Physician specialists make as much as 52 percent more than primary-care doctors—a wage difference that can add up to millions of dollars over a career, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The national study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at Davis, compared wages of more than 6,300 physicians practicing in 41 specialties in 60 communities in 2004 and 2005.
The researchers compared hourly wages, factoring in the number of hours each day the physicians worked minus vacation time. They found that primary-care doctors, including pediatricians, geriatricians and internal medicine doctors, made about $60 an hour. In comparison, surgeons, including orthopedic, neurological and obstetrics/gynecological specialists, made $92 an hour. Emergency-medicine doctors, dermatologists, psychiatrists and other specialists made $88 an hour, according to the study.
Additionally, women made $9 less per hour across practice areas.
“Addressing the generalist-specialist income gap is critical to increasing access to cost-effective preventive care,” J. Paul Leigh, a professor in the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research and lead author of the study, said in a written statement. “There is a huge shortage of primary-care physicians, and in years to come, many more of them will be needed to meet health care reform goals.”