Although men account for the majority of physicians, the proportion of female physicians in the workforce increased from 30% in 2010 to 37% in 2022.
The U.S. physician workforce increased 23% from 2010 to 2022, according to a census conducted by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB).
The census, which was published this week by the Journal of Medical Regulation, is the seventh biennial census conducted by the FSMB. The census features data on physician workforce trends, including the number of licensed physicians, medical degree type, specialty certification, sex, and age.
Census data was drawn from the FSMB's Physician Data Center. The census covers physicians with full unrestricted licenses to practice in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2022.
The census includes several key data points.
- The number of physicians has increased from 850,085 physicians in 2010 to 1,044,734 physicians in 2022. The physician-to-population ratio has increased from 277 physicians per 100,000 people in 2010 to 313 physicians per 100,000 people in 2022.
- Most physicians (89%) have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, with 11% of physicians having a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. From 2010 to 2022, the number of physicians with a DO degree increased 89%, compared to an 18% increase in the number of physicians with an MD degree.
- Physicians holding specialty certifications has increased, with 77% of physicians board-certified in 2010 and 85% of physicians board-certified in 2022.
- In 2022, physicians had graduated from 2,200 medical schools in 169 countries. Most physicians (77%) graduated from U.S. or Canadian medical schools. The largest percentage of international medical graduates attended medical schools in India (21%).
- Although men account for the majority of physicians, the proportion of female physicians in the workforce increased from 30% in 2010 to 37% in 2022.
- The mean age of physicians has increased from 50.7 years old in 2010 to 51.9 years old in 2022. From 2010 to 2022, there was a 54% increase in the number of physicians aged 60 years and older.
- In 2022, female physicians were younger than male physicians: 31% of female physicians were under 40 compared to 20% of male physicians, and 19% of female physicians were 60 or older compared to 38% of male physicians.
Interpreting the data
The new census report shows significant changes in the physician workforce, Humayun Chaudhry, DO, president and CEO of the FSMB, said in a prepared statement. "The data in the 2022 census illustrates how dramatically the physician population has grown and diversified since 2010. The FSMB census continues to be an important tool in helping medical regulators and healthcare policymakers stay informed of physician workforce trends as they consider ways to encourage public safety and physician wellness."
The census and demographic data highlight concerning trends, the co-authors of the Journal of Medical Regulation article wrote. "The nation's healthcare system faced several hurdles during the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged challenges remain as aging in the general and physician populations create increased demand for healthcare resources and amplify workforce supply concerns."
However, the journal article's co-authors identified several "reasons to be cautiously optimistic."
- The country is at the forefront of advances in medical technology and more students are enrolling in medical schools.
- During the coronavirus pandemic, many physicians and other clinicians showed resilience and an ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
- Also during the pandemic, medical licensing boards demonstrated the ability to respond to a crisis such as through expedited licensure.
- The expansion of telehealth since the beginning of the pandemic has boosted access to healthcare services.
- The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact has also improved healthcare access by licensing physicians to practice in multiple states.
The U.S. healthcare system will have to rise to daunting challenges in the years ahead, the co-authors of the journal article wrote. "As the nation progresses through the demographic and digital transformations ahead, striking a balance between meeting the healthcare needs of an aging population and the wellness concerns of an often-overworked physician will be difficult but essential."
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.
Most physicians (89%) have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, with 11% of physicians having a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.
Physicians holding specialty certifications has increased, with 77% of physicians board-certified in 2010 and 85% of physicians board-certified in 2022.
The mean age of physicians has increased from 50.7 years old in 2010 to 51.9 years old in 2022.