Introduction  Resident physicians have a professional degree but are compensated less than other recently graduated professionals such as lawyers or nurse practitioners. The U.S. Military Healthcare System differs from the civilian setting in that physicians’ salaries are based primarily on military rank. We compared military and civilian physician salaries across various specialties to determine if the increased military pay during residency compensates for military attending physicians’ lower income as compared to their civilian counterparts. Methods This cross-sectional study compares military and civilian pay for resident and attending physicians in the fields of Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN), Family Medicine, and General Surgery. Military pay was obtained from 2018 Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) data. Civilian salaries were obtained from the Medscape 2018 Residents Salary & Debt Report, Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) 2018 Provider Compensation Report, and 2017-2018 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Faculty Salary Report. Results Military resident physicians earned 53% more than civilian residents while military attending physicians earned 32%-58% less (after taxes) than their civilian counterparts, varying by specialty. Military attending physicians’ negative pay differential occurred in both academic and non-academic practice environments through MGMA data. Discussion The positive pay differential in military residency does not compensate for the negative pay differential of military attending physicians face as compared to their civilian counterparts. This negative pay differential persisted when comparing post-tax pay. Some military service benefits, such as decreased educational debt, are challenging to quantify and vary considerably between individuals. As the military seeks to reshape its healthcare force, military and civilian compensation differences should be considered.
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