States with the Highest, Lowest Physician Pay

The physician turnover rate is at its highest level since 2005. As doctors look for new jobs, they may want to avoid the states where they will earn well below the national average for physicians.

Overall, physician compensation has increased very slightly in recent years and has varied widely depending on specialty. Nationally, the estimated annual wage average for physicians and surgeons was $191,880, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, in some states physicians earned far less.

Most specialties only reported a year over year salary increase of just 2% or 3%, according to Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report, which also found that physicians performing procedures are paid the highest, while those managing chronic illnesses earn the least.

However, a survey from SullivanCotter found the compensation gap between primary care physicians and specialists decreased. While primary care physicians (PCPs) reported a 5.7% increase of medial total cash compensation between 2012 and 2013, medical and surgical specialists only reported increases of 3.2% and 2.3%, respectively.

This data showed a reverse in a trend that had been occurring for years as the pay gap between PCPs and specialists widened. SullivanCotter attributed this turnaround to the ever-increasing demand for PCPs.

Along with the increase in compensation, the turnover rate has also grown. A survey from the American Medical Group Association and Cejka Search found the physician turnover rate is at its highest level since 2005 at 6.8%. While retirement accounts for a portion of the high turnover rate, so does the improving economy.

With more money in their pockets and their accounts, physicians are feeling more confident about leaving current jobs to find greener pastures. In doing so, they might want to consider avoiding states where physicians earn well below the national average, and instead gravitate toward those with the highest average estimated wages for physicians and surgeons.

Highest physician compensation

(US average cost of living is 100. Housing values from Zillow.)

10. North Dakota

Compensation: $219,660

Cost of living: 105

Median home value: $188,200

Unemployment rate: 2.6% (April 2014)

Downtown Fargo. Photo: Omar David Sandoval Sida

9. Tennessee

Compensation: $222,230

Cost of living: 87

Median home value: $123,200

Unemployment rate: 6.3% (April 2014)

Nashville

8. Iowa

Compensation: $223,150

Cost of living: 89

Median home value: $129,000

Unemployment rate: 4.3% (April 2014)

Des Moines

7. (tied) Wyoming

Compensation: $227,160

Cost of living: 104

Median home value: $234,900

Unemployment rate: 3.7% (April 2014)

Jackson

7. (tied) New Hampshire

Compensation: $227,160

Cost of living: 117

Median home value: $215,100

Unemployment rate: 4.4% (April 2014)

Concord

5. Idaho

Compensation: $227,550

Cost of living: 98

Median home value: $165,800

Unemployment rate: 5% (April 2014)

Boise

4. Minnesota

Compensation: $228,700

Cost of living: 103

Median home value: $180,500

Unemployment rate: 4.7% (April 2014)

Minneapolis

3. Montana

Compensation: $231,820

Cost of living: 107

Median home value: $179,600

Unemployment rate: 4.8% (April 2014)

University of Montana

2. South Dakota

Compensation: $233,100

Cost of living: 98

Median home value: $122,400

Unemployment rate: 3.8% (April 2014)

Brookings

1. Mississippi

Compensation: $240,510

Cost of living: 89

Median home value: $112,200

Unemployment rate: 7.5% (April 2014)

Meridian

See the states with the lowest compensation on the next page.

Lowest physician compensation

(US average cost of living is 100. Housing values from Zillow.)

10. Arkansas

Compensation: $168,850

Cost of living: 84

Median home value: $110,800

Unemployment rate: 6.6% (April 2014)

Jonesboro

9. North Carolina

Compensation: $168,670

Cost of living: 95

Median home value: $145,400

Unemployment rate: 6.2% (April 2014)

Raleigh

8. Maryland

Compensation: $167,670

Cost of living: 116

Median home value: $251,200

Unemployment rate: 5.5% (April 2014)

Potomac

7. Rhode Island

Compensation: $167,310

Cost of living: 121

Median home value: $217,100

Unemployment rate: 8.3% (April 2014)

Providence

6. Michigan

Compensation: $165,310

Cost of living: 89

Median home value: $115,800

Unemployment rate: 7.4% (April 2014)

Lansing

5. Massachusetts

Compensation: $156,010

Cost of living: 137

Median home value: $322,900

Unemployment rate: 6% (April 2014)

Boston

4. Vermont

Compensation: $154,910

Cost of living: 116

Median home value: $222,300

Unemployment rate: 3.3% (April 2014)

Burlington

3. Nebraska

Compensation: $147,820

Cost of living: 89

Median home value: $132,000

Unemployment rate: 3.6% (April 2014)

Chadron State Park

2. Oklahoma

Compensation: $139,800

Cost of living: 84

Median home value: $108,800

Unemployment rate: 4.6% (April 2014)

Tulsa

1. District of Columbia

Compensation: $135,990

Cost of living: 156

Median home value: $469,000

Unemployment rate: 7.5% (April 2014)

Dupont Circle