Tag Archive: competitiveness

Physician Satisfaction by Specialty

The most recent installment of the Medscape Physician Compensation Report was recently published. Along with some of the best information on the web about physician salaries by specialty, the new Medscape report also reports which specialties are the most satisfied with their jobs (click here to view the entire Medscape Report). The results may surprise you. There is no correlation with salary and satisfaction.  The highest paid specialties (orthopedics and anesthesia for example) are found in the middle of the list while pediatrics, ID/HIV, and pathology are all found at the top of the list.  Interestingly, plastic surgery is–by far–the least satisfying specialty. So, the most competitive specialty is by far the least satisfying…that’s odd!


From the 2012 Medscape Compensation Report


My conclusions from the Physician Satisfaction Survey:

  1. The age old adage is correct: Money does NOT buy happiness.
  2. Just because a specialty is desirable to match into does not mean it is desirable to practice in [plastics].
  3. I can find only one thing that links the most satisfying specialties: LIFESTYLE.  If you look at dermatology, psychiatry, emergency medicine, infectious disease, pathology, and ophthalmology they have a great lifestyle in common. They all have minimal call, good salary (but they are not the big earners), and few emergencies.  They all lend themselves well to family, recreation, and other hobbies outside of medicine.


My unsolicited advice:

  • I am sure there are my internists and plastic surgeons who are very satisfied with their jobs. I would bet that they knew exactly what there were getting into before they choose their specialty. Satisfaction in the workplace has lots to do with managing your expectations (and the expectations of your family and friends!)  If you really love some of the specialties that do not have the best lifestyle, that is great, just make sure you know that this will be an issue before you go into he specialty. Once you have made that decision, you will not be shocked (and neither will your family/friends) when you work a lot more than those around you.

The Most Recruited Medical Specialties

Now that I am in the first year of residency I am beginning to think about landing that first real job.  As a Transitional Year resident I am heavily involved with the Internal Medicine residents at my hospital.  I found out very quickly that these internal medicine residents are HIGHLY sought after. In fact, many of them receive job offers on a weekly, or even daily basis.  The jobs that are in highest demand for internists are outpatient primary care and inpatient hospitality.  Many of my senior residents are being offered salaries between $200,000 and $300,000 along with many benefits including loan repayment. There are even some offers higher than $300,000 for less desirable locations! This is in a stark contrast to the ophthalmology job market that I will face, where starting salaries are low and it is terribly difficult to get your foot in the door.

Recently, I came across the Merritt Hawkins database.  Merritt Hawkins obtains information about starting salaries and benefits for newly graduated residents. I speak about their great physician salary database in my Ultimate Guide to Physician Salaries. However, their database also contains a list of the 20 most recruited specialties in medicine. The list may shock you!  The ability to find a well paying job right out of residency is NOT AT ALL correlated with the competitiveness of the specialty.  Case in point: family physicians and general internists are the two most highly recruited specialists in medicine!

From Merritt Hawkins


This list represents the Top 20 most ‘requested physician searches by medical specialty.’ The numbers represent the number of times Merritt Hawkins was used to recruit a person from the respective specialties (Merritt Hawkins full PDF including physician compensation data is available here for free). So, when you are deciding on a specialty, don’t forget that competitive does not equal good job placement.  In fact, many of the least competitive specialties are very high on this list (pediatrics, psychiatry, family medicine)

Preparing for USMLE Step 1

I recently read a great article about preparing for the USMLE  board exams an another great medical student website called Medical Student Insider. The author is a soon-to-be psychiatry resident from UCLA name Mike Frazier.  Any time you hear or read advice about studying for boards you should always take it with a grain of salt; this is because we all study and learn differently. However, after scoring above a 250 of Step 1, soon-to-be Dr. Frazier's words pack quite a punch!

Highlights from the Medical School Insider Article:
  1. USMLE Step 1 is the most important factor in determining your competitiveness in the match.
  2. USMLE World is KING. I totally agree! After completing 2,000+ USMLEWorld questions, I sat down at the real Board exam and felt like I was just doing more USMLEWorld questions. They prepared me perfectly.
  3. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 is a priceless book.  Buy it early, use it your first two years, and then devour it while studying for Step 1.
  4. Set a Goal!
  5. Create a study schedule to help you achieve your goal.

Read the full article to see what else Mike Frazier says about studying for Step 1.  

Is it getting harder to match?


With each passing year the number of applicants to US residencies increases significantly, with only a modest increase in residency positions.


Source: http://www.nrmp.org/data/Main2011.jpg

This is likely due to a number of reasons.

  1. There are increasing numbers of non-US students (foreign) applying to US residencies
  2. There are increasing numbers of US students from non US schools (usually the Caribbean)
  3. There are increasing numbers of medical schools opening
  4. Medicaid has not increased its funding for residency positions at the same rate as #1,2,3

Am I a competitive residency applicant?

This question starts to plague your mind the day you don the short white coat, and it never leaves until match day during your 4th year.  Although you don’t have to decide what you want to go into until the summer of your 4th year, it is a good idea to know what you would have to do to be competitive in a difficult specialty.  There are two great ways to obtain this information.

  1. For 3rd and 4th year students, speaking to a student-friendly advisor is a great idea. HOWEVER, beware of the nice guy.  Find an attending who won’t be afraid to break your heart.  Better to have it broken now, than spend thousands getting your hopes up when you really had no chance anyway.
  2. For first and second year students, the best resource in the world is the Outcomes of the Match materials provided by the NRMP.  The document is fantastic, but it is a lot to chew.  The link below is the most recent report, which summarizes the results from the 2009 match.


Periodically, I will be breaking down all the information provided by this document.  For the time being, look it over and study the graphs.  Everything you want to know about competitiveness of each specialty (not ophthalmology!) is in this document…here are a few to whet your appetite

Average Step 1 scores
Average Step 2 Scores
Average # matched applicants who were AOA
Average # or research projects
Percent of matched applicants with Ph.Ds