How Competitive is the Physician Job Market?

Dawn Pascale

Doctors know their services are in demand. We’ve been discussing the shortage of primary and specialty care providers for several years, and most project severe scarcity by 2025. That was before the pandemic, which exacerbated some provider shortages because many clinicians are opting for early retirement over continuing to handle the stresses of their positions. On the other hand, there was a time in 2020 when elective procedures were postponed, and some doctors were facing layoffs. In 2021, is it feast or famine for new doctors? What will the job market look like in 2022? Particularly for specialists—in the market as hot as you’d imagined, or will there be a lot of competition in your field? We researched and have the answers that will prepare you for your future job search.

Physician Job Market, 2022

From 2020 to 2021, the job market flipped for doctors. Last year we faced the unprecedented specter of actually experiencing layoffs, thanks to COVID bans on elective procedures. Ask a doctor just coming out of residency in 2020 what the experience was like, and you may find a surprise or two. Given that the average medical school debt is between $200,000 and $250,000, the job market fluctuations can be concerning, especially when many specialty areas have seen declining reimbursement for the past decade.  Where does that leave the primary care or specialty practitioner?

First, the chances are high that you will seek hospital employment. With consolidation being the name of the game for the past several years, Medical Economics reports that you have about a 95% of being employed coming out of residency. They also suggest that we’ve lost up to 30% of private practices over the past five years. COVID will probably exacerbate that trend.

But who, exactly, will you be competing with, and how intense will the competition be for the top jobs? PracticeLink researched the number of jobs per candidate by the specialty areas that are most challenging to recruit for and also the most in-demand and found:

Most Challenging to Recruit SpecialtyJobs Per Candidate
Pediatrics – Otolaryngology5
Pediatrics – Dermatology3.5
Endocrinology – Reproductive1.5
Radiology – Nuclear1.3
Oncology – Medical1.3
Most In-Demand SpecialtyJobs Per Candidate
General Medicine1.12
Hematology and Oncology2.0
Family Medicine8.0
Emergency Medicine7.9
Internal Medicine6.8
Orthopedic Surgery5.3

What about pay? Medical Economics tackled how physician compensation has shifted during COVID, notably when utilization and physician productivity may have declined related to elective procedures. Conversely, specialties providing direct COVID care will see utilization spikes and potential compensation increases.

Medical Economics also suggests we may see a dip in fee for service reimbursement of up to 15%. The initial CMS Physician Fee Schedule for 2022 indicates another reduction in physician pay.

On the flip side, healthcare providers have uniformly adopted telemedicine. As long as the government continues to enforce parity in payments like in-person visits, doctors will not feel the financial pinch from our new virtual healthcare services. With that said, new doctors who opt for hospital employment may not feel any of these effects.

Where does that leave you, the new provider, or even the seasoned veteran doctor considering greener pastures? We want to invite you to have a confidential conversation with the healthcare specialists at MedSource Consultants. We want the opportunity to share our understanding of your market and the trends we’re seeing that will affect you next year. For many years, we have been the best-kept secret weapon of primary and specialty doctors seeking better packages and a more comfortable lifestyle. Start the conversation. We can help. Contact us today.