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April 25, 2016

The wealthiest specialties, according to Medscape

Daily Briefing

Orthopedists and urologists have the highest average physician net worth, while pediatricians and family medicine doctors have the lowest, according to Medscape's Physician Debt and Net Worth Report.

The highest-paid doctors, according to Medscape

For the report, Medscape surveyed nearly 20,000 physicians across 26 specialties between November 2015 and February 2016. Doctors answered a range of questions about debt, earnings, and overall net worth, which was defined as total assets—including home equity and investments—minus total liabilities, such as credit card and medical school debt.

Findings: Doctors' net worth

Survey respondents ranked their net worth in one of five categories:

  1. Under $500,000;
  2. $500,000 to $999,999;
  3. $1 million to $1,999,999;
  4. $2 million to $5 million; and
  5. Over $5 million.

Medscape then ranked each specialty based on the average value of the categories that physicians selected. The doctors with the highest net worth were:

The average category value among those five specialties was close to 3.0, or the $1 million to $1,999,999 category.

  • Orthopedists;
  • Urologists;
  • Cardiologists;
  • Plastic surgeons; and
  • Gastroenterologists.

Meanwhile, the physicians with the lowest net worth were:

  • Family medicine doctors;
  • Pediatricians;
  • Psychiatrists;
  • Endocrinologists; and
  • Neurologists.

The average category value among those five specialties was close to 2.0, or the $500,000 to $999,999 category.

In addition, nearly 50 percent of male respondents reported a net worth of at least $1 million, compared with about 34 percent of female respondents. However, Carol Peckham notes for Medscape that "fewer women are in the highest-paid specialties."

Other findings

Most doctors said they did not feel competitive about earnings or the appearance of wealth, although responses varied by specialty. Radiologists cared the most about the appearance of wealth (18 percent) while nephrologists cared the least (9 percent ).

Meanwhile, most doctors reported living within their means, with 10 percent saying they had little debt and 60 percent saying they lived below their means and that "people would be surprised at how much money I have."

The dangers of underpaying—or overpaying—health care workers

However, many physicians—particularly young doctors—reported that they are still paying off school loans. More than half of doctors under the age of 40 said they were paying off such loans, compared with 11 percent of doctors 55 to 69.

While the report paints a mostly positive picture of physician's finances, some experts flagged high rates of student debt as a worrying trend.

"Student loan debt is sometimes accompanied by sky-high interest rates," explains Pran Tiku, principal with Peak Financial Management. "Some will end up paying back hundreds of thousands in interest to financial institutions." Average education debt among medical school graduates was more than $180,000 in 2015, according the Association of American Medical Colleges (Murray, Medscape, 4/20; Peckham, Medscape report, 4/20).

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