An authoritative survey's finding that median physician income rose 6.7 percent from 1994 to 1995 is good news for the profession, an indication that the startling 3.8 percent drop between 1993 and 1994 may prove an aberration and not a trend. Even so, the overall income picture in the mid-1990s is not bright: From 1992 to 1995, median income rose an average of 2.2 percent yearly, an actual decline in real income since inflation averaged 2.8 percent. And how much does Dr. Median actually make? $160,000 a year, after expenses and before taxes. To obtain the data, the AMA telephoned both members and nonmembers, but only postresident, nonfederal patient care physicians working 20 hours or more per week.
Median net income by specialty
Efforts to promote primary care seem to have paid off for those in family and general practice: Their incomes rose 12.7 percent.
(Net income and percent change drawn to different scales. Income is in thousands. Percent change is 1994 –1995 )
Mean net income by specialty
Mean income increased faster than median income. It rose 7.2 percent (to $195,500) from 1994 to 1995, indicating that those with the highest incomes are seeing slightly greater increases than those below.
Self-employed means greater income, greater gains
The survey found that self-employed physicians had a median income of $199,000 in 1995, far above the $136,000 reported by employee physicians. And the physician who is self-employed posted an income gain of 13.1 percent, while the doctor who is an employee realized an increase of just 4.6 percent.
An AMA analysis notes that employees often receive noncash benefits that narrow the actual difference in compensation, and that self-employed doctors are generally "older, have more years of experience, work more hours and are more likely to be board-certified, all of which are associated with higher earnings."