Doctors, like police officers, take a lot of heat from the public. Healthcare reform and a heightened focus on affordable plans for countless baby boomers leaving the workforce are complicating the lives of doctors everywhere. Still, doctors are among the highest-paid — and most educated — professionals in the country. Not that they’re undeserving, either. In addition to the grueling work schedules the medical profession demands, med students graduate with an average of $189,000 in student debt.
According to Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report for 2017, doctor salaries vary drastically depending on specialty and the state they practice in. Orthopedists, plastic surgeons, and cardiologists are among the highest earning doctors in the country, each earning well over $400,000 a year. Pediatricians, family physicians, and endocrinologists earn the least, falling to about $200,000 annually.
As you’ll see in this state-by-state breakdown, doctor salaries fluctuate quite a bit. Additional factors, such as liability insurance and the number of other physicians in the area also influence how much a doctor can make in each state. Where does your state fall?
Highest-paying states for doctors
The 10 highest-paying states all had incomes higher than the national average of $301,000 posted in Medscape’s compensation survey. Here are the states where doctors can earn the most money.
- Average annual salary: $322,000
Doctors in Indiana have the tenth-highest average salary among doctors across the country, according to Medscape data. WalletHub’s 2017 survey of the best and worst states for doctors echoes this statement. It notes that Indiana doctors enjoy one of the least expensive annual malpractice liability insurance rates in the U.S. Add in a low cost of living, and easy to see how doctors can earn a comfortable income in this state.
Next: Lots of well-paid doctors live here
- Average annual salary: $324,000
In addition to a high annual salary in Minnesota, doctors in this state also enjoy fewer disciplinary actions taken by the state medical board. WalletHub’s survey awards Minnesota top honors for its medical environment, meaning doctors face fewer outside obstacles that would inhibit their ability to treat patients effectively.
Next: A top state for doctor salaries
- Average annual salary: $325,000
Iowa may offer the eighth-highest average doctor salary in the U.S., but Wallet Hub ranks this Midwestern state as the best state for doctors overall. The low cost of living and cheap malpractice liability insurance help boosts Iowa’s attraction for doctors to the top. The Association of American Medical Colleges also says there are fewer doctors per capita in this state, meaning there’s less competition for business among physicians here.
Next: Doctors do their jobs well in this Western state.
- Average annual salary: $327,000
A United Health Foundation analysis found Utah to be the fourth-healthiest state in the country. Utahns have made some of the biggest improvements year-over-year in various health metrics like immunizations and air pollution. It seems doctors in this state are earning their keep. They bring home the seventh-highest salary in the country.
Next: Doctors should move to this state if they crave quality education and a high salary.
- Average annual salary: $332,000
The University of Wisconsin, Madison is a top-rated medical school. Luckily, med school students won’t have to travel far to join a profitable practice upon graduation. Doctor salaries in Wisconsin reach a hefty $332,000 on average, according to the Medscape report.
Next: A state that’s bucking the trend
5. New Hampshire
- Average annual salary: $337,000
Medscape found the Northeast region is among the lowest paid geographical areas in the country for doctors. Still, the average physician salary in New Hampshire is more than most, making it the exception when it comes to compensation. The AAMC says the number of doctors per capita in this state is quite high — about 308.1 per 100,000.
Next: To the plains we go
- Average annual salary: $346,000
You must travel to the plains to find our next highest-paid state. Doctors command about $346,000 per year in Nebraska, a $9,000 jump up from New Hampshire’s average salary. These findings are consistent with Medscape’s analysis which proved the North Central region of the country houses the highest paid doctors overall.
Next: A little farther north…
3. South Dakota
- Average annual salary: $354,000
Another part of the North Central region, South Dakota doctors are paid the third highest salaries in the U.S. The Dakotas enjoy historically low unemployment rates as well as economic prosperity, which could contribute to the overwhelming financial success doctors attain in this state.
Next: You must embrace the frontier if you want to be compensated for your work.
- Average annual salary: $359,000
Medscape cites governmental efforts to attract more physicians to economically disadvantaged areas as a possible factor for such high compensation. The remote, economically diverse nature of Alaska, could explain why doctors in this frontier state are paid the second highest salary in the country.
Next: The state that pays doctors the most is…
1. North Dakota
- Average annual salary: $361,000
Supply and demand is a bigger issue for North Dakota than most other states. It ranks 35th overall for active physicians per capita. But the doctors who do practice here earn the highest average salary in the country. North Dakota had the highest earnings in 2016 as well — about $348,000 according to Medscape.
Lowest paying states for doctors
The highest paid doctors in the country earn well over $300,000 annually. But that’s not the case for doctors who practice elsewhere. Doctor salaries are much lower in these 10 states.
- Average annual salary: $283,000
Wyoming’s annual salary of $283,000 is the tenth-lowest in the country. Doctors deal with a strict medical board whose constant malpractice threats could influence their ability to do their job well. WalletHub dubbed the Wyoming medical board as the “most punitive” of all states.
Next: An unhealthy state that pays doctors less than most
- Average annual salary: $282,000
Doctors are earning every penny they make in Louisiana. The Bayou state has ranked 49th in overall health for the past two years running, according to the UHF report. WalletHub’s analysis ranks Louisiana’s medical board the second “most punitive” when it comes to serious disciplinary actions taken by the state.
Next: Doctors make trade-offs in this state
- Average annual salary: $277,000
Though doctors who practice in Hawaii are some of the lowest-earning professionals in the country, residents in this state stay pretty healthy, second to only Massachusetts. It seems plenty of physicians are willing to trade high salaries for tropical sunshine. Hawaii has the tenth-highest percentage of doctors per capita in the country.
Next: The problem in New York
7. New York
- Average annual salary: $277,000
Like most of the lowest paid states on this list, a high cost of living affects doctor’s annual wages the most. It’s not cheap to live in New York, but doctors in this state also face sky-high malpractice award payouts. WalletHub ranks New York as the state with the highest malpractice payout per capita in the U.S.
Next: Underpaid doctors in Virginia
- Average annual salary: $272,000
Few Americans would balk at a high six-figure salary, but in comparison to what other U.S. physicians earn each year, Virginia doctors fall way short. UFH’s state-by-state health analysis says Virginia is generally healthy, which suggests doctors are doing their part to serve the community. Whether their pay matches their work ethic is a different story.
Next: Low salaries consistent with the region
- Average annual salary: $268,000
The North Central region of the U.S. may house the best-paid doctors in the country, but the Mid-Atlantic region is home to the worst. Delaware doctors must tolerate a high cost of living consistent with the area and a salary many in the industry would deem low. Doctors in this state earn well below average at just $268,000 per year.
Next: A slew of underpaid workers in this state
4. New Mexico
- Average annual salary: $261,000
New Mexico is one of the few states with low doctor salaries east of the Mississippi. But doctors aren’t the only professionals earning less than expected in this state. Teachers in New Mexico also earn lower salaries than their educational counterparts in other states.
Next: Doctors deal with more than just low pay here
3. Rhode Island
- Average annual salary: $261,000
The average annual salary for doctors in Rhode Island matches those paid in New Mexico. But Rhode Island outranks New Mexico due to a higher cost of living, more physician competition, and frequent malpractice payouts — all things that are harder to endure on a lower salary.
Next: Competition for business in this state
- Average annual salary: $260,000
Teachers in Maryland may earn the eighth highest salary in the country, but doctors earn the second lowest. Salaries might increase if there were fewer doctors competing for business, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Maryland boasts the second highest active population of practicing physicians in the country, according to the AAMC.
Next: The state that pays doctors the least is…
1. District of Columbia
- Average annual salary: $235,000
There’s a stark contrast between the highest and lowest paid doctors state-wide. Physicians in North Dakota make $126,000 more on average than those in the District of Columbia. Low salaries, a high cost of living, and expensive liability insurance make it tougher than average for doctors in the nation’s capital. Plus, the competition for patients is fierce given the high percentage of physicians in the area. There are more than 866 doctors per 100,000 people in D.C.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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