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Emergency Medicine Physician Job Salaries

By: K.D. Claymer   
Date Added : July 7, 2011 Views : 472

How much do emergency medicine physicians make per year? While the phrase “it depends” definitely applies, the median income for all US emergency medicine physicians in 2010 was $277,297, an increase of 5.65% from the year before – the greatest overall percentage increase of any medical specialty. That said, compensation in this field is squarely in the middle of the salary continuum for all medical specialties. For example, emergency medicine physicians earn approximately $100,000 more than pediatricians but approximately $100,000 less than orthopedic surgeons and radiologists.

While women are entering emergency medicine in greater numbers, they still earn less than their male counterparts, although the gap is narrower than it is for other specialties. Some hiring experts say this is because women want family-friendly schedules with fewer hours.

Drill down a little deeper in the salary data and you’ll discover 31% of emergency medicine doctors reported their salaries increased last year, while 18% reported a decrease in pay. Generally, salaries for ER doctors are lowest in highly-desirable regions and highest in areas which aren’t considered so desirable: salaries were highest in the Southern United States, followed by compensation in the Midwest and West. Emergency medicine physician salaries in the Northeast – the home of such vibrant cities as New York City and Boston – were the lowest.

While the laws of supply and demand don’t always affect the healthcare industry, it appears that the number of emergency medicine physicians competing for jobs in the Northeast is lowering overall compensation for the emergency medical specialty in that region. The converse is true for the South: although fast-growing Southern US metropolitan areas like Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta and Dallas are certainly viewed as desirable places to live by emergency room doctors, most hospitals in the South pay higher salaries to emergency medicine specialists in order to attract their services.

But simply comparing salaries from region to region may be misleading. How much of that income is “take-home” pay, for example? Many emergency room doctors work as independent contractors and, as a result, have much greater take-home pay than physicians who are employees and whose paychecks reflect tax withholding and monies taken out as their share of health insurance coverage, retirement accounts or other benefits.

There are advantages and disadvantages of both employment models. Physician employees of hospital or medical specialty groups know their paychecks represent their disposable income more accurately than do the paychecks of independent contractor emergency medicine doctors, who have to calculate how much money to set aside for taxes, retirement accounts, health insurance and other benefits.

Even so, many veteran emergency room physicians opt to become independent contractors. Why? In a word, control. These seasoned ER physicians trust their own judgment when it comes to paying taxes, buying health insurance or saving for their retirement. Perhaps they have so many tax deductions they won’t owe a lot in taxes anyway and don’t need any of their hard-earned money withheld. They may want the freedom to buy any insurance plan they choose – perhaps in conjunction with a health savings account – and not be forced to pick among a handful of cookie-cutter plans offered by their employer. Or perhaps they’re eligible for coverage under their spouse’s health insurance plan and don’t need a plan from their employer.

Regarding retirement, independent contractor doctors enjoy a huge advantage over employee doctors: independent contractors can sock away a full $50,000 a year tax –deferred, as compared to just $16,500 a year for employee physicians. Over a typical 25 or 30 year emergency medicine career, the difference in retirement savings could be $2 mil - $3 mil. of tax deferred savings.

Keith Klamer is the author of this article on emergency room doctor. Find more information, about emergency room doctor salary here

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