The Highest (and Lowest) Paid Doctors Live in These States

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.

10. Indiana

Downtown Indianapolis skyline at twilight

Doctors in Indianapolis, Indiana, make more on average than their colleagues in other states. | iStock/Getty Images

  • 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

9. Minnesota

minnesota sign

Doctors in Minnesota make good money and don’t have to deal with legal red tape. | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

  • 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

8. Iowa

Believe it or not, Iowa is a paradise for doctors. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

  • 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.

7. Utah

St. George, Utah

Utah is among the healthiest states in the country. | George Frey/Getty Images

  • 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.

6. Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Capitol building

Wisconsin is a great place to study and practice medicine. | KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

  • 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

New Hampshire State House

New Hampshire doctors earn more than most New England physicians. | Scott Eisen/Getty Images

  • 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

4. Nebraska

'Welcome to Nebraska' sign board on a empty road

Nebraska truly is the good life for doctors. | iStock/Getty Images

  • 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

sign board saying ' South Dakota'

South Dakota doctors make big money. | iStock.com/wellesenterprises

  • 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.

2. Alaska

Byers Lake, Alaska, with a view of Denali

Doctors willing to brave the cold can make a lot of money in Alaska. | Mbarrettimages/iStock/Getty Images

  • 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

Fargo, North Dakota, United States

North Dakota needs doctors, and they’re willing to pay for them. | Ben Harding/iStock/Getty Images

  • 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.

10. Wyoming

The sun hits the tips of the Grand Tetons October 5, 2012 in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming. Approximately 310,000 acres (130,000 ha) in size, the park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile (64 km) long Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

It isn’t easy to be a doctor in Wyoming. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

  • 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

9. Louisiana

Dusk falls over Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, 11 July 2006, almost one year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. For tourists strolling through the French Quarter it's easy to forget that Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans a year ago. The beignets are fresh, trinkets and designer clothes are artfully arranged in shop windows, and hurricanes are spinning in the bars on Bourbon Street. But while the music, food and good times have come back, the crowds have not and the city is struggling to make ends meet while its main industry remains crippled. With more than 10 million visitors a year, tourism was once a 5.5 billion dollar industry in New Orleans, accounting for 40 percent of the city's tax revenues and employing 85,000 people. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Louisiana doctors have a lot to worry about. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

  • 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

8. Hawaii

driving along the Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaiian doctors give up big paychecks to live in paradise. | iStock/Getty Images

  • 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

Sunset Park, Brooklyn

New York’s cost of living and malpractice laws make it a tough state to practice in. | Harry Green/iStock/Getty Images

  • 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

6. Virginia

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

Virginia’s doctors don’t make as much as physicians in neighboring states. | Ablokhin/iStock/Getty Images

  • 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

5. Delaware

Doctor with an apple

Delaware doctors earn far less than average. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

  • 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

Doctors in New Mexico could be left wanting more. | Qingwa/Getty Images

  • 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

Harbor View of Providence Rhode Island

Rhode Island doctors could be affected by the state’s high cost of living. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • 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

2. Maryland

Maryland state capitol

Maryland pays its teachers handsomely. Doctors? Not so much.  | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

  • 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

White house

There are almost too many doctors in Washington. | Ed-Ni-Photo/iStock/Getty Images

  • 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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