By T.J. Porter, WCI Contributor
People don’t necessarily become doctors because they want a high salary, but the truth is that the medical field is one that pays quite well. Though that high income is offset by a long education, hefty student loans, and additional costs like malpractice insurance, becoming a doctor (including those that become pathologists) is usually a good path toward strong earnings.
However, not every doctor gets paid the same. There is a huge range that varies based on factors like where you work and the specialty you choose. Medscape publishes an annual compensation report using data it gathers from more than 13,000 physicians across 29 different specialties. In this report, pathologists shared details about their compensation and work.
If you’re thinking about going into pathology—or you are a pathologist who wants to know how you compare to the rest of your field—we’ll break things down for you.
Pathologist Average Salary
Pathologists were near the middle of the salary pack in 2022, earning an average of $334,000 per year. That was an increase of 5.6% compared to the average earnings of $316,000 in 2021.
Is Pathologist Income Rising?
Along with being middle of the pack income-wise, pathologists were near the middle when it came to income growth in 2022. Average income rose by a bit less than 6%, which is similar to the growth rate for pulmonary medicine, nephrology, infectious disease, and radiology.
Keep in mind that inflation for the surveyed period was higher than typical at 4.7%, meaning the true increase in average compensation was a bit less than 1%.
Though the average pay grew, some pathologists saw a decrease in their income. Roughly 20% of pathologists saw their income fall with most pointing toward factors other than COVID-19 as the cause.
More information here:
Do Pathologists Have Incentive Bonuses?
Continuing the apparent theme of pathology, the average pathologist’s incentive bonus was near the middle of the pack when compared to other specialties. Overall, 57% of the surveyed physicians reported having some form of incentive bonus arrangement. Pathologists who reported incentive bonuses said their average bonus was $54,000, up from $42,000 in 2021.
For comparison's sake, the highest average incentive bonus reported was that of orthopedics at $126,000. The lowest was pediatrics at $28,000.
With an average bonus of $54,000, bonuses make up about 16% of a pathologist’s overall compensation. For the majority of pathologists, regular compensation and bonuses were sufficient income. Only 21% of pathologists reported taking on extra work to supplement their income.
More information here:
Do Pathologists Feel Fairly Compensated?
It’s important to feel like you’re getting paid fairly for the work that you do. Pathologists were near the upper end of the scale when it came to feeling well-compensated with 60% of physicians in the specialty feeling properly paid. They are well above the least-satisfied physicians, nephrologists, but still well below the most satisfied.
Medscape noted that the actual compensation is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to feeling properly compensated. Pay that relies on tracking of quality measures that seem irrelevant can lead to reduced satisfaction, even at the same level of pay.
Overall, the vast majority of pathologists feel good about their choices, with 86% stating that they would still choose their specialty if they had to do things over again.
Medscape’s annual survey is a great source of information regarding doctor salaries and job satisfaction, but it’s just one source and it only includes data from the people who choose to respond to the survey. There are plenty of other places to look for data regarding physician income, and our recommended contract review firms use them all to help make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth.
Average pathology incomes as reported by other sources include:
- AAMC: $308,000 (this only includes academics)
- Doximity: $357,384
- AMGA: $400,402
Increasing Your Physician Income
One of the most important things that you can do to earn more for your work 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 restrict their future opportunities.
If you’re negotiating a new contract, The White Coat Investor has a list of vetted attorneys and law firms to work with to make sure you get a good deal.
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