In 2023, physician salary trends were on the rise; medical doctor salaries grew by about 3% last year. Yet even with those pay raises, many physicians still feel underpaid relative to how much they’re putting into their jobs.

Here are the highlights from the 2024 physician compensation report, and what that means for locums physicians:

Specialty-Specific Physician Salary Trends

Primary Care Physicians received a 4% bump last year, while specialists received 3%. That said, specialists still outearn PCPs by a significant margin. PCPs make $277K on average in 2023, as compared to $265K the year before, while specialists made $394K in 2024, as compared to $382K the year before.

Here are the highest (and lowest) salary medical specialties: 

SpecialtyAverage Physician Pay (from highest to lowest)
Plastic Surgery$536K
General Surgery$423K
Critical Care$401K
Pulmonary Medicine$397K
Emergency Medicine$379K
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation$341K
Allergy & Immunology$307K
Internal Medicine$282K
Family Medicine$272K
Public Health & Preventive Medicine$263K
Infectious Diseases$261K
Diabetes & Endocrinology$256K

It’s important to keep in mind that these numbers are for full-time physicians only, and cover both base physician salaries, incentive bonuses, and any other income (e.g. profit-sharing contributions). It’s also important to note that, while some specialties might rank higher in overall pay, their pay gains may have been lower, or non-existent.

Here’s the breakdown of which specialty salaries increased or decreased last year:

Specialty% of Increase or Decrease in Pay
Physician Medicine & Rehabilitation11%
Nephrology, Allergy & Immunology9%
Dermatology, Pathology, Emergency Medicine8%
Family Medicine, Ophthalmology6%
Anesthesiology, Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, Psychiatry5%
OB/GYN, Pediatrics4%
Cardiology, Radiology, Internal Medicine, General Surgery3%
Gastroenterology, Urology, Rheumatology2%
Infectious Diseases, Critical Care-1%
Diabetes & Endocrinology-4%
Plastic Surgery-13%

Geographic Physician Salary Trends

It’s not just which specialty you work in that determines how much you’re paid; it’s also where you work. 

Here’s how average physician pay breaks down by geographical location:

LocationAverage Physician Pay
West North Central (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas):$404K
East South Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi): $375K
East North Central (Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio):$367K
West (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada):$363K
South Atlantic (Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida):$362K
West South Central (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana):$361K
Pacific (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii):$357K
New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut):$355K
Mid-Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C.):$351K

Generally, the more rural a region is, the higher the average pay will be. That’s because there is a comparatively low number of physicians in these regions, which means that the lack of competition drives up salary rates.

Want to know how these trends affect your locums search? Reach out to one of our specialty-specific locums consultants, who can give you a sense of what compensation trends look like for your preferred regions. Alternatively, if your goal is to maximize your income, they can recommend which regions are most lucrative for your particular specialty. 

How do these salary trends correlate to physician satisfaction?

Interestingly, the amount of pay does not always correlate to the satisfaction with one’s pay: for example, public health and psychiatry are in the bottom ten specialties in terms of compensation, but they top the list of specialties that feel fairly compensated for their work. 

For other specialties, e.g. endocrinology and infectious disease, the lack of satisfaction with their compensation is directly in correlation with how much they are paid relative to other physicians. 

But this feeling of dissatisfaction isn’t limited to one specialty: just over half of physicians felt they were underpaid for their work. This may be a side effect of inflation: 60% of U.S. employees, including over half who had received an increase in salary, felt that their incomes were not keeping up with inflation. But part of that dissatisfaction is also likely due to the amount of sacrifice that goes into the medical profession; even with rising pay rates, many physicians feel burned out from the amount of hours they’re putting into their work. 

What does this mean for locums physicians?

For those whose physician salaries are going up, but still feel dissatisfied due to the amount of work they’re putting in, locums can be a great option. Locum tenens assignments tend to pay higher than full-time hospital positions, so for many specialties, you can decrease the amount of hours you’re working, while still earning a comparable income. 

For physicians who want to stick with their full-time job, but want to earn more, locums can be a great way to supplement their income. More and more physicians are doing exactly that: according to the Medscape report, the amount of physicians who take on additional work outside their primary position is substantial; up to 38% of physicians look for outside medical work, including locum tenens. For most survey responders, the reason for looking for outside work was simple: increased pay. 

Our specialty-specific consultants are trained to be experts in their field—including keeping up with ever-changing physician salary trends—so they can help you negotiate the best possible rates for your specialty.