Lowest-Paying Physician Careers

Medical specialties that pay less may be personally rewarding for doctors.

While money often is not the primary reason people decide to become doctors, money often factors into the decision when choosing a medical specialty. Due to the large amount of debt prospective physicians often incur during the many years of additional school and training, earning potential can be very important for some physician candidates. However, that can be balanced by a doctor's preference for working with a certain type of patient and in a setting that is preferred. Find out which physician careers pay the lowest of all physician jobs.

1
Geriatrician

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Physicians who specialize in caring for elderly patients (generally age 65 and over) are called geriatricians. These specialists earned about $188,000 per year in 2017. Geriatricians are family practitioners or internists who do an additional fellowship in geriatric medicine. However, despite the additional training, geriatricians earn less than their counterparts who remain in internal medicine or family medicine.

2
Hospice and Palliative Care Physician

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Hospice and palliative care is a relatively new medical specialty for physicians, with certification as a specialty beginning in 1996. Primary care physicians or geriatricians may complete additional fellowship training in hospice and palliative care, which focuses on long-term illnesses and terminally ill patients.

While this can be a very intense and rewarding specialty in reviewing difficult cases for seriously ill patients, it is not as economically rewarding as many other specialties. The average pay was around $190,000 per year in 2017 and has changed little in several years.

3
Psychiatrist

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Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in treating the mental health of their patients. In 2017, the average salary was $263,000. Psychiatrists who specialize in treating children and adolescents reported a slightly higher median income. The range is large, from $120,000 to $450,000. Those who practice was hospital-based made more on average. Salaries were lowest on average for psychiatrists in the Northeast.

4
Pediatrician

Pediatricians specialize in providing primary healthcare for children from birth to 18 years of age. General pediatricians earn a median income of about $240,000. Some pediatric subspecialists earn even less than general pediatricians. The range of salaries was from $170,000 to $400,000 in 2017.

5
Family Medicine (Family Practitioner) Primary Care

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Family practice doctors are also amongst the lowest earners of the physician workforce. Family practitioners who only practice ambulatory (office-based) medicine earn the least among those in this specialty. Family practitioners who practice a combination of out-patient and in-patient (hospital-based) medicine earn slightly more. Family practitioners who practice obstetrics in addition to family medicine earn the most. The range is from $110,000 to $400,000 with an average of $231,000 per year in 2017.

Where you practice also makes a difference, with the lowest salaries seen in the Northeast and the highest in the Southwest.

6
Internal Medicine (Internist) Primary Care

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Physicians who practice general internal medicine (adult primary care) earned a median income of about $257,000 in 2017 for those who practiced in a hospital setting. Internists who practice ambulatory care only earn less, with a $225,000 average for practicing in community health centers or group practice. Salaries were substantially lower in the Northeast and highest in the Southwest, with a difference of over $80,000 per year on average.

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