Starting pay better in cardiology than in other fields

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Starting salaries for cardiologists in 2013 exceeded the national median for specialty care physicians in the U.S., according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). Results from its annual salary survey hinted at a favorable market for early career physicians.

First-year salaries for noninvasive and invasive cardiologists reached $284,000 and $325,000, respectively, in 2013. The median specialist salary came in at $260,000. It was $186,475 for primary care physicians.

But physician compensation in the U.S. varied by region, experience and type of employer. Guaranteed compensation for specialists was highest in the South, at $274,000, and lowest in the Midwest, at $246,048.

Established specialty physicians commanded higher first-year pay—about $71,500 more— than physicians who were hired straight from a residency or fellowship. Both groups received comparable signing bonuses at a median of $25,000.

For specialists, type of ownership could make a big difference in compensation as well. First-year guaranteed compensation for hospital-employed specialists was $300,000. At physician-owned practices it dropped to $275,000 and was $200,000 for other ownership models.

Overall, 60 percent of respondents reported being offered signing bonuses, up from 39 percent last year. Many employers also used relocation assistance as an incentive, with 72 percent of respondents reporting paid relocation expenses with job offers.

Laura Palmer, MGMA senior industry analyst, suggested that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may have prompted practices to ramp up their recruitment efforts in anticipation of higher demand. “With the initial uncertainty surrounding how ACA insurance exchanges would impact healthcare organizations, medical practices were very savvy in planning ahead," she said in a release. 

The survey included responses from 5,318 providers and 567 physician groups. The 2014 report, which is based on 2013 data, was made available May 7.