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The EMN Salary Survey: Can Money Buy Happiness? No, but It Sure Helps

Lam, Jackie

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000544431.12666.b1
The EMN Salary Survey

Ms. Lam is the associate editor of Emergency Medicine News.

We all know money can't buy happiness, but a higher salary does seem to make for happier EPs, at least in our latest salary survey.

The salary category with the largest percentage of very satisfied EPs was $325,001-$350,000 at a whopping 51 percent (up from 39% in 2015). This group also saw the lowest percentage of very dissatisfied EPs: zero percent, a decrease from four percent in 2015. The runner-up surprisingly was not the highest salary range but those making $150,001-175,000, 49 percent of whom said they were very satisfied with their careers, a big increase from 31 percent in 2015.

It's intuitive to associate low salary with low career satisfaction, but that just wasn't the case in our survey: The percentage of EPs who were very satisfied with their careers is way higher at 52 percent in the cohort making under $100,000 a year than in other income ranges in 2015. Fast forward to 2017, this group fell a few notches in career satisfaction—only 45 percent said they were very satisfied. EPs making $175,001-$200,000 reported a decline in career satisfaction, with only 23 percent saying they were very satisfied compared with 33 percent in 2015.

EPs were generally less satisfied with their careers than they were when we surveyed them two years ago, but that likely comes as no surprise with articles about burnout everywhere you turn. That's reflected in our latest salary survey: Forty percent of EPs reported feeling very satisfied with their careers in 2015 compared with only 38 percent in 2017. The percentage of EPs somewhat satisfied with their careers, however, inched up from 35 percent to 36 percent in two years, as did the percentage of those who were neutral on the topic: 11 percent in 2017 v. 10 percent in 2015. As in 2015, 10 percent of EPs said they were somewhat dissatisfied with their careers, but those saying they were very dissatisfied with their careers rose a little—six percent in 2017 compared with five percent in 2015.

Gender also seemed to affect career satisfaction. Male and female EPs were still about equally satisfied with their careers in 2017, but male EPs reported feeling very or somewhat satisfied at 86 percent v. 84 percent in 2015. Fewer female EPs felt the same, decreasing from 81 percent to 79 percent.

Advanced age correlated with higher career satisfaction in 2015, and that trend continued in 2017. The percentage of those between 26 and 30 years old who were very or somewhat satisfied with their jobs stayed the same at four percent, still the lowest across all age groups. EPs aged 31 to 40 years saw a sharp decline in satisfaction, but only 17 percent of them and 26 percent of those 36 to 40 said they were very or somewhat satisfied, compared with 25 percent and 38 percent in 2015, respectively.

It's unclear whether board certification affects EPs' career satisfaction one way or another, but non-board-certified EPs seemed to be happier with their careers than board-certified ones. Board-certified and non-board-certified EPs experienced an increase in career satisfaction, with those reporting feeling very or somewhat satisfied rising to 83 percent and 89 percent, respectively, in 2017. The gap between the two widened considerably in two years, however. About the same percentage of board-certified and non-board-certified EPs were very or somewhat satisfied with their careers in 2015—82 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

The shake-up is also evident in our survey's work environment data. EPs at freestanding EDs ranked highest in career satisfaction, with 89 percent of them reporting feeling very or somewhat satisfied v. 86 percent in 2015. Those in academia fell to second place in 2017. More hospital EPs were very or somewhat satisfied in 2017 at 85 percent, up from 82 percent.

Not as many or as drastic changes were found in our data about the type of hospital where EPs work. Those in university institutions still had the highest career satisfaction at 88 percent in 2017, even though it decreased from 90 percent in 2015. Those working in nonprofit community hospitals were the second-highest at 85 percent in 2017 v. 81 percent in 2015.

EPs certainly enjoy their work—the more patients they see, the happier they are. More than 85 percent of those who worked in EDs that had more than 30,000 visits a year said they were very or somewhat satisfied with their careers compared with 84 percent in 2015, and they tied for first place with EPs in EDs with 15,001-20,000 annual visits (85% v. 83% in 2015).

No matter the employer type, however, EPs seem to be getting happier. Those working for independent groups were the most satisfied at 86 percent compared with 84 percent in 2015. Close to 84 percent of EPs employed by hospitals reported feeling very or somewhat satisfied (82% in 2015), as did 83 percent of those who worked for contract management or staffing groups (82% in 2015), and 83 percent of locum tenens EPs (78% in 2015).

Find a more comprehensive version of this article with additional tables and data in the Emergency Medicine News Salary Survey blog at http://bit.ly/EMNSalarySurvey.

Next month: Then and Now: How Satisfied Are Emergency Physicians with their Employers? We'll cross-reference career satisfaction data with employer, years in practice, age, title, and more. We'll also publish that article ahead of print in our enews. Sign up for the enews (completely free!) at http://bit.ly/EMNenews.

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