Which doctor is most needed? 5 most in-demand physician specialties according to the data

According to data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in June, the demand for doctors will continue to grow faster than the supply. AAMC estimates a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034. [1]

Table of projected job growth for physicians

Specialty AreaThe average number of projected new job openings per yearEmployment growth %
Family medicine physicians3,7003
Psychiatrists2,4009
Surgeons2,0003
Emergency medicine physicians1,3003
Radiologists1,2004
Cardiologists6003
Obstetricians and gynecologist4002
Pediatricians4001
Table showing projected job growth for physician specialties (data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Graph of projected job growth

Graph showing job growth data projection (2021 to 2031)

Table of projected physician shortages by 2034

Specialty AreaShortage Range
Primary Care (e.g family medicine, general pediatrics, and geriatric medicine)17,800-48,000
Nonprimary care specialties21,000-77,100
Surgical specialties 15,800-30,200
Medical specialties (e.g cardiology, oncology, infectious diseases, pulmonology)3,800-13,400
Other specialties (eg neurology, emergency medicine, addiction medicine10,300-35,600
Data from AAMC showing in-demand medical specialties

Graph of projected physician shortages by 2034

Graph showing the most in-demand doctors (Data from AAMC)

The Top 5 Most Needed Doctors in the United States

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 3 percent from 2021 to 2031. On average around 23,800 new openings are projected each year for physicians and surgeons over the decade. [2]

1. Family physicians

The demand for family medicine services is expected to continue as more people have access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and as the population ages. An aging population will need more medical services and an increasing number of people are expected to seek care for chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

According to the bureau of labor statistics (BLS), family medicine physicians have the highest number of projected job openings per year (an average of 3,700) in comparison to other types of physicians. Furthermore, the employment of family physicians is expected to grow by 3% from 2021 to 2031. As a result, becoming a family doctor will provide you with a highly secure career path.

2. Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are responsible for providing mental health services to patients of all ages. They are trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists typically work in private practices, hospitals, or clinics. According to the BLS, psychiatrists have the second highest number of projected job openings per year (an average of 2,400). The job growth rate for psychiatrists is 9%, which is higher than any other physician specialty and three times greater than the average employment growth for physicians in general. In fact, one study predicts that the psychiatrist workforce will decrease to 38,821 by 2024 (that’s equivalent to a shortage of between 14,280 and 31,091 psychiatrists.

3. Surgeons

According to the BLS, surgeons have the third highest number of average job openings per year (2,000). The high demand for surgeons is due to the fact that there are many reasons why people may require medical and surgical procedures. Ophthalmologists are the most in-demand surgeons, with an average of 800 job openings per year.

The most common reason for people to require surgery is because of an injury. This could be anything from a broken bone to a car accident. Other common reasons people require surgery are due to illness or disease. Cancer, for example, often requires surgery to remove tumors. Surgeons also play an important role in performing organ transplants. With advances in medical technology, surgeons are now able to perform more complex procedures than ever before. As a result, the demand for qualified surgeons is only expected to grow in the coming years.

4. Emergency medicine physician

Data from the BLS suggests that emergency physicians will benefit from on average 1,300 new job openings per year. The growth of the aging elderly population and the resulting increase in age-related health conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes, will lead to a higher demand for emergency services in the future. As a result, employment opportunities for emergency physicians are expected to rise in the coming years.

5. Radiologists

Radiologists are in high demand due to the ever-growing need for diagnostic imaging. As the population ages, there is an increasing need for screenings and diagnostic procedures. In addition, the development of new technology has made it possible to detect smaller and smaller abnormalities, resulting in a need for radiologists to interpret the images. Employment for radiologists is expected to grow by 4% from 2021 to 2031 – 1,200 new job openings are projected each year over the decade.

6. Cardiologists

Americans are becoming increasingly overweight, and as a result, heart disease has become one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Consequently, there is high demand for cardiologists. In fact, over the next decade, it is projected that there will be 600 new job openings each year. Cardiologists play an important role in diagnosing and treating conditions related to the heart and blood vessels. They often work closely with other medical professionals to develop treatment plans and provide care for patients. In addition, advances in technology will allow more procedures to be performed on an outpatient basis, resulting in increased demand for cardiology services.

7. OB-GYNs

Obstetricians and Gynecologists are responsible for providing medical care to women during their reproductive years. The medical field is constantly changing and evolving, which means that there will always be a need for OB-GYNs. In addition, as the population continues to grow, there will be an increased demand for OB-GYNs – in fact, 400 new job openings are projected each year.

Despite this growth, the number of graduates from medical school who choose to enter this field has remained relatively static. [3]

This means that OB-GYNs are in high demand and there is a good chance of finding employment in this field. However, it is important to note that competition for residency positions is high, so it is important to have a strong academic record and extracurricular involvement.

8. Pediatricians

The demand for pediatricians is expected to increase due to the continued growth of the child population and the growing emphasis on preventive care. In addition, as more children with health conditions are diagnosed, the need for pediatricians who specialize in treating these conditions is likely to grow. Overall, the demand for pediatricians is expected to be strong in the coming years; pediatricians can also expect to benefit from an increase of 400 new jobs over the decade. Those who are interested in becoming a pediatrician should be prepared to complete a rigorous education and training program.

How COVID is affecting physician demand

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into chaos and the healthcare industry is no exception. Hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of patients, and many physicians are working around the clock to treat those who are sick. As a result, there is a high demand for physicians. Whilst the demand for orthopedic and plastic surgeons decreased when the pandemic hit, demand for internists and emergency medicine physicians increased.

Summary

With the projected shortage of physicians, it is more important than ever for medical professionals to take on leadership roles in order to provide excellent patient care. If you’re interested in becoming a doctor, please see our free guide on how you can maximize your chances of getting into medical school.

References

[1]: AAMC Report Reinforces Mounting Physician Shortage (2021) https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/press-releases/aamc-report-reinforces-mounting-physician-shortage

[2]: Projected job demand for physicians and surgeons (2021 to 2031) https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm#tab-6

[3]: Changes in the Practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2016) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26819135/

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