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Primary Care Physician Salaries: Trends & Outlook

How does the Primary Care physician shortage affect salary? Learn about recent trends & why we're optimistic about the future.

It's no surprise salary is frequently ranked as one of physicians' most important job considerations, but just how important is it really? To put a widely accepted statement in perspective, a recent survey conducted by Provider Solutions & Development (PS&D) found that 80% of physicians across 10 specialties chose salary as one of their top three most important job aspects.

It's especially interesting to note that, despite making 36% less on average than specialists, Primary Care physicians also overwhelmingly (75%) ranked salary in their top three.

The stark difference in pay between Primary Care and specialists is certainly a contributing factor to the growing shortage of Primary Care physicians, which is estimated to be between 21,100 and 55,200 by 2032. Getting more Family Medicine and Internal Medicine clinicians into hospitals and clinics will be a priority for many health systems in the coming years, and compensation is going to play a big role in how well those organizations can recruit and retain top talent.

(Are you thinking about the next step in your Primary Care career? Contact one of our recruiters today.)

Primary Care Physician Salary: 5 Key Trends to Watch

In 2023, the average Primary Care salary was $265,000 – about 2% higher than the previous year, according to Medscape. While salaries did see a small increase year-over-year, Primary Care grew at a lesser rate than other specialties (2% versus 4%) – increasing the already notable gap in Primary Care salaries compared to specialists.

The healthcare industry is rapidly changing. But there are five trends we can reasonably assume for the near (and distant) future when it comes to Primary Care physician salaries:

1. Primary Care salary growth will eventually outpace specialties

If there's one thing we can be confident about based on trends of the last decade, it's that Primary Care salaries will continue to grow exponentially – and will eventually outpace specialty salary growth. We saw this happen pre-COVID-19 pandemic in the 2010's, and some key external factors indicate we will see history repeat itself.

There has also been a recent shift among the population toward proactive healthcare and overall wellness. Americans are taking better care of themselves and are wanting to be more involved in their healthcare. Family Medicine and Internal Medicine physicians are best equipped to provide the proactive, preventative care that the population is demanding.

When coupled with the growing shortage of Primary Care physicians, this change in mindset will drive the demand for Primary Care up, even at a higher rate than specialties. Employers know they must up the ante, offering compensation packages that will continue to attract and retain the providers they need to meet growing demand.

2. Recent changes in how wRVU values are calculated will further increase compensation for Primary Care clinicians

The COVID-19 pandemic brought some changes to wRVU weights across healthcare, but this change had significant impact on Primary Care, leading to a 4% increase in wRVUs from 2021 to 2022 and, therefore, increases in compensation for Primary Care clinicians.

Most notably, regulators increased the value for administrative work – something 60% of physicians report as a top contributing factor to burnout – allowing Primary Care physicians to more effectively tie their non-patient-facing work to revenue and reach their wRVU targets.

Primary Care physicians with a production-based compensation model in their role may see increased base salaries and incentives as a result of these changes to wRVU calculations.

3. High demand and a shortage of Primary Care physicians will continue to drive salaries, benefits and incentives

The shortage of Primary Care physicians won't slow down anytime soon, and this will force hospitals and health systems to get creative with how they recruit and retain physicians for their Primary Care roles.

In addition to higher salaries, hospitals will likely increase bonuses and improve benefits for Family Medicine and Internal Medicine clinicians to make their roles more competitive and attractive. On top of that, as more states pass laws requiring employers to list salary ranges in job descriptions, hospitals will need to ensure their total compensation packages match or beat other organizations, further driving salaries up.

4. Urgent Care's rise in popularity will continue to bring higher paid Primary Care jobs on the market

Urgent Care has seen major growth in the last decade, with compensation increasing by almost 7% between 2018 and 2019, which has surely contributed to the growing demand for Primary Care clinicians. And, with the higher stakes that comes with patients seeing an Urgent Care clinician, Primary Care physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can expect to make more in an Urgent Care environment.

5. Nurse practitioner & physician assistant salaries will also continue to rise

As of May 2022, the median salary for nurse practitioners and physician assistants was $121,610 and $126,010, respectively.

Following the same trends – and experiencing many of the same external factors – as Primary Care physician salaries, NPs and PAs can expect a rise in compensation, as well. As APCs who provide similar services to patients as physicians, rising demand for Primary Care will impact health systems' need for qualified clinicians in the same way, driving salaries up.

Does Anything Change When We Look at Family Medicine & Internal Medicine Separately?

Not remarkably. But, there is a small difference worth noting between Family Medicine and Internal Medicine.

The average 2023 Family Medicine physician salary held steady from the previous year at $255,000 – slightly below the Primary Care average as a whole. The trend for Internal Medicine physician salary is similar but slightly higher than Family Medicine. In 2023, Internal Medicine physicians made $273,000 on average, and the average salary was up by 4% over the previous year.

As far as outlook is concerned, Family Medicine and Internal Medicine will see the same growth that Primary Care will experience as a whole: higher salaries, improved work-life balance and more equitable wRVU values.

What About Non-Profits?

There are many non-profit hospitals and health systems in the United States, including the Providence health system, which PS&D operates within. In general, non-profit organizations will have slightly lower average salaries for Primary Care physicians, but things like work-life balance, community impact and non-monetary benefits tend to be better.

For example, a Primary Care physician at a non-profit may be able to support underserved patients and find more meaning in their day-to-day. And, those same physicians may have access to better mental health care than other health systems, as is the case at Providence.

Some non-profit health systems may also offer generous loan repayment programs to their physicians or sign-on bonuses to make up for the lower annual salary they offer – two things Primary Care physicians should look for when receiving a job offer from a non-profit health systems.

Ready for your next opportunity? PS&D can help.

At Provider Solutions & Development, we specialize in Primary Care roles, hiring Family Medicine and Internal Medicine physicians as well as nurse practitioners and physician assistants into jobs across the country. Unlike other physician recruitment firms, we don't have quotas, and we don't work on commission. Instead, we offer our expertise and guidance to help you reach your professional goals and find personal fulfillment.

Founded and owned by Providence, we recruit for hundreds of jobs within its seven-state footprint, in addition to more than 40 other partners. We've helped thousands of providers find their next Primary Care opportunity.

Reach out to our team today to learn more about our Family Medicine and Internal Medicine roles.

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