Physician Career Outlook

Healthcare jobs in the United States have been growing for decades, and the most recent reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show no signs that healthcare job growth will slow any time soon. In the ten year period ending 2018, approximately 26% of all new jobs will be in the healthcare and social assistance industry, which includes public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and individual and family services. The sector as a whole is projected to add 4 million new jobs – that’s a 24% growth rate.

These projections shouldn’t be surprising. Even during the recession, healthcare added 631,000 jobs from December 2007 through the end of 2009. An aging population and longer life expectancies have been key factors driving this growth, and they will continue to do so. Additionally, new legislation giving millions of uninsured Americans access to healthcare coverage will also influence the need for healthcare providers.

But "healthcare providers" is a broad term – encompassing everything from home health aides to dental hygienists to neurosurgeons. Where does your occupation fall?

It should be no surprise that physicians and surgeons make the BLS list of the 30 occupations with the largest projected employment growth. During the ten year period from 2008 to 2018, the BLS projects 144,000 new physician jobs will be created – an increase of 21.8% (a rate classified by the BLS as "much faster than average").

Physicians have reason to be optimistic

Clearly, physicians have reason to feel optimistic about their future job prospects, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that physicians are without worry. After all, healthcare has not been totally immune to the effects of the recession. According to the Career Survey, 25% of physicians seeking permanent positions this year are doing so because of cut backs at their former employers. Other commonly cited reasons physicians are looking for jobs are new location (52%), better pay and benefits (39%), and more responsibility and growth potential (30%).

The survey also discovered that 71% of our respondents expect to be working as a physician ten years from now; 10% said they would be retired, 10% said they weren’t sure, and 2% said they would probably change professions.

77% of survey respondents feel personally fulfilled by their profession (though 39% say while they are fulfilled, it is not as fulfilling as it once was). Several comments reflect the passion for medicine many physicians feel.

  • "Medicine is a calling."
  • "Medicine is a noble profession. Saving lives and helping people is very rewarding."
  • "[Medicine offers a] fabulous life – [you] help people; it’s scientifically interesting; you make good money and have lots of self-respect."

Job frustrations are common among physicians

Of course not all physicians feel quite so positive about their profession. When asked if they would encourage a younger family member or friend to pursue a career as a physician, only 39% of respondents answered "yes," an additional 30% said "maybe," 16% said "probably not," and 11% said "no."

When asked to explain why they would or would not recommend a career as a physician, respondents cited pending healthcare legislation, malpractice issues, and insurance company red tape as reasons for their hesitation. Several physicians also mentioned the increasingly high cost of a medical education as a deterrent. The overall comments from physicians were positive, and most physicians would recommend a physician career, though not without a word of warning.

  • "We will continue to need physicians and those who truly care about humanity…However, the environment to do so is becoming more adverse and difficult."
  • "We need more physicians, but malpractice insurance is too high for a new doctor."
  • "[I would] only [recommend] if they really loved the practice of medicine and didn’t expect significant financial reward or social respect."


So what does all this mean for the Physician Career Outlook? Well, it’s safe to assume there will be more than enough jobs for physicians, though the jobs may not be in ideal locations and the workloads may increase. Don’t expect stress levels to go down in the physician community any time soon, but regardless of the stress associated with a physician career, most physicians will continue to feel that the rewards outweigh the frustrations.