United States general practitioners and specialists are among the highest paid physicians in the world, according to a 2007 Congressional Research Service report.
However, a direct cross-country comparison is challenging due to the varying standards of living provided by the same salary in different locations. Here are two ways of making the comparison:
One analysis adjusts salaries by purchasing-power parities. In this comparison, the numbers are adjusted to allow $1,000 to buy an equal amount of goods and services in every country, making it possible to appreciate the standards of living (Average Compensation in U.S. Dollar Purchasing Power, columns 2 and 4). General practice physicians rank at the top in this comparison, with specialists not far behind.
The other method of comparison takes physician salaries compared to the average national income by country - specifically, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (Average Compensation in U.S. Dollar Purchasing Power, columns 3 and 5).
It is statistically valid for the compensation of physicians to increase as a country’s wealth increases; although even this calculation cannot explain the rate at which the United States compensates its physicians. As the Average report suggests, perhaps the variance is related in part to the cost of higher education. For example, while students of other countries may begin their careers with little to no educational debt, an astounding 87.6 percent of 2006 American medical school graduates had outstanding educational loans averaging $129,943.
Source: U.S. Health Care Spending: Comparison with Other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Countries, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), September 17, 2007.
Notes: Amounts are adjusted using U.S. dollar purchasing-power parities. Amounts from previous years are trended up to 2004 dollars using the annualized Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index for wages and salaries of health services workers in private industry. It is not known whether wage growth in health professions in other countries was similar to that in the United States. One country has both salaried and self-employed general practitioners. In the United States, salaried general practitioners earn an average of $134,600, compared to $154,200 if self-employed. Recent data are available only for 21 of the 30 OECD countries.