Why practice pediatrics? Surely not for the cash

November 1, 2004

It's time for the closely watched Medical Economics magazine annual survey of physicians' earnings, and—in the latest findings, from 2003—you and your colleagues are once again (almost) at the bottom of the pile.

It's time for the closely watched Medical Economics magazine annual survey of physicians' earnings, and-in the latest findings, from 2003-you and your colleagues are once again (almost) at the bottom of the pile. Median total compensation (earnings after tax-deductible expenses or, for those in professional corporations, the sum of salary, bonuses, and retirement/profit-sharing contributions made in their behalf) among pediatricians was $140,000 last year. That is one step up from general practitioners ($120,000); less than family practitioners ($149,300), internists ($150,000) and psychiatrists ($160,000); and much less than urologists ($300,000), orthopedic surgeons ($367,600), and invasive cardiologists ($400,000).

Medians do not tell the whole story, of course: In some specialties, individual practitioners who combine long hours and extraordinary skills can pull in far more. Some 18% of invasive cardiologists, for example, reported total compensation of $600,000 or more. But pediatrics doesn't have that kind of scope. Only 11% of pediatricians earn more than $250,000; 72% cluster around the median, earning between $125,000 and $250,000. Only a very few (3%), it should also be said, are at rock bottom, earning less than $60,000.

Aside from specialty, what other variables affect income?