Study: Specialty docs earn much more than primary care physicians

Guilherme Porto will graduate from the Medical University of South Carolina this spring. He will begin a residency training program in neurosurgery at MUSC this summer.

Pediatricians and family doctors earn less than half the salary that cardiologists make every year, according to Medscape’s new physician compensation report.

The annual survey shows pediatricians earn the lowest salary, about $204,000 a year, and orthopedists earn the highest, $443,000.

Other high-earning specialities include cardiology, $410,000 a year, and dermatology, $381,000 a year.

The survey also shows male doctors earn significantly more money than female physicians and “employed” doctors, such as those who work for a hospital, make more money than the ones who are self-employed.

The salary differential between dermatologists, cardiologists and orthopedists and primary care doctors may offer one reason why more medical school graduates flock to lucrative specialties.

Of 164 Medical University of South Carolina 2016 graduates who will begin residency training this summer, 44 percent have chosen a primary care field — internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics or obstetrics and gynecology. More than half will enter a specialized field, such as anesthesia, orthopedic surgery or radiology.

Guilherme Porto, who will graduate from MUSC this spring, will start a residency in neurosurgery this summer.

But he said salary potential played no part in his decision to pursue this specialty. Porto will be paid more than most doctors when his training is finished — nearly $400,000, by some counts — but the neurosurgery residency will last seven years.

“I will be working at least 80 to 90 hours a week. I’ll have almost no family time,” Porto said. “I have yet to see a neurosurgeon or a resident say they’ve gone into neurosurgery because of the money they’re going to make. It’s just too hard. There are much easier to ways to make a living in medicine.”

Medscape also tracked physician satisfaction. Dermatologists responded that they were happiest in their jobs and would most likely chose the same specialty if they had to do it all over again.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.