Cardiologists study and treat diseases and medical conditions of the heart and circulatory system. The subject is so complex that cardiologists may specialize further in the subdiscipline of electrophysiology, where the focus is specifically on the heart rhythms and treatment of any abnormalities. An electrophysiologist must first become board-certified in internal medicine, complete a fellowship in cardiology and finally another fellowship in electrophysiology, according to the American College of Physicians. Like most physicians, electrophysiologists are well-compensated for their work.
The Money's in the Specialty
Specialists generally earn more than general physicians, and subspecialists have even higher earnings. In the field of internal medicine, the subspecialties are general cardiology, invasive or interventional cardiology and electrophysiology. In 2010, starting salaries for the cardiology group ranged from a median of $300,000 for invasive cardiology to $375,000 for electrophysiologists, according to a May 2011 article in “Health Imaging.” Median salaries for all cardiologists ranged from $400,000 for invasive cardiologists to $550,000 for invasive-interventional cardiologists, while electrophysiologists made $437,500.
The Plan's the Thing
Compensation plans affect electrophysiologists’ salaries, according to a November 2010 article in “Becker’s Hospital Review.” Typical plans include a straight or guaranteed salary, a base salary plus incentive payments and a compensation pool, in which multiple physicians pool earnings and take equal shares. In the straight-salary model, electrophysiologists earned $415,377 in 2009. Electrophysiologists working in a salary-plus-incentive model made $481,618. The pooled compensation model provided the highest earnings, however. Electrophysiologists in this model earned $510,516.
The Benefit of Bonuses
Bonuses can increase an electrophysiologist’s salary by a considerable amount, according to an April 2012 article in “Forbes.” In 2011, Ohio State University paid bonuses of more than $1 million to seven of its employees, five of whom were electrophysiologists. All were assistant, associate or full professors. Base earnings for these physiologists ranged from $650,856 to $658,150. Bonus payments ranged from $1,311,966 to $1,383,141. The rationale for such high bonuses, according to the article, was the doctors’ success in building a nationally respected electrophysiology program that is now the largest in the state and draws patients from a multistate region.
Focus on the Future
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 24 percent growth in demand for physicians and surgeons in general -- higher than demand for all occupations -- the outlook for electrophysiologists is more difficult to determine. In 2006, the specialty was in high demand, according to a January 2006 article in "IMpact." When the economy began to deteriorate in 2008, however, older physicians who were expected to retire were more likely to keep working. Underserved areas in the Midwest still provide opportunities, according to a May 2012 article in "Cardiology News," but the coasts are less likely to offer jobs for cardiologists or cardiology specialties such as electrophysiology. Cardiology was one of the top 20 most-requested medical specialties in 2011, however, according to nationwide physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins.