Anesthesia Salaries Are Increasing – But for How Long?

anesthesia salaries

Even in an overall flat-pay situation for medical professionals, anesthesia salaries are on the rise—but there’s a threat to that trend in the form of a decrease in the number of surgeons. This could cause a future drop in the demand for anesthesiologists, leaving some anesthesia providers out of work.

The Current State of Anesthesia Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that physician pay is stable, but from 2004 to 2014, salaries for anesthesiologists has increased. A study led by David DeKorte, JD, from Pennsylvania State University, collected data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Association of American Medical Colleges to determine the effect of educational interest and salaries on the future of anesthesiology. His findings were presented at the 2017 PostGraduate Assembly in Anesthesiology.

From 2004 to 2014, the increase in anesthesia salaries was a rate of 1.21% per yearhigher than any other sector in the medical field. The salaries for anesthesiologists in 2014 was higher than other specialties, boasting a median of $246,650a significant $6,000 more than surgeons, who came in as the second highest-paid group. The field of anesthesiology grew almost 20% during this time period, as well, while the other fields only saw growth of 3%.

Factors in the Decline in Surgeons

Unfortunately, while anesthesiologists were experiencing a raise in pay, surgeons were seeing a decline of professionals in their field. In the same time period (2004-2014), the number of surgeons fell 26.4%over 4% per year. According to Mr. DeKorte, the reasons for this decline were myriad, from the demands of residency to the burden of student debt. Additionally, surgeon salaries have increased only 0.55% per year, which may also contribute to the decreased numbers of people entering that occupation.

Educational expenses play into this equation as well, with undergraduate and medical training costs having risen 23% and 27.9% respectively. It’s true that admissions to medical school have gone up, but the significant growth in student debt may cause students to avoid specialties that require long, costly residencies.

The Overall Effect

The decline in surgeons could result in a lower demand for anesthesiologists, which could have a long-term effect on both anesthesia salaries and the number of anesthesiology positions available. And that’s assuming students continue to believe that the cost of medical school and all its trappings is worth it—which, given that they’ll be paying about half of their income to student loan debt upon finishing, isn’t necessarily a given.

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