A brighter job picture

Last September we published a cover story in Cardiovascular Business on physician employment, looking at trends in a period of flux. The crystal ball was especially murky for early career cardiologists. It may be a little clearer now.

The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) released its 2014 Physician Placement Starting Salary Survey earlier this month. The 2014 report, based on data from 2013, found that cardiologists captured higher mean salaries than specialists as a whole, with noninvasive cardiologists getting compensation of $284,000 and invasive cardiologists landing $325,000.

The mean salary for specialists was $260,000 and primary care physicians pulled in $186,475.

While these salaries seem handsome, early career physicians also likely carry substantial debt, to the tune of a median $170,000 in 2012. That year, 86 percent of medical school graduates faced school debt at graduation, according to a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Healthcare research company Merritt Hawkins pegged the low end of 2012 salaries for noninvasive cardiologists at $250,000 and for invasive cardiologists at $300,000. Assuming that cardiologists just entering practice would be at the bottom of the pay scale, the 2013 salaries reported by MGMA in an admittedly apples-and-oranges comparison mean early career cardiologists may have had a little more clout in the marketplace.      

Other findings in MGMA’s analysis support the notion that cardiologists may be in a warm if not hot market. Based on results from 5,318 providers who participated in the survey, 60 percent were offered signing bonuses, which for specialists was a median $25,000. Employers added paid relocation expenses to the pot for 72 percent.

MGMA analysts speculated that practices were gearing up for increased demand for medical services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. On top of that, physicians will face an aging population, many with comorbidities such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension that contribute to cardiovascular disease.

This bodes well for cardiologists on the cusp of their careers. We’ll be watching. In the meantime, drop a line and let us know how the job market is treating you.

Candace Stuart

Cardiovascular Business, editor