By Jamie Johnson, WCI Contributor
The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on all of us, but physicians and the medical community as a whole were hit especially hard. Most physicians had to deal with an increased workload as a result of the pandemic, leading to stress and burnout. In spite of these challenges, doctors, including anesthesiologists, saw their incomes rise by an average of 3.8% from 2020 to 2021. Of course, the exact numbers can vary quite a bit depending on your specialty.
According to Medscape’s Anesthesiologist Compensation Report, anesthesiologists fared pretty well overall. The study surveyed more than 13,000 physicians across 29+ specialties to understand how their earnings and job satisfaction changed in 2021.
An Anesthesiologist’s Average Salary
Anesthesiologists typically earn a high income, with an average annual salary of around $405,000. However, this figure can vary depending on your location, your employer, and how many years of experience you have. Some anesthesiologists may make significantly more or less than this average. Still, as a whole, anesthesiologists make more than the average of all the medical specialties that were involved in this survey.
Here's the chart that shows you exactly where anesthesiologists stand with many of their medical colleagues.
Is Anesthesiology Income Rising?
On average, anesthesiologists saw their income rise by 7% from the previous year. As you can see from Medscape’s data, their income increase fell right in the middle when compared to other specialties.
Physicians working in otolaryngology and gastroenterology saw their incomes increase the most, while oncology and critical care saw the smallest increase. And while most physicians saw their income go up in 2021, inflation also rose 4.7%, affecting their purchasing power. On average, though, anesthesiologists still were ahead of the curve when compared to inflation.
Not every anesthesiologist received a pay increase—one in five said their income actually declined in 2021. Among those who saw their income drop, 67% blamed it on a COVID-related event, like a job loss or a reduction in hours.
However, many anesthesiologists feel that competition from non-physician practitioners negatively affected their income as well. For instance, 37% of anesthesiologists felt that competition from nurse practitioners, naturopaths, and chiropractors impacted their income.
More information here:
Do Anesthesiologists Have Incentive Bonuses?
According to Medscape, 57% of all physicians have incentive bonuses in place. Incentive bonuses have been shown to encourage doctors to work harder and earn more, sometimes at the expense of their families. Anesthesiologists received an average incentive bonus of $68,000, which is up from $55,000 the previous year.
While that $68,000 figure is dwarfed by the average orthopedics bonus of $126,000, it's nearly 2 1/2 times larger than the bonus received by the average pediatrician.
Do Self-Employed Anesthesiologists Make More Money?
Anesthesiologists who work for a hospital, healthcare system, or another organization earn 11% more than those who are self-employed. Employed anesthesiologists earn an average of $431,000, while self-employed anesthesiologists earn an average of $387,000.
Interestingly, this trend does not hold true for physicians overall—self-employed physicians earned 20% more than employed physicians, according to Medscape.
Roughly one-third of anesthesiologists take on additional work to supplement their income. They do this either by taking on more hours in their current job or by moonlighting at another medical organization. Most do this to fund early retirement, gain financial independence, and pay down student loan debt.
More information here:
Do Anesthesiologists Feel Fairly Compensated?
About 53% of anesthesiologists feel fairly compensated at their jobs. As you can see from the chart below, this is somewhere in the middle of the other specialties surveyed.
Most anesthesiologists are fairly content with their work—69% said that in spite of the pandemic, they would choose the medical profession all over again. And 86% of anesthesiologists said they would choose the same specialty.
The Medscape survey is not the end-all and be-all of physician salary data. There are other sources out there, and our recommended contract review firms use them to help ensure you are getting paid what you're worth. Other average salary numbers you can find from surveys done about the same time as the Medscape survey include:
- MGMA: $469,283
- AAMC: $419,000 (this survey only includes academics)
- Doximity: $457,867
- Merritt Hawkins: $367,000
- AMGA: $453,683
Increasing Your Physician Income
As a physician, one of the best ways to increase your income is to negotiate your pay and the terms of your contract. Many doctors wind up with bad contracts that leave them improperly compensated, facing high costs and non-compete agreements that limit their future opportunities.
However, you shouldn’t try to do this on your own. If you need help negotiating a new contract, be sure to check out The White Coat Investor’s list of vetted attorneys and law firms to work with. It’s important to have an attorney working with your best interests in mind to ensure you get a good deal.
If you're an anesthesiologist, do these numbers track with your experience? Did anything surprise you with these numbers? How could you go about making more money? Comment below!