Bostonians may feel lucky to have so many highly trained doctors nearby — but for the doctors, the ample workforce means skimpier pay, according to an analysis released Wednesday.
Despite the prestige of the institutions where they train and work, doctors in the Boston metropolitan area had the ninth-lowest annual pay in the nation last year, averaging $316,630. Not chump change, but compare that with Charlotte, N.C.: Doctors’ pay there averages $402,273, the highest in the nation.
Doximity, a online network of medical professionals, studied the pay of 65,000 full-time physicians across the country in its second annual compensation report.
The report also said that female doctors, in Boston and across the country, continue to be paid significantly less than men.
In Boston, female doctors earned an average of $259,162, the 13th-lowest. Milwaukee had the highest-paid female doctors, with a $313,857 average salary (still $84,574 less than what male doctors make in Milwaukee).
At first blush, the lower compensation in Greater Boston may seem surprising in a high-cost region with high-prestige medical centers. But Doximity said the disparity chiefly reflects supply and demand. The more doctors in a region, the lower the pay.
The 10 lowest-paying cities are home to medical schools. Doctors tend to put down roots when they’re training, establishing personal and professional relationships. They often want to stay in the area where they trained, perhaps to conduct research as well as to practice. The result: a glut of doctors.
“It’s a little bit counterintuitive — a higher cost of living, lower physician salaries,” said Dr. Amit Phull, Doximity’s medical director and vice president of strategy and insights. “Boston is an extreme example of having a great density of elite training institutions. You have this supply of extremely qualified physicians. It tips the balance to being able to pay them less.”
Additionally, noted Dr. Henry L. Dorkin, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, “Boston is a highly desirable place to live.”
But the low salaries can present a problem in an era when so many doctors graduate with huge medical school debt, Dorkin said.
“This is making it tough to hold onto very good physicians,” he said. “It’s not unusual to see people with debts of $300,000 or $400,000 graduating from medical school.”
Dorkin said he knows a young doctor who owed $200,000 after completing medical school, a residency, and specialty training. Married with a young child, he took a job in a state with a lower cost of living and higher pay. “This is only going to get worse,” Dorkin said.
He noted that people go into medicine because they love the work; if money were paramount, there are easier ways to make a lot. But at some point, he said, something must be done to ease doctors’ debt burden.
Doximity has more than 1 million members, of whom 675,000 are physicians. About 10 percent provided pay information, and Doximity analyzed the differences in 50 metropolitan areas.
The 2016 data also showed the gender disparity in pay — and it worsened in 2017, with the gender gap increasing in more than half the metropolitan areas. Overall, female doctors in the United States made $105,000 less than their male counterparts last year. In Boston, the difference between men and women’s pay averaged $57,468 in 2017.
Phull said the analysis did not attempt to address the reasons for the disparity, but he hopes greater transparency will help remedy it.
And Dorkin predicted that as more women enter medicine, they will rise to more powerful positions and their compensation will improve.
By the numbers
Metro areas with the highest compensation for physicians in 2017
1. Charlotte, N.C. — $402,273
2. Milwaukee — $398,431
3. Jacksonville, Fla. — $379,820
4. Indianapolis — $378,011
5. San Jose, Calif.— $376,585
6. Phoenix — $372,669
7. Kansas City, Mo. — $372,555
8. Dallas — $371,398
9. Los Angeles — $371,227
10. Salt Lake City — $370,472
Metro areas with the lowest compensation for physicians in 2017
1. Durham, N.C. — $282,035
2. Ann Arbor, Mich. — $302,692
3. Baltimore, Md. — $304,002
4. New Haven — $308,262
5. Rochester, N.Y. — $312,503
6. Washington, D.C. — $312,834
7. Denver — $313,895
8. Philadelphia — $315,930
9. Boston — $316,630
10. Charleston, S.C. — $319,115Felice J. Freyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @felicejfreyer.