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How Pathology Fared in Medscape Physician Compensation Survey

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

According to the results of the most recent Medscape Physician Compensation Report, pathologists earned a mean income of $221,000—about the middle of the field in earnings among all physicians in this survey. About one in five pathologists earned more than $300,000, while 17 percent earned $100,000 or less. For employed pathologists, compensation includes salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions. For partners, compensation includes earnings after tax-deductible business expenses but before income tax.

Compensation excludes non-patient-related activities (e.g., expert witness fees, speaking engagements, and product sales). In 2011, one third of pathologists earned more than they did in 2010, about the same as for physicians in all specialties. About 22 percent of pathologists reported a decline in income, while 45 percent said that their compensation had remained the same.

The gap in earnings between male and female physicians is smaller for pathologists than for many other specialties. Male pathologists earned a mean of $231,000 as compared with $212,000 for female pathologists—a mere 9 percent difference.

Pathologists in office-based single-specialty group practices earned the most -- a mean of $302,000 -- followed by those in office-based multispecialty groups, at a mean of $292,000. Pathologists employed by hospitals earned considerably less, at $221,000.

With respect to whether they are fairly compensated, pathologists are much happier with their lot than are physicians overall. About 62 percent said they are content with their level of compensation. Only dermatologists have a higher percentage of satisfaction.

Because pathologists tend to work in the laboratory rather than in direct patient care, nearly 50 percent of the pathologists surveyed spend less than 30 hours per week seeing patients. As one pathologist commented, “We see ‘pieces’ of patients, probably of the order of 25–50 per day from separate patients in surgical pathology.” One in five pathologists spends an average of 30–40 hours per week on patient encounters. Only 7 percent spend more than 60 hours per week seeing patients.

Paperwork, participation in professional organizations, clinical reading, and supervisory and administrative work take up a significant amount of time for pathologists. One third spends 25 or more hours per week on non-patient-related activities. Only 10 percent of physicians across all specialties spend that much time on these tasks. More than 25 percent of pathologists spend 10–19 hours per week on non-patient-related activities, while 13 percent spend fewer than four hours. For the complete survey results, go to