The heart is a very complex and essential organ in the body. As a cardiologist, your role in keeping that organ functioning properly earns you one of the highest salaries in the medical field.
Within the cardiology specialty, there is a wide range in the amount of money physicians can make. Most of this is due to experience, location, and the type of facility a cardiologist practices in.
There are some ways that a cardiologist can increase their salary outside of these constant factors. By making a few key strategic career choices, you can possibly see a dramatic increase in your earnings.
Are you a new cardiologist trying to take the necessary steps to ensure you earn as much as you can? Perhaps you are relatively experienced and would like to increase your salary but aren’t sure how.
This article will explain the key factors in how a cardiologist’s salary is determined. It will also touch on what you should do to protect your earned income and progress toward a stable financial future.
Average Cardiologist Salary
According to the annual Medscape Compensation Report for 2019, cardiologists are ranked the fourth highest-paid physician, earning an average of $430,000.
Merritt Hawkins reported that an invasive cardiologist earns an average of $648,000 in their first year. MedAxiom’s Cardiovascular Provider Compensation and Production Survey reported a cardiologist’s average income to $577,329 per year.
From these numbers, we can see that the average cardiologist’s compensation can be relatively higher than initially thought. But still, only 54% of cardiologists feel fairly compensated — leaving almost half of cardiologists looking for more income.
Factors That Affect Your Salary
Let’s get back to that wide range of income in what is even considered an average cardiologist salary. Understandably, the range of income from the lowest percentile to the highest is broad.
There are a few trending factors that can affect how much you will earn. Let’s discuss these factors.
Related Reading: Why every physician should have an FIO Rider in their disability policy.
Years of Experience
According to the Medscape Residents Salary & Debt Report 2020, the average cardiologist job will earn $68,600. Of course, this number will start low and increase with each year of completed residency.
As you progress to employment under a practice, you will start toward the lower end of the pay scale, but even this can be improved by tipping the scale in your favor with other factors.
According to MedAxiom’s 2019 Cardiovascular Provider Compensation and Production Survey, one in four cardiologists are now over the age of 61. This means that a quarter of all cardiologists will be retiring in the next decade.
This will open up a significant area for younger practitioners to take their place and earn a good average salary. As these fresh doctors gain years of experience, they will also make a much higher total compensation.
One factor that could help you earn more than the average cardiologist is which location you decide to practice in.
According to Zippia, the best paying states for cardiology include Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Their reported salaries for these states are way below the reported salaries from both Medscape and Merritt Hawkins.
However, if you look at the posted jobs on their website, you can see that the listings are offering a pay range that more closely aligns with the Medscape report.
The states that apparently pay the lowest are Hawaii, Maryland, and DC.
As with any career, you should consider the cost of living in the area that you plan to make your home, as this can greatly affect your available spending income after you pay for your necessities.
The average base salary for a cardiologist in the United States can vary from city to city as well.
According to Indeed.com, the average base salary for a cardiologist in New York City is $332,918 per year. That same website shows a jump in annual salary for cardiologists practicing in Los Angeles to $381,219.
Type of Practice
Salary will also vary depending on which type of medical center they work with.
About a quarter of all cardiologists work for hospitals. Many heart-related procedures are done in a hospital setting, and hospitals pay a very high hourly wage as an incentive.
Hospitals make a high share of their revenue from cardiologist procedures, averaging $3,484,375 for invasive procedures, and $2,310,000 for non-invasive procedures, according to the 2019 Physician Inpatient/ Outpatient Revenue Survey.
For this reason, hospitals are willing to offer a very competitive salary range to entice the top cardiologists.
Self-employed cardiologists make the highest income and most in this setting work at an office-based single-specialty group practice. These are commonly physicians who have a good patient base and years of experience.
A Word On Student Loan Debt
Cardiologists carry a massive amount of student loan debt into the workforce. When getting certified for a subspecialty in cardiology, a physician will incur even more student loan debt.
A few popular options for physicians are those that adjust as your income increases so that you don’t have to pay more than you can afford on any given year.
These four options include pay as you earn, revised pay as you earn, income-based repayment, and income-contingent reimbursement.
Our financial experts can help you navigate through these repayment options and find the one that best suits your current situation.
Further Reading: The Full Breakdown to Medical School Student Loans.
Subspecialties and Related Jobs
Cardiologist subspecialties are broken into two groups for this medical specialty. Non-invasive cardiologists make considerably less of a base salary than invasive cardiologists.
According to Merritt Hawkins, invasive cardiologists make $150,000 more in annual salary than their non-invasive peers.
Non-invasive cardiologists specialize in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases without the use of needles, lasers, or any other tools that are inserted into the body.
Invasive cardiologists are skilled in doing procedures that include using minimally invasive surgery to help treat heart problems. Invasive cardiologists are not heart surgeons, but they do perform surgeries that help the heart.
This subspecialty involves the reading and interpreting of ultrasounds involving the heart. This is considered a non-invasive cardiologist subspecialty and will earn a lower average salary.
Nuclear cardiology involves injecting (or having a patient swallow or inhale) a radiotracer. The radiotracer emits a small amount of gamma rays from the heart.
These gamma rays can be read by a special computer that will give an image of the heart’s current condition. This is another non-invasive cardiology subspecialty.
An interventional cardiologist’s job description includes using cutting devices to remove plaque buildup in the arteries and performing interventional procedures like angioplasty.
A quick job search for this job title shows a high income potential, many ranging above the $650, 000 mark.
As the name suggests, this job title is a very invasive subspecialty of cardiology. These are cardiologists explicitly trained to intervene when a patient has heart failure and needs a heart transplant.
Invasive cardiologists are said to earn the highest salary of all physicians. Merritt Hawkins reported the average salary of an invasive cardiologist, which transplant cardiologists most certainly belong in this group, was $648, 000.
Electrophysiology is a type of emergency medicine that involves the insertion of heart regulating technology such as pacemakers and defibrillators.
Electrophysiologists are considered invasive cardiologists and earn among the highest salary of all cardiology subspecialties.
If you specialize in diagnosing and treating heart problems in children, you can expect to earn a higher salary than other pediatrician specialties.
Related reading: FMV for Radiation Oncologists
How to Negotiate Your Employment Contract
When it comes to gaining a higher salary, one of the most pivotal moments a cardiologist can face is the negotiation of their employment contract.
If you enter into a new contract without negotiating for fair compensation, you miss out on the opportunity to increase your wealth through one employer interaction.
Unfortunately, because many physicians feel uncomfortable in this area, they don’t get the employment contract they deserve. The reason for this boils down to feeling unprepared for the task.
Before entering into employment contract negotiations, you should have three things to bolster your confidence. Personal knowledge through research of the employer and position, a clear understanding of your employment needs and desires, and a team of advisors to help you along the way.
During the negotiation process, there will be a list of items that will be addressed. According to the AAFP, there are five key elements to consider. A detailed list will include:
- compensation and benefits
- partnership and ownership agreements
- duties and responsibilities
- termination details
- insurance requirements
- begin and end dates
- restrictive covenants
ComHealth, a healthcare staffing agency, provided this checklist to help physicians evaluate the terms of the contract offered.
When entering a negotiation, it’s important not to consider it a clash of wills. The goal for both you and the employer is the same — an employment agreement. In the end, if you come to an agreement, you both win.
However, there are ways to ensure that you enter into a new employment contract with the most beneficial terms for you. Throughout the four-step process, there are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
Even though you may feel awkward in this position, enter into contract negotiation with a positive and confident attitude. This helps put the employer at ease and also lets them know to take you seriously.
The Harvard Business Review has a great article on employment contract negotiation tactics of all industries as a whole that can help you understand the rules to keep in mind. But for physicians, contracts can be quite complex.
Try to prepare ahead of time with key demands and questions so that there are as few back-and-forth proposals as possible.
Of course, there aren’t any clear cut rules on what is and what isn’t negotiable. You shouldn’t, however, expect a hospital or medical group to make changes in your contract that go against policy.
You should also remember not to sign a letter of intent if you disagree with the conditions it includes. If you sign this letter prior to negotiations and then try to change the terms written upon it, your negotiations won’t go in your favor.
In the end, you want a contract that is as clear and concise as possible with no omissions of details or confusing language. This helps to keep both employer and employee on the same page throughout the entire contract.
It is important not to forget that entering a new contract isn’t the only time you should have your contract reviewed.
Building a Retirement with a Cardiologist’s Annual Salary
Did you know that after 20 years of practice, a cardiologist’s annual salary starts to diminish? There comes a time when it is best to retire, but in order to be able to do so, you need to start building for retirement right away.
There are a few retirement plans that cardiologists can take advantage of depending on their type of employment.
For the Employed Cardiologist
As an employed cardiologist, you can take advantage of the tax-deferred retirement funds available through your employer.
If a for-profit medical facility hires you, you will be offered a 401k plan. Not-for-profit employers retirement funds are called a 403b.
For Private Practice Cardiologists
Private practice cardiologists may be considered independent contractors and ineligible for a 401k. However, if you are an owner or partner, you can offer yourself a 401k plan as part of your business plan.
Both employed and self-employed cardiologists can and should invest in a Roth IRA. Whenever possible, they should also find other lucrative investments to build their finances for retirement.
If you need a team of professionals to help you decide which investment is best for your retirement, Physicians Thrive is here to help with retirement planning.
Related Reading: The Complete Guide to Physician Retirement Planning.
Effective Tax Planning for Cardiologists
Tax planning is essential for professionals who earn higher than the national average, and cardiologists rank among the highest.
To ensure that you don’t overpay and find where you’re applicable for tax deductions and credits, you should enlist the help of a professional. This one step can save you hundreds in your tax payments every year.
As with any career, cardiologists have more opportunities to become a top earner with the more experience and skills they gain.
There’s no doubt you are an expert in a very complex specialty. However, you may not be an expert on many of the topics covered here, such as tax planning, contract negotiation, and even business planning.
By taking advantage of our services in these areas, you don’t have to be an expert to be successful. Bring us on board to help you plan your financial future today.
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