The salaries of obstetricians and gynecologists grew by $24,000 on average in 2021, according to Medscape’s 2022 OB/GYN Compensation Report. Since experiencing an increase of only $4,000 in average pay in 2020, the jump in OB/GYN salary is especially encouraging.
The study also found that OB/GYNs face tougher financial realities when deciding whether to work for themselves or for a healthcare organization. Plus, frustrations with long hours, rule, regulations, and paperwork are high. That said, most OB/GYNs say they are happy at work, and their overall job satisfaction is attributed largely to the positive interactions with patients and the feeling that they’re making a difference in the world.
As of 2021, the average obstetrics and gynecology salary was the 16th highest among the specialties surveyed, with an average annual income of $336,000. That puts OB/GYNs squarely in the middle third in how their earnings compare to colleagues of other specialties.
The 2021 average OB/GYN salary represents a $24,000 pay increase from 2020’s average of $312,000, a growth of about 7% year over year.
What is the average incentive bonus for OB/GYNs?
57% of survey respondents across specialties reported that they received an incentive bonus in 2021. The average incentive bonus for OB/GYNs was $49,000 in 2021, up slightly from $48,000 the year prior.
These incentive bonuses are generally based on productivity and output. Often, they are tied to factors like patient satisfaction, efficient clinical processes, and other goals. In 2021, bonuses made up nearly 15% of overall salaries in obstetrics and gynecology.
For all specialties, the average bonus size was $59,000, making that of OB/GYNs below the median relative to other specialties.
Employed vs. self-employed OB/GYNs
The report looked closer at how incomes varied across physicians who are self-employed versus those who work in hospitals, health systems, or other healthcare organizations. For physicians overall, self-employed physicians earned an average 20% more last year than their employed counterparts.
Unfortunately, this trend doesn’t hold true for those who work in obstetrics and gynecology. OB/GYNs employed in physical medical settings reported average compensation 12% higher than those self-employed in medical practices. In 2021, employed OB/GYNs earned $361,000; those who worked for themselves earned $38,000 less on average ($323,000).
OB/GYNs who work extra to supplement their income
Nearly four in 10 OB/GYNs took on extra work to supplement their income in 2021, which is about the same rate as physicians across the board (36%).
Of the 38% of OB/GYNs who pursued side hustles, the majority of jobs were medical-related. A full 14% of these doctors pursued medical moonlighting, which includes locum tenens. Only 6% of OB/GYN survey respondents earning supplemental income cite pursuing work outside of the medical field.
Do OB/GYNs feel fairly compensated?
Nearly 51% of the OB/GYNs surveyed don’t believe they are fairly compensated, which falls to the bottom third of satisfaction compared to physicians in other areas of specializations. When asked if they would choose the same specialty again, nearly a quarter (24%) said no.
One driver of this percentage of dissatisfaction could be the pivot towards production bonuses, which can feel at odds with a physician’s innate desire to care for patients.
OB/GYN Dr. Jacqueline Brown, who works locum tenens full-time, says, “I left full time academic practice and the healthcare system environment, because I felt very undervalued as a doctor. A lot of my work life was centered around immense pressure from the university to make money; all they were talking about was seeing huge numbers of patients. I kind of lost a lot of joy for medicine.”
When Dr. Brown realized she could make ends meet with a more flexible work arrangement, she didn’t hesitate to pursue OB/GYN locum tenens work. “I make much less money than I used to make, but I make enough to cover my mortgage and cover my living expenses, cover contributing the maximum amount that I can per year for tax free saving, and I can still look forward to doing what I want to do with my lifestyle.”
OB/GYN Dr. Roseann Freundel turned to locum tenens for similar reasons —to escape “the politics and committees that take you away from your patients.”
One oft-overlooked upside of working as a OB/GYN is that your week isn’t mired in documentation and paperwork the way some specialties can be. OB/GYN respondents to the survey reported spending an average of 14.6 hours per week managing administrative responsibilities.
This is about an hour below the average across all physicians (15.5 hours per week), and well below the higher end of the scale. Infectious disease doctors report spending the most time — nearly 20 hours weekly on paperwork and administration —roughly 25% more time than an OB/GYN in a given week.
What OB/GYNs find most challenging
Not every day is full of healthy patients and happy babies. OB/GYNs experience some frustrations on the job. Having to work long hours displeased 21% of respondents in 2021, edging out difficulties in managing myriad rules and regulations as the chief concern.
Working with electronic health record systems and dealing with challenging patients round out the top four parts of the job cited as most challenging.
What OB/GYNs find most rewarding
Despite these frustrations, OB/GYNs still find a lot to love about their jobs. Satisfaction is derived from the gratitude received and relationships built with their patients for two fifths of respondents (40%). Nearly one fifth of respondents similarly find joy in helping others — and knowing that they are making the world a better place.
Job satisfaction is further underscored by how good it feels to have high competence at work by successfully diagnosing patients, as well as making good money at a job that they like. Teaching others and the pride born of being a doctor are other common joys found on the job.
OB/GYN Dr. Linda Holt finds that locum tenens has given her a better work/life balance that enables her to enjoy her work. “That’s the beauty of locums: You can actually take chunks of time and do things.”
“I tried to take longer stints of time off a few times while I was at a practice, but it’s just hard to do. It created a lot of disruptions in the practice. With locums, I didn’t feel guilty leaving or that bad things could happen while I was gone. I was able to concentrate on the needs at hand and not worry about what was going on with the practice at home.”