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Happiest Medical Specialties

Consider your happiness both at and outside of work, when choosing a medical specialty.

Happiness and Medical Specialties

Becoming a doctor is no easy feat. Medical school is competitive, grueling, and heavy on the pocket. If you’re going to invest a significant amount of time and resources to earn your M.D., then you want to ensure that the medical career that lies ahead is fulfilling and rewarding financially and otherwise.

Having a satisfactory doctor lifestyle is dependent on multiple factors such as your day-to-day lifestyle, work hours, remuneration, work stress, and more. Being a part of the healthcare industry can sometimes take a toll on some of the best doctors and negatively impact their work life balance.

Having the right information regarding the specialties and medical subspecialties, students who are still deciding on their medical field can pick doctor specialties with the best lifestyle and make an appropriate decision for their desired career path. After all, each specialty demands time and resources to master it.

Americans, many of whom they were powerless to save as hospitals overflowed, resources remained scarce, and viable treatments lurked perpetually in the offing. And healthcare professionals continue to fight the pandemic at the front lines, where long hours and constant danger of exposure are the norm.

To be fair, things weren’t ideal for physicians before the coronavirus pandemic, either. Each year, high numbers of doctors were burning out.

According to Medscape’s National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2020, between 29% and 54% of physicians experienced symptoms of burnout in 2019. That means that even in a year when there was no pandemic, at least 3 in every 10 physicians reported burnout symptoms.

Anyone can take a guess at how those numbers might change once the new results, collected during the pandemic, are tallied early next year. This past year,  COVID-19 survey of US physicians shows that nearly half of doctors are rethinking their careers.

But before you hang up your white coat forever (or button it up for the first time as a new doctor) it’s important to consider that many physicians – even amid a once-in-a-generation pandemic – still find joy and fulfillment in practicing medicine.

Happiness Outside of Work

Here are the medical specialists who are happiest outside of work, according to the Medscape Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2020 (ranked by percentage of physicians responding to the survey question).

These are the happiest medical specialties outside of work:

  • Rheumatology; General Surgery: 60%
  • Public Health & Preventive Medicine; Allergy & Immunology: 59%
  • Orthopedics; Urology; Ophthalmology: 58%
  • Pediatrics: 57%
  • Dermatology: 56%

These are the least happy medical specialties outside of work:

  • Neurology; Critical Care: 44%
  • Internal Medicine: 48%
  • Gastroenterology; Diabetes & Endocrinology; Pulmonary Medicine: 49%
  • Family Medicine; Anesthesiology; Pathology: 50%
  • Nephrology; Cardiology; Oncology; Psychiatry; Radiology: 51%

Happiness at Work

According to the Medscape’s happiness report the most recent report that included at – work happiness as a measure – the least happy physicians outside of work were still happier than the happiest medical specialties at work.

Here are the happiest medical specialties at work:

Based on the percentage of physicians who said they were either very happy or extremely happy at work.

  • Dermatology: 43%
  • Ophthalmology: 42%
  • Allergy & Immunology: 41%
  • Orthopedics; Psychiatry & Mental Health; Pulmonary Medicine: 37%
  • Pediatrics; Pathology; Oncology: 36%

And the least happy medical specialists at work:

  • Rheumatology; Nephrology: 24%
  • Emergency Medicine; Internal Medicine: 28%
  • Family Medicine: 29%
  • Critical Care: 30%
  • Cardiology; Diabetes & Endocrinology; Infectious Disease; Urology: 31%

Skills of Balancing and Confidence

Feeling like you’re good at your job and of course, enjoying time out of work and taking good care of yourself can make it feel like you’re living on easy street.

Alternatively, feeling like you’re constantly underwater, overwhelmed, and punching above your weight class can make life feel like one big losing battle. For its 2019 happiness report, Medscape looked at self-esteem.

Here are the physicians with the highest self esteem:

  • Plastic Surgery: 73%
  • Urology: 68%
  • Ophthalmology; Diabetes & Endocrinology: 67%
  • Orthopedics: 66%
  • Nephrology: 65%

And those with the lowest rates of high self esteem:

  • Infectious Disease: 47%
  • Oncology: 48%
  • Internal Medicine: 50%
  • Family Medicine; Pathology: 51%
  • Pediatrics; Psychiatry: 53%

Financial Aspect

They say money can’t buy happiness, but life is a whole lot easier when you don’t have to think twice about making ends meet.

And when the gaps between the highest and lowest average medical specialty salaries are the size of, well, an entire salary, it makes sense to keep an eye on what you stand to gain, if you are diving headfirst into your career.

Here are the highest paid medical specialties (per the 2020 report):

  • Orthopedics: $511K
  • Plastic Surgery: $479K
  • Otolaryngology: $455K
  • Cardiology: $438K
  • Radiology: $427K

And the lowest paid medical specialties:

  • Pediatrics; Public Health & Preventive Medicine: $232K
  • Family Medicine: $234K
  • Diabetes & Endocrinology: $236K
  • Infectious Disease: $246K
  • Internal Medicine: $251K

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