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Locum tenens compensation and gender pay gap report

illustration of a male and female doctors holding paychecks

Physician income is growing year over year. The average compensation for U.S. physicians was $352,000 in 2022 and $363,000 in 2023. However, that number ranges across specialties and, unfortunately, demographics like gender. In fact, on average, male physicians earned $91,000 more than female physicians in 2023 — a difference of 29%.

This gap widens with specialists. Male specialists made an average of $435,000 in 2023, while their female counterparts made $333,000 — increasing the gap to a 31% difference. The good news? For locum tenens compensation, the pay gap is much less — about 15% for all locum physicians — with zero difference for some specialties and women earning even more in others.

Chart showing the gender differences in physician pay by gender for employed v. locum tenens physicians
*Specialty-specific gender pay gap data not available for these specialties; numbers represent the average pay difference for all specialists as reported by Medscape

Details by specialty

Here is a more detailed look at the average payment across six specialties and how it differs across gender.

Anesthesiology

Anesthesiology is one of the highest-paying specialties, and it’s increasing. The average compensation for anesthesiology rose 10% in 2022 and an additional 5% in 2023. In 2022, men earned an average of $459,000, while women earned $419,000. There’s a pay discrepancy among male and female anesthesiologists, but it’s among the smaller differences in the medical industry, and it’s shrinking. In 2021, the income gap was 17%, but it was only 10% in 2022.

The pay gap was even smaller for locum tenens anesthesiologists. Women earned an average of $298 an hour, while men earned $310 an hour, a percentage difference of just under 4%.

Cardiology

Cardiologists are the third-highest-paid specialty, behind plastic surgery and orthopedics. They earned an average of $525,000 in 2023. Although Medscape doesn’t report on gender pay gap data for cardiologists, the average gender pay difference for specialist is 31% — more than a $100,000 difference.

Locum tenens compensation for cardiologists is much more equal. Women earned an average of $246 an hour, while men earned $247.

Family medicine

In 2022, men working in family medicine earned an average of $282,000, while women made $230,000. That’s a 23% difference. On the bright side, this difference decreased from 26% the prior year. Meanwhile, the locum tenens compensation for family medicine doctors is the same, at an average of $117 an hour.

General surgery

Medscape found that general surgeons made an average of $423,000 in 2023, but it didn’t report on the disparity between male and female surgeons. However, women working as locum tenens general surgeons made 11% more than their male counterparts. The average locum tenens compensation for female general surgeons was $179 an hour, while it was $159 for male surgeons.

Neurology

Medscape didn’t share data on the pay gap for male and female neurologists, but the average compensation rose from $313,000 in 2022 to $343,000 in 2023 — a nearly 10% jump. For locum tenens roles, men made about 5% more than women, with an average hourly rate of $255, compared to $242.

OB/GYN

Physicians working in obstetrics and gynecology have one of the smallest pay gaps in the industry. The OB/GYN gender pay difference was just 6% in 2022, but men still earned more with an average of $349,000, while women made $329,000.

Locum tenens reversed that again, with women making about 2% more than men. The average locum tenens compensation for OB/GYNs was $164 per hour for women and $161 per hour for men.

infographic/illustration with tips for increasing compensation

How to decrease the pay gap

It’s important to note that these numbers are averages; many women make more than men, and the range within specialties dramatically varies. However, there are a couple of ways women and men alike can increase their compensation:

  • Work locum tenens jobs. As noted, the hourly rate for locum tenens physicians can be much higher than traditional roles, especially for women.
  • Know what you’re worth. The compensation for a physician coming right out of residency is going to be very different from that of a physician 20 years in their career, but any physician should know their value. “Coming out of residency, any amount of compensation seems incredible,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nicholas Kusnezov. “However, your time as a trained and skilled professional is worth a certain amount of money.”
  • Negotiate. Regardless of the type of role, all compensation is up for negotiation. “I figure out what I think my time, per hour, is worth, find out from the locum agency roughly how long physicians work on average at the facility, and then run the numbers,” said Dr. Nicholas Kusnezov.

Methodology: Numbers based on the 2023 and 2024 Medscape salary reports and internal locum agency data.

Last updated June 5, 2024. This report will be updated as additional data becomes available.

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