Your job prospects as a physician depend on many things—the region you’re located in, the salary you need to maintain your quality of life, your experience, and perhaps most of all, your specialty. Merritt Hawkins is a physician recruiting firm that researches various specialties, the demand for them, and their average salaries. Of course, demand for a specialty has a strong correlation with the average salary one can expect—the greater the demand, the higher the salary.
Nationwide salary averages aren’t necessarily very useful because of the way cost of living varies from region to region, but knowing the demand for a particular specialty can give you a starting point for negotiation. If you’re in the process of choosing a specialty for finding doctor jobs, it’s always a good idea to research not only the current status of said specialty, but its projected status.
Here are some of the top in-demand specialties:
1. PCP (primary care physicians), including family medicine doctors
The ACA (Affordable Care Act) and more comprehensive population health care management policies have driven demand for this most basic of specialties. Family medicine and primary care physicians treat people of all ages and both genders. Their focus is day-to-day health management, and they often refer patients to doctors with other specialties if the issue is one which they are incapable or not confident of treating on their own. These doctors rarely work in hospitals, and are often part of private practices.
2. Internal medicine doctors, internists
Internal medicine is similar in some ways to primary care, in the sense that it is one of the more general specialties. However, it is a bit more focused than primary care. For example, internists typically don’t treat children, while most primary care doctors do, to some extent. Also, internists often work in hospital settings, managing adult diseases that are more severe or require more investigation than those which primary care doctors treat.
Unlike their non-MD parallels, psychologists, psychiatrists not only diagnose mental disorders but are equipped to treat them with prescription medication. Like the demand for primary care doctors and internists, the demand for psychiatrists is being driven mainly by the ACA and its focus on population health management, as the connection between that and mental disorders is a strong one. Additionally, with caseloads for primary care physicians and general
practitioners increasing, more of these doctors are willing to send patients with specific psychiatric ailments to a specialist rather than treat them themselves.
Hospitalists are physicians that specialize in the care of patients that are hospitalized. While their actual medical “specialty” is relatively general, they have a specialized knowledge of hospital processes and policies, including collaboration with other specialists and personnel, transitioning patients to and from hospitalization, and efficient use of resources.
5. Nurse practitioners
While a nurse practitioner isn’t technically a physician, they belong on this list because their numbers and the demand for them do directly affect physicians, since their jobs and doctors jobs overlap significantly. Nurse practitioners are often more in demand when there is a shortage of general practitioners and primary care providers, as they are well-equipped to deal with day to day health concerns.
6. Obstetricians and gynecologists
Ob/Gyn practitioners specialize in pregnancy and birth, and women’s health, respectively. These physicians are in great demand, with some states not even having sufficient numbers to treat the population, let alone provide women with options. One of the reasons for this is simply that many find the field to be unappealing because of the enormous cost of liability and malpractice insurance that obstetricians must sustain, and because of the overlap between the two jobs, gynecologists often feel equally compelled to have higher insurance coverages. For the Ob/gyn physician willing to shoulder those costs that finds an under-served area, there’s great potential to build a thriving practice.
7. Orthopedic surgeons
With an aging and overweigh population, musculoskeletal ailments are on the rise, and more of these than ever before require surgical intervention. The demand has also grown because new advances in technology, including less invasive methods of surgery and new materials and processes for joint replacement, have improved the prognosis of patients who undergo surgery. All of this has led to an increase in the demand for orthopedic surgeons.
8. Emergency medical doctors
While many predicted a decrease in the demand for ER doctors due to the Affordable Care Act, the opposite has actually occurred. With many people seeing more restrictive limitations on the doctors available to them via Medicaid, they’re turning to the emergency room for more comprehensive care.