Family medicine is a specialty characterized by a high level of professional satisfaction, personal balance between career and home, and a comfortable lifestyle. While practice arrangements, to a large extent, determine work hours, schedule and family time, flexible practice models offer family physicians a wide range of lifestyle options. They have the flexibility to define their careers based on their own skills and preferences. They are also able to tailor their practices to the specific needs of the community in which they live.
It is important to understand the connection between income and the lifestyle you can expect to have as a family physician. There is a general rule that, no matter what the profession, the more time you commit and the harder you work, the more you are paid. The tradeoff is the loss of flexibility – the ability to maintain life balance. Most family physicians will tell you that they are comfortable with their salaries and the balance they have found in their personal and professional lives. Family physicians also enjoy flexible practice options and the ability they have to “make a living and a life.”
Family physicians frequently cite their specialty as a rewarding one that allows them to maintain “life balance” while also managing a schedule that’s busy enough to accommodate patients with an array of needs. One family physician noted that “family medicine is among the most gratifying of all medical specialties. The variety and clinical challenges it offers are endless, which promises a lifetime of stimulation and learning.”
One of the unique aspects of family medicine is that it offers a degree of flexibility that many other medical specialties do not. Because family physicians are needed in every part of the country, they have the option to choose their location and work in urban or rural settings, to pick their practice environment and scope of practice, and to pursue different career paths, such as public health, teaching, and research. With options like flexible scheduling and part-time practice, raising a family is quite manageable and rewarding.
Recent AAFP practice profile surveys revealed family physicians:
– Spend 68% of their time in direct patient care
– Work an average 47 weeks per year in patient-related or professional activities
– See an average of 89 patients per week in office-based visits (10 in other settings)
– Have an average of five weeks for vacation or CME-related activities per year
Experienced family physicians have insight on managing successful careers while still maintaining life balance. Learn how they created lifestyles that afforded them opportunities to travel, raise families, and serve as mentors for young physicians in our Family Physician Q&As.
Incomes for family physicians compare favorably to those of other primary care specialties as well as other professional careers that require advanced education and training. Career satisfaction surveys also indicate that family physicians are generally pleased with their incomes. While income typically varies by region, years in practice and type of practice, the average net income of family physicians ($160,000) allows them to effectively pay off student loans in a reasonable amount of time and comfortably support their families.
Practice profile surveys conducted by the AAFP show that family physicians less than seven years out of residency earn (on average) more than $145,000. In some areas (especially rural settings), those who practice maternity care can expect to earn an average of $5,000-10,000 more in net income. Income also depends on whether the physican works in a solo, two-person, or multispecialty practice. Depending upon the region of the country in which one chooses to practice, certain office visits and procedures are also rewarded more highly. Table 4 of the profile surveys has more information about income.