If you're considering a career in medicine, it's important to know that there are some significant differences in salary between specialties. The big bucks come in specialties such as neurosurgery and interventional cardiology, and most doctors earn a lot less. That doesn't mean they're worried about their next meal, but it might take longer to pay off those student loans. For example, endocrinologists are specialists within the field of internal medicine. They make more than general internists, but substantially less than many other practitioners.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics isn't a good source of information about doctors' salaries, because their incomes are literally off the scale. You have to use figures from third-party sources, including health-care organizations and consultants, to get a better fix on average or median incomes. For example, specialty recruiter Profiles deals in newly-trained physicians. That firm's 2011-2012 salary survey showed a median salary of $165,000 for endocrinologists in their first year of practice. By the sixth year in practice, the survey's respondents reported an average salary of $214,550.
Early career stats are a good starting point, but other surveys provide further information. For example, the American Medical Group Association's 2012 survey of physicians reported a median salary of $221,400 per year. Endocrinology made it onto recruiter Merrit-Hawkins' 2011 list of most-recruited specialties, with an average salary offer of $218,000. The highest offered salary was $270,000, and the lowest was $180,000. Those figures are all lower than in 2008/2009, when the economy tanked. Medscape's 2012 survey reported that 51 percent of endocrinologists earned between $150,000 and $250,000, and only about 15 percent earned more than $250,000.
Those numbers would be good by most standards, but it places them in the lower range by medical standards. For example, the AMGA's figures show endocrinologists out-earning psychiatrists, pediatricians, family doctors and their own colleagues in pediatric endocrinology. However, it places them well behind most other physicians and surgeons. The highest-earning specialty, orthopedic spinal surgery, reports a median salary of $710,556 per year. That's over three times an endocrinologist's median salary. On the other hand, if endocrinology interests you, earning over $200,000 a year isn't really that big a privation.
Endocrinologists begin their careers like all other physicians, with a four-year premedical degree followed by four more years of medical or osteopathic college. At graduation, you'd enroll in an internal medicine residency for three years. After you've passed your board exams and become a certified internist, you can go on to study endocrinology in a specialized three-year fellowship. Finally there's a second set of exams, to be recognized as a board-certified endocrinologist. Endocrinologists treat conditions of the glands, and the hormonal imbalances that result from them. This includes diabetes, growth disorders, infertility, and some forms of chronic obesity.
- Profiles Database: 2011/2012 Physician Salary Survey
- Cejka Search: Physician Salaries reported by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA)
- Merritt-Hawkins: 2011 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives
- Medscape: Medscape Endocrinologist Compensation Report 2012
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Internal Medicine
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images