Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report 2011 determined the overall satisfaction level of 22 specialties. Overall satisfaction was ranked by averaging responses to questions about compensation and career and specialty choice.
Dermatologists ranked highest in every question, coming in with an 80 percent overall satisfaction rate.
"Flexibility and predictability are two reasons dermatologists enjoy higher levels of job satisfaction," says Amy Derick, M.D., owner of Derick Dermatology, LLC. "Dermatologists can sub-specialize or do it all: pathology, surgery, cosmetics, pediatrics, adult patients, etc. Dermatologists can work routine daytime hours (full time or part time) and thus have predictable family time in the evenings not typically interrupted by emergencies."
Radiologists came in second as a group in overall satisfaction (72 percent).
John A. Patti, M.D., FACR, radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and chairman of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors, has been practicing for 36 years.
He’s not surprised that his specialty ranked so high among physician satisfaction.
"You’re at the center of everything," he says. "There’s very little diagnosis that occurs today without the use of imaging. That makes you able to interact with a wide range of physicians and a wide range of patients."
Radiologists tied with orthopedic surgeons for the highest median annual income in the report ($350,000), which might add to the group’s happiness quotient. But dermatologists came in at $290,000 - eighth on the list of specialties surveyed. So what makes them truly happy?
"My favorite part about the specialty of dermatology is that it is action-oriented," Derick says. "When a patient comes in with a problem, I can often do something about it that day. If there is a suspicious lesion, I can take a biopsy to get a firm diagnosis. If a patient has a wart, I freeze it; if she has broken blood vessels, I can zap them with my laser and they disappear. I like the instant gratification that comes from seeing a problem, diagnosing it and treating it immediately."