Physician career satisfaction across specialties

Arch Intern Med. 2002 Jul 22;162(14):1577-84. doi: 10.1001/archinte.162.14.1577.


Background: The career satisfaction and dissatisfaction physicians experience likely influence the quality of medical care.

Objective: To compare career satisfaction across specialties among US physicians.

Methods: We analyzed data from the Community Tracking Study of 12 474 physicians (response rate, 65%) for the late 1990s. Data are cross-sectional. Two satisfaction variables were created: very satisfied and dissatisfied. Thirty-three specialty categories were analyzed.

Results: After adjusting for control variables, the following specialties are significantly more likely than family medicine to be very satisfying: geriatric internal medicine (odds ratio [OR], 2.04); neonatal-perinatal medicine (OR, 1.89); dermatology (OR, 1.48); and pediatrics (OR, 1.36). The following are significantly more likely than family medicine to be dissatisfying: otolaryngology (OR, 1.78); obstetrics-gynecology (OR, 1.61); ophthalmology (OR, 1.51); orthopedics (OR, 1.36); and internal medicine (OR, 1.22). Among the control variables, we also found nonlinear relations between age and satisfaction; high satisfaction among physicians in the west north Central and New England states and high dissatisfaction in the south Atlantic, west south Central, Mountain, and Pacific states; positive associations between income and satisfaction; and no differences between women and men.

Conclusions: Career satisfaction and dissatisfaction vary across specialty as well as age, income, and region. These variations are likely to be of interest to residency directors, managed care administrators, students selecting a specialty, and physicians in the groups with high satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Career Choice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medicine* / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Specialization*
  • United States / epidemiology