Physician Salary by State

Physician Salary by State: It’s not just a search query; it’s a question many medical professionals, both seasoned and fresh out of med school, frequently ponder. In a world where location matters, whether you’re hunting for a cozy coffee shop ☕ or a scenic hiking trail 🌄, it becomes imperative to realize that it equally impacts the world of medicine and physician earnings.

We all know that a doctor’s income isn’t solely based on their years of experience or specialization. Just like the price of a gallon of milk or the average cost of a home, salaries can swing wildly based on where you decide to hang your white coat. So, if you’re a physician wondering if relocating might pad your pocket a bit more or a medical student strategically planning where to lay down roots post-graduation, you’re in the right place.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for physicians and surgeons was a comfortable sum in the last reported year. Yet, if you dive deeper, you’ll discover some states shine brighter 💎 than others in the compensation department. And it’s not just about the money. It’s about understanding the economic climate, the cost of living, and even the work-life balance different states offer.

Then there’s the fascinating study by Medscape, which annually dishes out its comprehensive report on physician salaries. Their insights often reveal intriguing patterns, from states that have made significant jumps in rankings to those that might’ve slipped a bit.


But before we plunge into the depths of this data, let’s set the stage. Imagine the diversity across our nation. From the bustling urban landscapes of New York 🌆 to the serene countryside of Montana 🌾, the United States offers a plethora of environments, lifestyles, and, yes, compensation packages for our hard-working healers. Stick around as we embark on this journey, dissecting the intricacies of Physician Salary by State, ensuring you’re equipped with the knowledge to make the best decision for your career and wallet.

What Are the Most In-Demand Physicians in the US?

The healthcare landscape of the United States is constantly evolving. A combination of factors such as an aging population, advances in medical technology, and changes in healthcare policies contribute to the demand for certain medical specialties over others.

Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) consistently top the list of in-demand physicians. As the frontline of healthcare, these doctors are often the first point of contact for patients. They play a crucial role in diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medications, and referring patients to specialists when necessary. Family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics all fall under the primary care umbrella.

With the aging Baby Boomer population, geriatricians, who specialize in the care of older adults, are also seeing a significant rise in demand. The unique health challenges that come with aging — from chronic illnesses to cognitive decline — necessitate specialized care and expertise, putting geriatricians in a pivotal position.

Another specialty experiencing increased demand is psychiatry. Mental health awareness has seen a substantial uptick in recent years. With the destigmatization of mental health conditions and a growing acceptance of seeking help, the need for psychiatrists has surged.

Additionally, the prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease has led to a consistent demand for endocrinologists and cardiologists. As these conditions often require lifelong management, specialists in these areas play a vital role in improving and maintaining the quality of life for these patients.

Lastly, as technology and research forge ahead, specialties that center on innovative treatments and surgeries, such as radiology and certain surgical specialties, find themselves in high demand. The ability to diagnose conditions non-invasively or treat them with minimal impact on the patient’s quality of life is a game-changer.


How Much Do Physicians Make in the US According to the Physician Compensation Report?

Physician Compensation Reports are essential resources for getting a pulse on how much doctors earn in the US. While the exact numbers can fluctuate based on the report’s source and the year of publication, these reports typically reveal certain patterns and trends.

Across the board, physicians in the US are generally well-compensated, but the earnings can vary significantly based on specialty, location, experience, and the setting in which they practice (like private practice vs. hospital employment).

Surgical specialties, such as orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, and cardiac surgery, often top the list in terms of earning potential. These specialties require intricate procedures, extensive training, and they often cater to urgent or life-threatening conditions, which contributes to their higher compensation.

On the other hand, although in high demand, primary care physicians typically earn less than their specialist counterparts. It includes family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics. While their roles are foundational to the healthcare system, the compensation disparity often stems from the nature of the procedures they perform and the reimbursement structures in place.

Furthermore, geographical location plays a significant role in compensation. Physicians practicing in areas with a higher cost of living or regions with a scarcity of certain specialties may command higher salaries. Additionally, states with a more favorable malpractice environment can also offer better compensation packages.

Another important factor is the shift towards value-based care from fee-for-service models. Physicians might see changes in their compensation structures as healthcare systems prioritize patient outcomes over the volume of services rendered.

What Is the Average Physician Salary by State?

Average physician salaries can vary widely by state, primarily due to factors like cost of living, demand for specific specialties, and healthcare infrastructure. While I can’t provide a detailed state-by-state breakdown within this response’s confines, I can give a broad overview to help understand the variations in compensation across the US.

States with higher costs of living, such as New York, California, and Massachusetts, often offer higher physician salaries on paper. However, when adjusted for living expenses, the take-home value might not always be as lucrative as it appears. On the flip side, states with a moderate or lower cost of living, such as Texas or Florida, offer slightly lower salaries, but physicians may find they have greater purchasing power and can achieve a higher standard of living.

Rural areas, often in states like Wyoming, Montana, or Alaska, may provide higher salaries for certain specialties due to the scarcity of healthcare professionals in those regions. These ‘underserved’ areas might offer various incentives, including higher wages, to attract and retain physicians.


It’s also crucial to recognize that states with robust medical education infrastructures and top-tier hospitals—like Massachusetts with its plethora of esteemed institutions—might see a slightly depressed average salary because of the influx of resident physicians and fellows who typically earn less.

What Are the Factors Influencing Physicians’ Salaries?

Physician salaries aren’t determined arbitrarily. A combination of factors can influence how much a doctor earns:

  1. Specialty: As mentioned earlier, certain specialties like neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, or invasive cardiology tend to earn more than primary care specialties. The reason often lies in the complexity of procedures, length of training, and patient demand.
  2. Experience and Education: A physician fresh out of residency will likely earn less than one with decades of experience. Additionally, doctors with sub-specializations or fellowships might command higher salaries because of their niche expertise.
  3. Geographical Location: Areas with a high cost of living often offer higher salaries. However, rural or underserved regions might also offer competitive compensation packages to attract physicians.
  4. Practice Setting: Physicians in private practice might have different earning potential than those employed by hospitals or large healthcare systems. Academia, research, and administrative roles can also influence salaries.
  5. Supply and Demand: Regions with a shortage of specific specialties may offer higher salaries to attract those specialists. Conversely, areas saturated with particular specialists may see a competitive job market and lower average salaries.
  6. Reimbursement Models: The shift from fee-for-service to value-based care models can impact physician compensation. Some models might incentivize better patient outcomes over volume, which can influence earnings.
  7. Contract Negotiations: Skills in contract negotiation can play a role. The final compensation package can impact terms concerning on-call duties, administrative responsibilities, and patient load.
  8. External Funding: For those in research, external grants and funding can augment their income.
  9. Malpractice Insurance Costs: States with higher malpractice premiums influence overall take-home pay, especially if physicians are responsible for their own insurance.
  10. Regulations and Policies: State-specific healthcare policies and regulations can influence reimbursement rates, impacting physician salaries.

What Are the Benefits of Physicians by State?

When discussing the benefits of physicians by state, we’re delving into the array of advantages doctors can enjoy based on their geographic location. These benefits aren’t solely monetary but can encompass various aspects of professional and personal life.


  1. Incentive Programs: Some states, especially those with rural or underserved areas, may offer incentive programs to attract physicians. It can include student loan forgiveness, signing bonuses, or tax breaks, especially for those willing to serve in areas with a shortage of healthcare professionals.
  2. Cost of Living: States with a lower cost of living can provide physicians with a more comfortable lifestyle, allowing them to get more value for their earnings. It translates to potentially larger homes, better schools, and a higher overall standard of living.
  3. Professional Growth Opportunities: States with renowned medical institutions, research centers, or universities can offer unparalleled opportunities for professional growth, including continued education, research, and networking.
  4. Work-Life Balance: Some states may offer a better work-life balance due to patient demographics, healthcare infrastructure, or state regulations. For instance, states with a healthier population might have fewer emergency cases, allowing for more predictable work schedules.
  5. Recreational and Cultural Activities: States with a rich cultural scene, natural beauty, or recreational opportunities can be attractive to physicians. Whether enjoying the arts in urban areas or outdoor activities in more rural states, lifestyle benefits can play a significant role in a physician’s decision on where to practice.
  6. Regulatory Environment: States with physician-friendly regulations, be it in terms of licensure, scope of practice, or malpractice laws, can make practicing medicine more straightforward and less fraught with bureaucratic hurdles.
  7. Community Impact: In smaller states or communities, physicians can make a more significant, tangible impact on the population they serve. The closeness of such communities can be fulfilling for many practitioners.

While salary is a crucial factor, the benefits of practicing in a particular state encompass a broader range of personal and professional factors. Each state has its unique offerings, and physicians often weigh these advantages based on their priorities and life stage.

What Physician Specialty Earns the Most in All States?

Across the majority of compensation reports and studies in the United States, surgical specialties, especially neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery, are at the top in terms of earning potential.

Neurosurgery: This specialty involves surgical treatments of nervous system disorders, including the brain and spinal cord. Due to the high risk and complexity associated with these procedures, combined with the extended training required to become a neurosurgeon, they often command the highest salaries in the medical field.

Orthopedic Surgery: Orthopedic surgeons are among the highest earners, especially those focusing on spine surgeries or joint replacements. These procedures are in high demand, especially with an aging population experiencing issues like osteoarthritis. The technical skill and precision required also contribute to their high compensation.

It’s worth noting that while these specialties tend to earn the most, they also come with long, often unpredictable hours, high stress, and significant educational and training commitments. Additionally, the high earning potential also means high responsibility, given the critical nature of the surgeries and treatments they perform.

Furthermore, while these specialties might top the charts in many states, specific geographic nuances might lead to variances. For instance, in a state with a significant elderly population, cardiology might see a surge in demand and corresponding compensation.

While neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery often dominate in terms of compensation across states, factors like demand, population demographics, and regional healthcare needs can lead to variations in the highest-earning specialties.

What Are the Highest Paying Cities for Physicians?

When discussing physician salaries, city-specific data can provide illuminating insights into the pockets of high compensation across the United States. While specific rankings might vary year-to-year based on updated compensation reports and changing healthcare landscapes, several cities consistently emerge as high-paying hubs for physicians.


  1. San Francisco, California: With its booming tech industry and high cost of living, San Francisco often offers higher salaries to attract and retain skilled professionals, including physicians. However, it’s worth noting that while the paychecks might be bigger, the city’s steep living costs can offset the benefits of a higher salary.
  2. Los Angeles, California: Similar to San Francisco, Los Angeles, with its diverse population and myriad of healthcare institutions, offers competitive salaries for physicians. The allure of LA, combined with the state’s significant demand for healthcare professionals, pushes compensation figures upwards.
  3. New York City, New York: The city that never sleeps has a vast and varied patient population, leading to a high demand for physicians across various specialties. Coupled with the high cost of living, salaries in NYC are often on the higher end.
  4. Chicago, Illinois: As a major metropolitan hub in the Midwest, Chicago has a rich healthcare infrastructure, which translates to competitive salaries for physicians.
  5. Houston, Texas: Texas, with its favorable malpractice climate and growing population, sees cities like Houston offering attractive compensation packages for doctors. Additionally, the state’s lack of income tax can further enhance a physician’s take-home pay.

These cities often rank among the highest paying for physicians, so it’s vital to factor in living costs, work-life balance, and other quality-of-life considerations. A higher salary in a city with an exorbitant cost of living might not go as far as a slightly lower salary in a city where the cost of living is more moderate.

What State Pays Physicians the Lowest Salary?

Certain states might offer lower average salaries for physicians, but this doesn’t necessarily equate to a lower standard of living or less job satisfaction. Factors such as a state’s cost of living, healthcare landscape, patient population, and more can influence compensation figures.

Historically, states in the Southeast, like Mississippi, often surface in reports as offering lower average salaries for physicians compared to national averages. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Cost of Living: States with a lower cost of living generally have lower salary averages across all professions, including medicine.
  2. Healthcare Infrastructure: The healthcare landscape, including the number and size of hospitals, availability of specialty centers, and state healthcare policies, can influence average physician salaries.
  3. Patient Population: States with a lower population density or a smaller urban population might have a different healthcare demand profile, leading to variations in compensation.
  4. Economic Factors: Broader economic factors, including state GDP, employment rates, and industrial composition, can also play a role in determining average physician salaries.

However, such data should be approached with nuance. A lower average salary doesn’t necessarily mean that a physician in Mississippi earns less than one in New York when you adjust for the cost of living, housing prices, and other expenses. In fact, when it comes to the actual purchasing power of their salary, a physician in a lower-paying state might find themselves better off than their counterparts in high-paying, high-cost states.

Is Physician Salary Worth It?

The question of whether a physician’s salary is “worth it” is multifaceted, touching on financial, personal, and professional aspects of a doctor’s life.

Financial Perspective: Becoming a physician usually requires a significant investment. Medical school in the United States can be incredibly expensive, often leading to substantial student debt. Once out of school, there’s the pressure of repaying these loans, which can take years, depending on the chosen specialty and the location of the practice. However, once established, physicians tend to earn a comfortable salary, which can eventually offset these initial financial setbacks. Over a lifetime, many physicians will earn more than professionals in many other fields, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle, potential for wealth accumulation, and a more secure retirement.

Professional Perspective: Medicine offers an opportunity for lifelong learning. The constantly evolving nature of healthcare means physicians are perennial students. This, coupled with the chance to make genuine impacts on individuals’ lives, offers immense job satisfaction. Being a physician is not just about the paycheck; it’s about the privilege and responsibility of holding someone’s life in your hands, making critical decisions, and witnessing the direct impact of your knowledge and skills.

Personal Perspective: The journey to becoming a physician is long and grueling. Beyond medical school are residencies, fellowships, and years of building a practice or reputation. The profession often demands long hours, being on call, and handling high-stress situations. This can take a toll on personal life, family time, and mental health. However, many doctors find deep fulfillment in their work, deriving a sense of purpose that few other professions offer.

In Conclusion: Whether a physician’s salary is worth it depends on how one measures “worth.” If gauged purely in terms of financial return on investment, the answer might be a resounding “yes” for many, though the initial years could be challenging. However, the answer becomes more individual when factoring in the personal sacrifices and stress. For many doctors, the intrinsic rewards of the profession—making a difference, saving lives, and the intellectual challenges—far outweigh the drawbacks, making every penny earned, every hour spent, utterly worth it. The path may be more complex for others, especially those who may feel the weight of burnout or unmet expectations. As with many profound life choices, the decision to pursue medicine, with all its financial implications, hinges on a blend of personal passion, professional aspiration, and financial practicality.

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