Workforce trends

Top 16 most in-demand specialties and their salaries in 2021

Family medicine remains the specialty that is the most sought-after by physician recruiters, according to physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins.

Family medicine remains the specialty that is the most sought-after by physician recruiters, according to physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins’ 2021 review of health care professional recruiting incentives.

The review is based on data from a representative sample of over 2,400 recruiting searches from April 2020 to March 2021. Because of the timing, it reflects demand for health care professionals during COVID-19. The 12-month period saw a lower demand for health care workers as hospitals and medical groups lost revenue.

At the same time, the review reports that the demand for nurse practitioners increased when compared to the demand for physician specialties. Nurse practitioners topped the list of Merritt Hawkins’ most recruited positions, making 2021 the first time in 27 years that the top slot did not go to a physician specialty. The AOA is engaged in multiple efforts to combat non-physician clinician scope of practice expansion efforts.

Below are the top 16 most in-demand specialties along with the average starting salary offered to each. Note: The salaries listed may not reflect the average starting salaries for each specialty, as they represent what companies employing recruiting firms are offering.

The 16 most requested physician recruiting searches by specialty in 2021
Specialty Average salary offered
1. Family medicine $243,000
2. Radiology $401,000
3. Psychiatry $279,000
4. Internal medicine $244,000
5. OB-GYN $291,000
6. Anesthesiology $367,000
7. Hematology/oncology $385,000
8. Gastroenterology $453,000
9. Cardiology Non-interventional: $446,000 | Interventional: $611,000
10. Neurology $332,000
11. Orthopedic surgery $546,000
12. Dermatology $378,000
13. Pulmonology $385,000
14. Pediatrics $236,000
15. Hospitalist Not provided
16. Endocrinology $241,000

Source: Merritt Hawkins

More takeaways

  • The specialties with the highest year-over-year increases in starting salaries offered include neurology (up 13%), non-interventional cardiology (up 9%), and pediatrics (up 7%).
  • The specialties that saw the steepest reductions in starting salaries include orthopedic surgery (down 13%), internal medicine (down 12%) and OB-GYN (down 11%).
  • The high demand for psychiatrists (No. 3 along physician specialties) reflects a strong demand for mental health professionals that is likely to increase as COVID-19 continues.

Related reading:

Defending the osteopathic profession against misrepresentation, scope encroachment and more

AOA statement on physician-led care, physician assistant title change and non-physician clinician use of the title ‘doctor’

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