By Stacey Ritzen, WCI Contributor
Psychiatry is not a medical field for the faint of heart. On average, it takes at least 12 years to become a psychiatrist, and some psychiatrists may also pursue further training by attending a fellowship to learn one of nine psychiatry subspecialties. In other words, psychiatrists, like most docs, are in school for a long time before earning a salary in their respective specialty or subspecialty. So, for anyone considering entering the psychiatry specialty, it’s natural to wonder what the salary might look like before making the leap.
To shed some light on psychiatrist income, we turn to Medscape, which surveyed over 13,000 physicians across more than 29 specialties for its annual 2022 report. Here's what we learned.
Psychiatrist Annual Salary
Psychiatry is generally considered to be an excellent career path within the medical field. Psychiatrists spend a lot of time working with patients directly, and they tend to find the work rewarding, given the ability to directly impact a patient’s life and observe a clinical improvement in their mental health. Compared to other medical careers, psychiatrists also typically enjoy an excellent quality of life since office hours tend to be regular Monday through Friday shifts with fewer hours spent on call.
That said, according to Medscape, psychiatrists do make on the lower end of physician salaries, with the average psychiatrist earning approximately $287,000 in 2022. The median salary rose just over $10,000 more than the $275,000 calculated in the previous year’s report, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still taking a toll on the bottom line for many medical practices.
Psychiatry fell just behind rheumatology, allergy and immunology, and neurology in terms of salary—and just above internal medicine, infectious diseases, and diabetes and endocrinology.
While psychiatry may not be the top earner among medical careers, in addition to the benefits mentioned above, it’s also considered one of the least stressful jobs in the medical specialty field. This is primarily due to the number of overall patients, low-stress working environment, and exceptional work-life balance.
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Are Psychiatrist Salaries Rising?
Medscape found that the average income among psychiatrists rose approximately 4% from the previous year’s report. However, that spike was offset by inflation, which rose about 4.7% in 2021. Psychiatry was also in the lower half of physician pay that increased by percentage, trailing far behind otolaryngology, gastroenterology, and dermatology.
“Compensation for most physicians is trending back up as demand for physicians accelerates,” James Taylor, chief operating officer of AMN Healthcare's Leadership Solutions Division, told Medscape. “At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Merritt Hawkins saw a 30% decrease in client physician recruiting engagements year-over-year. But in the fourth quarter of 2021, physician recruitment engagements hit an all-time high. The market for physicians has done a complete 180 over just seven or eight months.”
Do Psychiatrists Have Incentive Bonuses?
As with approximately 57% of physicians, most psychiatrists reported receiving incentive bonuses. Medscape’s 2022 report found that psychiatrists earned a median of $33,000 in incentive bonuses.
This was actually an increase from the previous year’s report in which psychiatrists made just $24,000 in bonuses. It was also the most significant percentage spike among all physicians surveyed. Still, there are at least seven specialties that make twice as much or more in incentive bonuses than psychiatrists.
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Do Self-Employed Psychiatrists Make More Money?
Self-employed psychiatrists make approximately 15% less than their counterparts employed by hospitals and other health systems. Medscape found that the median salary for an employed psychiatrist was $317,000 compared to just $277,000 for a self-employed psychiatrist.
Do Psychiatrists Feel Fairly Compensated?
Interestingly enough, while psychiatrists ranked 23rd out of 29 specialties for overall income, they landed in the fourth spot for feeling fairly compensated for their work. Approximately 65% of psychiatrists reported feeling fairly compensated—just behind public health and preventative medicine, oncology, and plastic surgery.
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: $306,059
- AAMC: $276,000 (this survey only includes academics)
- Doximity: $281,000
- Merritt Hawkins: $279,000
- AMGA: $295,000
Increasing Your Psychiatrist Income
If you’ve gotten this far and have concluded that you fall within the 35% of psychiatrists who don’t feel adequately compensated at work, you’ve come to the right place.
You’ll want to start by looking at the terms of your contract and renegotiating your pay and how much you earn. Unfortunately, many doctors are quick to sign contracts that leave them unfairly compensated, with some looking at high costs and non-compete agreements that may restrict their future job opportunities.
When negotiating a new contract, The White Coat Investor has a list of vetted attorneys and law firms who will work with you to ensure you get a good deal.
If you're a psychiatrist, do these numbers track with your experience? Did anything surprise you with these numbers? How could you go about making more money? Comment below!