+ specialties included in the poll. Medscape also noted that, for the first time in the 11 years it’s been conducting these physician compensation surveys, “all specialties have seen an increase in income.”

At least some of that positive news can be traced back to the reduced impact of COVID-19. “Compensation for most physicians is trending back up as demand for physicians accelerates. The market for physicians has done a complete 180 over just 7 or 8 months,” James Taylor of AMN Healthcare’s physician and leadership solutions division said in Medscape Pediatrician Compensation Report 2022.

The 10% increase in pediatricians’ income, however, was not enough to reach the average for primary care physicians, $260,000, which was up by 7.4% over 2020. It was enough, though, to move pediatricians from the bottom of the earnings-by-specialty list, where they were last year, to next-to-last this year (public health/preventive medicine, with average earnings of $243,000 in 2021, is not shown in the graph).

The gender gap in earnings left male pediatricians’ income 26% higher than their female counterparts, slightly above the gap of 25% for primary care physicians and 24% for all physicians. For specialists, the gap was 31% in favor of men, based on data from 13,064 Medscape member physicians who participated in the survey, which was conducted online from Oct. 5, 2021, to Jan. 19, 2022. For the record, 57% of the pediatricians who responded were women.

The gaps and low income averages were enough, it seems, to keep pediatricians fairly negative regarding their feelings on compensation. Only 47% think they were fairly compensated in 2021, higher only than diabetes/endocrinology and nephrology. Among the other primary care specialties, internal medicine and ob.gyn. were slightly higher at 49% and family medicine was 55% – still just middle of the pack, compared with public health/preventive medicine at 72%, Medscape said in the report.

Would You Do It Again?

Moving to the less-economic aspects of the survey, respondents also were asked if they would choose medicine again as a career. Once more pediatricians were low on the scale, as only 70% said that they would enter medicine again, down from 77% last year and lower than this year’s average of 73% average for all physicians.

When they were asked if they would choose pediatrics again as a specialty, the response was a bit more positive: 84% said yes. That middle-of-the-pack showing was well ahead of internal medicine (63%) and family medicine (68%), but well below dermatology (99%) and orthopedics (97%), which are “among the top groups in our survey year after year,” Medscape said.

Did the administrative challenges of medical practice have an effect on those answers? Pediatrician respondents said that they spend 14.9 hours per week on paperwork and administration, close to the average of 15.5 hours for all physicians. The internists, who are least likely to choose their original specialty again, spend 18.7 hours on paperwork each week, while dermatologists, the most likely to repeat their first choice, have just 11.9 hours of paperwork per week.

The exact number of pediatricians involved in the survey was not provided, but they made up about 8% of the total cohort, which works out to somewhere between 1,000 and 1,100 individuals. All respondents had to be practicing in the United States, and compensation was analyzed for full-time physicians only. The sampling error is ±0.86% at a 95% confidence level.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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