Health Careers 2016 Compensation Trends

Survey: Salaries Increase for Most Clinicians, Decline for Healthcare Executives

doctor and nurse talking and looking at digital tablet in hospital hallway
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A survey of 20,000 healthcare professionals reveals yet more data pointing to the persistent trend of increases in salaries and average annual incomes for most healthcare professionals. The survey, conducted by HealtheCareers, a healthcare online career hub, showed significant and steady increases for most clinicians surveyed, with a somewhat surprising trend of declining income for healthcare executives.

A few highlights of the survey results include the following:

  • The highest-paid positions are physicians at $256,000 a year, executives at $135,000 and PAs at $106,000; on the lower end, allied health professionals earn just $50,000
  • Physician assistants received a higher salary increase than physicians/surgeons and are happiest with their pay and positions
  • Nurses saw a 3 percent salary drop from 2015 and are generally dissatisfied with their pay
  • 29 percent plan to change employers in the next year

Healthcare Professionals Confident About their Ability to Find a New Job

Based on the survey findings, retention strategies are paramount for healthcare employers as demand intensifies for healthcare workers. In a proverbial "shot across the bow" to healthcare employers, the survey also found that 86 percent of healthcare workers are confident in their ability to find a new job within the next 12 months.


Of the healthcare professionals who participated, 29 percent said they anticipate changing employers in the next year, while 30 percent have no plans to change, and 41 percent are unsure. Furthermore, 86 percent are confident they could find a new position. The top reasons given for seeking new employment were higher pay, more rewarding and challenging work, better working hours and wanting to work for a different organization.

Despite the intensely competitive hiring market, employers are falling short in motivating employees to stay. While 61 percent offer some type of incentive to retain employees, this represents just a 1 percent increase from last year, and 39 percent offer no motivator at all.  
Employers and managers in the healthcare industry must be proactive and find ways to try to exercise some control or at least influence over the situation, and enhance employees' motivation as much as possible. “Healthcare employers have an opportunity to sway those 41 percent who are on the fence about leaving,” said Bryan Bassett, Health eCareer’s Managing Director. “It’s not just about higher pay. They could be incented with more rewarding or challenging tasks, or by retooling their work hours.”

10 out of 14 Positions Report Pay Increases

Of the positions that were surveyed, the following reported increases over the previous year:

The positions that reported the largest year-over-year salary increases were academics/research, administrative/operations and allied health.

Healthcare executives and pharmacy saw the biggest decrease this year. Nurses reported a small decline in pay of 3.1 percent, to $61,875. Health executive pay decreased by 12.9 percent, to $134,632 annually.
High demand likely contributed to the above-average increase in pay for non-physician advanced practice clinicians. “It struck us that NPs and PAs received a higher pay bump than physicians,” said Bassett. “This could, at least in part, be attributed to the physician shortage, which is causing healthcare providers to hire NPs and PAs in larger numbers, and having to pay them more to be competitive.”
Where employees live and work also impacts annual compensation. For example, physicians in California are paid nearly $40,000 more a year than their Florida counterparts, and nurses in New York are paid over $7,000 more than those in Colorado.

Some of the pay differential reflects disparities in cost of living from one part of the country to the next.  

Job Satisfaction Among Healthcare Workers Varies by Role

Job satisfaction varies by health profession, the survey found. Forty-five percent are satisfied with their salaries, 14 percent are neutral and 41 percent are dissatisfied. When it comes to their jobs and employers, 57 percent report being happy, but a sizeable 43 percent are actively looking for better opportunities. 
Among nurses, only 44 percent are satisfied with their salaries. The main drivers of dissatisfaction are that salaries don’t reflect experience or are lower than similar jobs in the region. Seventeen percent are happy and plan to stay in their current jobs, but 13 percent are actively looking elsewhere. 
Physician assistants are the most satisfied with their salary and current position – 60 percent are happy about their pay, and 27 percent said they are “very happy” in their current jobs.
Physicians and surgeons are happier than nurses, but less so than PAs. More than half (52 percent) of doctors are content with their salaries, and 20 percent plan to stay with their current employer. Those who are dissatisfied pointed to pay that is below similar positions, and being required to work uncompensated hours.