Doctors are among the highest-paid and most educated professionals in the U.S. In fact, “physician” was the highest-paid job type in 2018, with a median base salary of over $195,000 and over 3,000 job openings during the year. The high salary average makes sense, given the importance of their life-saving work and the struggles that come with life in the medical profession.
But doctors don’t always start out wealthy. The average medical-school graduate left campus with more than $196,000 of debt in 2018. The medical profession has also been undergoing intense transformation in recent years. Health-care reform, the rise of branded hospital networks and the retirement of Baby Boomers are all complicating the lives of doctors.
But working conditions for doctors aren’t the same everywhere in the U.S. In order to help doctors decide where to practice, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 18 key metrics. Our data set ranges from average annual wage of physicians to hospitals per capita to quality of public hospital system. Check out the complete ranking, additional expert commentary and a full description of our methodology below.
Best States to Practice Medicine
‘Opportunity & Competition’ Rank
‘Medical Environment’ Rank
|50||District of Columbia||41.55||51||33|
Ask the Experts: The Future of the Medical Profession
Medicine is changing rapidly, and the way it is taught and practiced has to change too. The industry faces an aging population, new regulations and technological breakthroughs. With that in mind, we asked a panel of experts the following key questions:
- What are the biggest issues facing doctors today?
- How do state and local policies influence the lives of doctors and other medical professionals?
- What tips can you offer current medical students about what specialty to pursue and where to practice?
- To what extent does the threat of a malpractice lawsuit affect doctors’ ability to do their job?
- In evaluating the best states for doctors, what are the top five indicators?
- Taken altogether, has the ACA proven to be a net positive or net negative for physicians?
In order to identify the best states for doctors, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across two key dimensions, “Opportunity & Competition” and “Medical Environment.”
We evaluated those dimensions using 18 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for practicing doctors.
We then determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Opportunity & Competition – Total Points: 70
- Physicians’ Average Annual Wage: Double Weight (~11.67 Points)
Note: Data for this metric were adjusted for the cost of living.
- Physicians’ Average Monthly Starting Salary: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: Data for this metric were adjusted for the cost of living.
- Hospitals per Capita: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
- Insured Population Rate: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: “Population” includes noninstitutionalized civilians aged 16 and older.
- Employer-Based Insurance Rate: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
- Projected Share of Elderly Population: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric measures the projected percentage of the population aged 65 and older by 2030.
- Current Competition: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric measures both the number of physicians per 1,000 Residents and the percentage of the population living in a primary-care HPSA, or Health Professional Shortage Area. HPSAs, as defined by the Health Resources & Services Administration, “are designations that indicate health care provider shortages in: Primary care; Dental health; or Mental Health” and “may be geographic-, population-, or facility-based.”
- Share of Medical Residents Retained: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: The metric measures the net number of medical residents being added to the physician workforce of each state.
- Projected Competition: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric measures the projected number of physicians per 1,000 Residents by 2026.
- Number of CME Credits Required: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: “CME” stands for Continuing Medical Education, credits for which the state may require medical professionals to earn in order to maintain their licenses.
- Presence of Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Law: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric is based on data from the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and considers whether compact legislation has been enacted, introduced or not been introduced.
Medical Environment – Total Points: 30
- Quality of Public Hospital System: Full Weight (~4.29 Points)
Note: This metric is based on data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
- Hospitals Safety – Percentage of “A” Hospitals: Full Weight (~4.29 Points)
Note: This metric is based on data from Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade which ranked hospitals across the states based on 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data.
- Presence of Nationally Accredited Health Departments: Full Weight (~4.29 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of national accredited health departments in a state.
- Physician Assistants per Capita: Full Weight (~4.29 Points)
- Punitiveness of State Medical Board: Full Weight (~4.29 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of serious disciplinary actions (per 1,000 physicians) taken by the state medical board.
- Malpractice Award Payout Amount per Capita: Full Weight (~4.29 Points)
- Annual Malpractice Liability Insurance Rate: Full Weight (~4.29 Points)
Videos for News Use:
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Council for Community and Economic Research, Health Resources & Services Administration, Association of American Medical Colleges, Projections Central’s State Occupational Projections, DBC Pri-Med, Professional Boundaries, Leapfrog Group, Public Health Accreditation Board, Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Diederich Healthcare.
Image: gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com
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