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Healthcare News and Trends

The Top 10 Medical Specialties for 2020-2021

November 18, 2021

Top 10 Medical Specialties for 2021

By the Merritt Hawkins team

The demand for medical specialists has seen significant fluctuations in recent months, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020. Many physicians and advanced practitioners have been impacted by the ebb and flow of demand related to virus surges, service interruptions, vaccine rollouts and ever-changing federal, state and local regulations.

So how was physician recruitment affected during the first full year of the pandemic? A new report provides some answers.

Merritt Hawkins tracks annual recruiting trends including the medical specialties in demand, with their starting salaries, bonuses and other incentives offered to physicians and advanced practitioner candidates.

Now in its 28th year, the 2021 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives analyzed 2,458 recruiting assignments from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

This national sample shows that nurse practitioners were the most requested clinicians for the first time in the Review’s history, followed by family practice physicians. Before this year, family physicians had topped the annual list of medical specialties in demand for 14 years running.

The breakdown in requests for medical practitioners in 2020/2021:

  • 18 percent of search assignments were for advanced practitioners, representing the highest percentage ever;
  • 18 percent were for primary care physicians; and
  • 64 percent were for physician specialists

Search Merritt Hawkins’ current jobs for physicians and advanced practitioners.


The Top 10 recruited medical specialties


The following chart shows the top medical specialties by search requests conducted by Merritt Hawkins, from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, compared to the same period in the previous year.


Top Medical Specialties Recruited  2020/2021 Searches  2019/2020 Searches  Year over Year Change   2020/2021 Average Salary Offer*  
1. Nurse Practitioner 335 270 +24.1% $140,000
2. Family Medicine 284 448 -36.6% $243,000
3. Radiology 136 163 -16.6% $401,000
4. Psychiatry 124 182 -31.9% $279,000
5. Internal Medicine 117 146 -19.9% $244,000
6. OB/GYN  108 122 -11.5% $291,000
7. Anesthesiology 78 72 +8.3% $367,000
8. Hematology/Oncology 74 91 -18.7% $385,000
9. Gastroenterology 67 65 +3.1% $453,000
10. CRNA 64 71 -9.9% $222,000

*These average salaries for the top 10 specialty searches conducted by Merritt Hawkins represent starting salaries or guaranteed income only; these amounts do not include bonuses or benefits.

To learn more about the salary and incentive packages offered to physicians and advanced practitioners in various workplace settings—including bonuses, relocation packages, student loan repayment and other elements of compensation—download a copy of the 2021 Review.

This comprehensive report provides extensive details on the demand for the top 20 medical specialties, with comparisons to previous years, and a number of trends that are impacting the healthcare workforce.

MERRITT HAWKINS’ experienced recruitment consultants can help physician and advanced practitioner candidates take the next step in their career. CONNECT with a recruiter today.

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