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Best and Worst States for Doctors in 2021

By Anna Mueller, MS | 21 Jun 2021

Physicians consistently rank among the top-paid professionals in the country, with medical and dental careers making up the first 10 of the best-paying jobs in 2020. (This is good news considering average medical-school debt exceeds $200,000.)

But while specialization and experience influence physician’s salaries, where you choose to live and work can impact the size of your paycheck.

Recently, WalletHub released the 2021 edition of its Best & Worst States for Doctors report, which analyzes every state (plus the District of Columbia) across 19 key metrics – including annual wage, starting salary, competition, malpractice insurance rates, and more.

Here are a few of the report’s top findings:

 

No matter where you live as a physician, you’ll be bringing home a heftier paycheck than most other professions. But there are a few states where you’re not only paid well, but your dollar also goes further. Mississippi, Indiana, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Kentucky rank as the states with the highest annual wages for physicians, after being adjusted for cost of living.

 

 

On the other hand, Hawaii, Maryland, California, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia rank as the lowest annual wages after being adjusted for the cost of living. Physicians in these states still out earn most other professionals, but they’re also paying more for housing, taxes, groceries, and other living expenses than many other states.

 

Montana continues to rank as the No. 1 place to practice medicine for the third year in a row, based on all 19 factors considered. The state also ranks as the No. 4 in terms of “medical environment,” which includes metrics like hospital safety, quality of public hospital system, and physician burnout. Minnesota ranks second, Idaho ranks third, with Wisconsin and Kansas rounding out the top five.

It’s also worth noting that Maine ranks as No. 1 for “medical environment” (and No. 13 overall) while Alabama ranks No. 1 for “opportunity and competition” (and No. 12 overall).

 

Rhode Island ranks lowest on the list this year, following by Alaska, New York (which carried the “worst” title in 2020), the District of Columbia, and New Jersey. D.C. also ranked last for “opportunity and competition” while Illinois ranked last for “medical environment” (No. 40 overall).

 

Nevada is projected to be the least competitive state for practicing medicine by 2028, closely followed by its neighbor, Arizona, with Mississippi, California, and Minnesota rounding out the top five. So if you’re looking for a state where you won’t have to compete as much to find a job, you might want to consider one of these spots.

On the other hand, New York, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia are tied in projections for the most competitive state by 2028, followed by Vermont and Delaware.

 

Despite these findings, though, no matter where you choose to live and work, you likely hold a lot of power in negotiating your salary and other benefits. Moreover, with COVID-19 worsening an already critical physician shortage, the entire country needs great doctors more than ever.

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