Study: Yep, Specialists Earn More Than Primary Care

Study: Yep, Specialists Earn More Than Primary Care

I think we all know that.
But just how much more do they earn over, say, a lifetime?

Well, a nationwide study, conducted by the University of California Davis Health System sought to find an answer.  They noticed a gap of about $2.8 million dollars on average.  Yes, that’s right, PCPs make about 2.8 million dollars less than their Specialist counterparts.

But there is some wide variation.  For example, a medical oncologist earns $4,288,906 more than PCPs over their lifetime while some specialties only earn $761,000 more than PCPs.

Examples of Lifetime Earnings:

  • Surgery: $4,588,249
  • Internal medicine subspecialties and pediatric subspecialties: $4,100,183
  • All other medical specialties: $3,761,930
  • Primary care: $3,000,527

The study evaluated information from 6,000 physicians using their data from 2004-2005.  The numbers were also adjusted for certain demographics including where you practice, sex, board certification, US vs international student, etc.  In total, 41 medical specialties were reported in the study.

With student loans reaching $250k in addition to other personal financial matters, it’s hard not to consider salaries when choosing a medical specialty.  We continue to see medical students choosing specialist residencies more than primary care roles further exacerbating a shortage of PCPs in the nation.  But don’t be so hard on them, because sawing bones or touching the heart on a daily basis is extremely awesome and worthwhile to the patients that have a better quality of life because of it.


Becker’s Hospital Review, Study: Primary Care Physicians Earn $2.8M Less Than Specialists Over Lifetime
UCDavis Health System, New Study Identifies Large Gaps in Lifetime Earnings of Specialist and Primary-Care Physicians

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