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We summarize findings on anesthesiologist compensation from the Medscape Anesthesiologist Compensation Report 2018.  The survey reports total annual compensation for anesthesiologists of an average of $386,000, a six percent increase from the 2017 report.  A multitude of factors are used to determine compensation, and actual compensation figures among anesthesiologists can vary widely.

September 10, 2018

How much do anesthesiologists earn?  How does your compensation compare with that of your anesthesia peers and physicians in other specialties?

As with any multi-faceted question involving lots of data, different markets and geographic locations, variations in methodology and sample sizes, and a range of other factors, the answer depends on the source.  Understandably, a definitive response is impossible to pin down.  Still, credible ballpark numbers from dependable surveyors can be found.

The source we reviewed for this eAlert—the Medscape Anesthesiologist Compensation Report 2018—points to an upward trend in compensation for anesthesiologists in 2018.

Anesthesiologists, at one time ranked as the third most highly paid specialists in some surveys, now stand in seventh place among the 29+ specialties surveyed for the Medscape Physician Compensation 2018 report.  According to the survey of 20,329 physicians (with results weighted to the AMA’s physician distribution by specialty, state and gender), anesthesiologists earn an average of $386,000 yearly.  The five highest paid specialties in 2018 were plastic surgery ($501,000)—ranking above orthopedics for the first time—orthopedics ($497,000), cardiology ($423,000), gastroenterology ($408,000) and radiology ($401,000).

Specialties with the lowest average compensation packages were internal medicine ($230,000), family medicine ($219,000), diabetes and endocrinology ($212,000), pediatrics ($212,000), and public health and preventive medicine ($199,000).  (For employed physicians, compensation was measured as salary, bonus and profit-sharing contributions.  For partners and solo practitioners, it included earnings after taxes and deductible business expenses, but before income taxes.)

Both anesthesiology and allergy/immunology saw average compensation increases of six percent since last year—the seventh highest increase among the specialties.  Specialties with the highest percentage increases in compensation were:  psychiatry (16 percent), plastic surgery (14 percent), physical medicine and rehabilitation (13 percent), oncology (10 percent) and rheumatology and critical care (both nine percent). 

Tommy Bohannon, vice president of recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins, who was quoted in the report, attributed the hefty increase in compensation for psychiatrists to the recent explosion in demand for mental health services, particularly for the aging population and as a result of the opioid crisis. 

The average overall physician salary rose to $299,000 in 2018 from $294,000 in 2017.  Despite the overall positive outlook, six specialties experienced a decrease in average compensation from last year:  general surgery (nine percent), urology (seven percent), diabetes/endocrinology and otolaryngology (four percent for both), and neurology and pathology (two percent for both).

Other findings from Anesthesiologist Compensation 2018:

  • Self-employed anesthesiologists earn more than employed anesthesiologists:  $433,000 versus $358,000.  Although employed physicians presumably trade lower pay for fewer administrative responsibilities, a survey by the Physicians Foundation found that employment does not necessarily decrease nonclinical workload. More anesthesiologists (55 percent) are now employed than self-employed (37 percent).
  • Male anesthesiologists earn more than female anesthesiologists:  $401,000 compared to $334,000 per year, respectively.
  • Sixty-five percent of anesthesiologists feel they are fairly compensated, which puts them slightly above the middle among the specialties. Emergency medicine physicians were mostly likely to feel they’re fairly compensated (74 percent), while only 46 percent of physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists felt fairly compensated.
  • Most anesthesiologists (78 percent) said they will continue to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients.  However, 12 percent reported that they will stop treating these patients and 16 percent remained undecided.
  • Eighty-six percent of anesthesiologists said they would not drop payers that pay poorly.  One-fourth said they would not drop payers because they need all payers, while 14 percent indicated that yes, they would drop these payers.

The findings from this survey can provide at least a jumping off point for determining the compensation an anesthesiologist might expect.  Of course, the responsibilities, environment and location of the position in question will influence the final figure.  Nevertheless, third-party survey results such as these can serve as a valuable reference in negotiations and in mapping career expectations.  Other sources of physician compensation data include the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) DataDive Provider Compensation, the American Medical Group Association Medical Group Compensation and Productivity Survey and Modern Healthcare’s Physician Compensation Survey

Remember that these numbers are averages only, and will vary even within an individual practice.  ABC clients:  if you have any additional questions regarding compensation, your account executive will be happy to provide more in-depth information.  

For more information on compensation, also see the article by ABC Vice President Jody Locke in the summer 2018 issue of our quarterly newsletter, Communiqué.

With best wishes,

Tony Mira
President and CEO