Physician specialties with the highest, lowest projected gaps in staffing

Approximately 24,200 openings for physicians and surgeons are projected, on average, to open every year for the next decade — many coming from the need to replace workers who transfer out of the field or exit the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bureau projected physicians and surgeon specialties to grow an average of 3% between 2022 and 2032.

By 2036, the U.S. could see a shortage of up to 86,000 physicians — a smaller estimate from what the Association of American Medical Colleges reported in its 2019 forecast. The nation's increasing demand for physicians is driven by two primary factors: population growth (8.4% between 2021 and 2036) and an aging population, according to the AAMC's March 2024 report. Within the next 12 years, the nation's population of adults 65 and older is estimated to grow by more than 34%. Meanwhile, a large proportion of the physician workforce is nearing the traditional retirement age of 65, with forecasts indicating more than one-third of currently active physicians will retire within the next decade. 

Here are the physician specialties with the most and least projected change in demand in the next 10 years, according to the bureau:


Psychiatrists — 7%

Pathologist — 5%

Radiologists – 4%

Family medicine physicians — 4%

Ophthalmologists, except pediatric – 4%



General pediatricians — 1%

Pediatric surgeons — 1%

General internal medicine physicians — 2%

OB-GYNs — 2%

Orthopedic surgeons, except pediatric — 2%

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