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Special Communication
September 6, 2000

Trends in US Medical School Faculty Salaries, 1988-1989 to 1998-1999

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC (Drs Studer-Ellis and Jones and Ms Gold). Dr Studer-Ellis is now with the Department of Decision and Information Technologies, University of Maryland, College Park.

JAMA. 2000;284(9):1130-1135. doi:10.1001/jama.284.9.1130

Expansion of managed care, intensified price competition, and the introduction of the Medicare Fee Schedule have all affected physician compensation during the past decade. We examine trends in the salaries of medical school faculty, particularly MD clinical faculty, based on a more extensive salary database than has been used previously. Data collected through the Association of American Medical Colleges' Faculty Salary Survey for the academic years 1988-1989, 1993-1994, and 1998-1999 were analyzed, and inflation-adjusted salary growth rates for clinical and basic science faculty during two 5-year periods, 1988-1993 and 1993-1998, compared across faculty ranks, departments, and various school characteristics.

The comparison showed that, between 1988 and 1998, the actual median clinical faculty salary increased from $101,000 to $150,000, and the actual median basic science faculty salary increased from $52,000 to $78,000. Bivariate and multivariate analyses showed that the proportionate change in real mean salary (base year, 1988) in each 5-year period was related to department and faculty rank for clinical faculty (P<.001) and faculty rank for basic science faculty (P<.001). The inflation-adjusted annualized compound growth rate of clinical faculty salaries declined from 1.9% per year (1988-1993) to 0.2% per year (1993-1998), while the growth rate of basic science faculty salaries increased from 0.3% per year (1988-1993) to 1.3% per year (1993-1998). From 1993 to 1998, inflation-adjusted annualized salary growth rates in several clinical departments were negative (anesthesiology, –1.1%; obstetrics and gynecology, –0.5%; radiology, –0.4%; and neurology, –0.1%) but were positive for family practice (+2.7%). Significant differences in salary growth related to school characteristics (eg, geographic region, public vs private, community based vs non–community based, and research intensity) were specific to particular study periods. Overall, while actual average medical school faculty salaries are increasing, the real growth rate of average clinical faculty salaries is declining and that of basic science faculty increasing.