BACKGROUND: The career satisfaction and dissatisfaction physicians experience likely influence the quality of medical care. OBJECTIVE: To compare career satisfaction across specialties among US physicians. METHODS: We analyzed data from the Community Tracking Study of 12 474 physicians (response rate, 65%) for the late 1990s. Data are cross-sectional. Two satisfaction variables were created: very satisfied and dissatisfied. Thirty-three specialty categories were analyzed. RESULTS: After adjusting for control variables, the following specialties are significantly more likely than family medicine to be very satisfying: geriatric internal medicine (odds ratio [OR], 2.04); neonatal-perinatal medicine (OR, 1.89); dermatology (OR, 1.48); and pediatrics (OR, 1.36). The following are significantly more likely than family medicine to be dissatisfying: otolaryngology (OR, 1.78); obstetrics-gynecology (OR, 1.61); ophthalmology (OR, 1.51); orthopedics (OR, 1.36); and internal medicine (OR, 1.22). Among the control variables, we also found nonlinear relations between age and satisfaction; high satisfaction among physicians in the west north Central and New England states and high dissatisfaction in the south Atlantic, west south Central, Mountain, and Pacific states; positive associations between income and satisfaction; and no differences between women and men. CONCLUSIONS: Career satisfaction and dissatisfaction vary across specialty as well as age, income, and region. These variations are likely to be of interest to residency directors, managed care administrators, students selecting a specialty, and physicians in the groups with high satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
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