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States and Countries: Where Do Doctors Earn The Most Money?

Now that we’re nearing the end of 2022, I thought we could look at which U.S. states and countries are paying their physicians the most. The International Monetary Fund released their world economic outlook update in July and titled it “Gloomy and More Uncertain.”

In a nutshell, global inflation is up because of the uptick in food and energy prices in combination with supply and demand imbalances. They measured growth projections by world regions, and it’s worth looking at where we, as physicians, can expect to make the most money.

Region 2021 2022 2023
World 6.1 3.2 2.9
United States 5.7 2.3 1.0
Euro Area 5.4 2.6 1.2
Middle East and Central Asia 5.8 4.8 3.5
Emerging and Developing Asia 7.3 4.6 5.0
Latin America and the Caribbean 6.9 3.0 2.0
Sub-Saharan Africa 4.6 3.8 4.0

CNBC reported that the same source predicts that 2023 will “feel like a recession for millions around the world.” Unfortunately, they’re not alone in this prediction. The United Nations, the World Bank, and many global CEOs say the same thing.

Enough of the bad news. As physicians, we are fortunate to have more than enough work and be paid well for our work, comparatively speaking. Moreover, though patients tend to pull the purse strings in every aspect of life when there are hints of a coming recession, our industry is known to be “recession-proof.”

The Great Recession of 2008 saw the creation of jobs in healthcare, and Top Resume lists the medical profession at the top of their “best recession-proof jobs.”

Medical Salaries in the United States

With that in mind, if you’re thinking of moving to a new state and want to know which state will pay you the most, I looked at Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report from this summer to give me an idea of where the outlook is the rosiest.

They listed the top 8 highest-earning states for physicians in the following order:

  1. Kentucky $364,000
  2. Tennessee $364,000
  3. Alabama $358,000
  4. Missouri $357,000
  5. Oregon $352,000
  6. Indiana $350,000,
  7. North Carolina $348,000
  8. Connecticut $346,000

Curiously, when you look at a map, there’s a strong cluster of five of these states — Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, and North Carolina that are located in the middle and southeast part of the country. Oregon and Connecticut touch the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, respectively, and Indiana sits just above Kentucky under the Great Lakes.

Medscape’s report notices that “many or most” of these higher-earning states were also on previous year’s lists. They found that southern states have worked hard to attract doctors to relocate, especially to counties outside the urban centers.

Most physicians’ income rose from the year before, although 20% of doctors reported their income dropped. While in 2020, 92% of doctors blamed COVID-19 for the drop, only 70% of doctors held COVID-19 responsible for any income drop in 2021.

Interestingly, the report showed that self-employed doctors earned 20% more than employed doctors in the past year.

Medical Salary

Weatherby Healthcare released a report on the “Top 10 Highest Paying States for Physicians in 2022.” Their findings were the same as those from the Medscape survey, but they added a 9th and 10th position to the list:

  • Texas $346,000
  • Florida $346,000

Their report also fleshed out some of the advantages you might find living in one of these states:

  • Locum tenens physicians earn 118% more in Kentucky than the median pay across all other states.
  • Tennessee ranks as the third most “fiscally stable” state. It has a low cost of living, and you won’t have to pay any state income tax. Property taxes are 1.70%, and sales taxes are 3.96%. Only Alaska has a lower tax burden nationwide.
  • Doctors in Alabama report one of the lowest burnout rates in all states, and the numbers find, on average, that they are happier than doctors in most other states. All while holding the distinction of having the third-highest income for physicians in the States.
  • Sperlings BestPlaces reviews Missouri as having an 85.6 (out of 100) in terms of the cost of living there. Numbers above 100 indicate the state has a higher cost of living than the U.S. average. Conversely, numbers below 100 indicate a state has a lower cost of living than the U.S. average.
  • Indiana placed fifth on Medscape’s Best & Worst Places to Practice 2022 list. Doctors in this state “earn top quintile salaries, and the overall cost of living and tax burden are low.” Also worth noting is the “low rate of adverse actions against doctors.”
  • Physicians in North Carolina, like Alabama, are said to be “more happy in their work lives and less likely to suffer from burnout than doctors overall.” Charlotte, NC, was the top-paying city in this state for doctors.
  • Texas came in fourth on Medscape’s Best & Worst Places to Practice 2022 list with an “enviable resident retention rate.” In addition, compensation is above the national average, and the cost of living is below the national average.
  • Florida made the top 10 list of Medscape’s Best & Worst Places to Practice 2022. Its compensation for physicians and the cost of living are “middling,” but you won’t have to pay a state income tax, which makes a difference to your bottom line.

You can compare the “overall prices of goods and services” in cities all across the U.S. Simply plug in the city where you’re currently living and the city where you are considering moving to. You can immediately see how the move would impact your:

  • Overall index
  • Food and groceries
  • Homeowner housing
  • Median home costs
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Health
  • Miscellaneous

Top-Paying Cities in the Top-Paying States

Top Paying City

Let’s go one step further and look at the top-paying cities in each of these 10 states:

State Annual Income City Annual Income
Kentucky $364,000 Louisville $521,668
Tennessee $364,000 Memphis $521,668
Alabama $358,000 Birmingham $364,290
Missouri $357,000 Kansas City $521,668
Oregon $352,000 Hillsboro $370,572
Indiana $350,000 Indianapolis $435,134
North Carolina $348,000 Charlotte $462,760
Connecticut $346,000 Stamford
Texas $346,000 Dallas $415,487
Florida $346,000 Orlando $425,634

Ranking of Best States to Live in

U.S. News & World Report published a recent list measuring the “Best States Rankings” measuring outcomes for each state’s citizens that used more than 70 metrics. They based the list on the metrics surveys showed matter most to people. The metrics were weighted according to these outcomes. Starting with the most heavily weighted metrics, the list looks like this:

  • 15.97% Health care
  • 15.94% Education
  • 13.36% Economy
  • 12.29% Infrastructure
  • 12.29% Opportunity
  • 11.36% Fiscal stability
  • 09.16% Crime and corrections
  • 08.99% Natural environment

Out of our 50 states, none of the top 10 states that pay physicians the highest salaries were in the top 10 “best states to live in.”

Group of Doctors

Instead, the highest quality of life ranking went to North Carolina, ranking 13 on the list of highest-earning states.

State Annual Income State Ranking
Kentucky $364,000 41
Tennessee $364,000 29
Alabama $358,000 46
Missouri $357,000 28
Oregon $352,000 22
Indiana $350,000 32
North Carolina $348,000 13
Connecticut $346,000 20

If we order this list by which states are ranked highest, it looks like this:

State Annual Income State Ranking
North Carolina $348,000 13
Connecticut $346,000 20
Oregon $352,000 22
Missouri $357,000 28
Tennessee $364,000 29
Indiana $350,000 32
Kentucky $364,000 41
Alabama $358,000 46

The states that offered to pay doctors the most were rated 29, 41, and 46 out of 50. If you live in North Carolina, you’ll be in the 13th most desirable state in the country and make $16,000 less a year than the highest-paid state.

You’ll make the most in Kentucky and Tennessee, which ranked 41 and 29 on the state ranking board. Alabama has the lowest-ranked quality of life at 46, with only West Virginia, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Louisiana ranking lower.

Medical Salaries in Other Countries

If you’re open to relocating to another country, I let my fingers roam around the world to see which countries pay the highest salaries. Medic Footprints, out of England, created a 10 Highest-Paying Countries for Doctors blog post I found quite interesting.

The salaries are shown in dollars with purchasing power parity (PPP). Purchasing Power Parity is a “theoretical exchange rate that permits the comparison of the purchasing power of different currencies.” This allows the author to directly compare salaries from different countries.

The figures below were accurate as of 2020 and were taken from the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD), the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, and the Doximity Report on Physician Compensation.

I’ll follow the order they rolled out the information — starting with #10 and ending up with the highest-paying country in the world.

  • Australia made it on the list at number 10. General practitioners made an average of $104,300, and specialists made an average of $210,800.
  • The Netherlands land at number 9, with specialists making $200,300 and G.P.s bringing home $137,500 yearly.
  • Staying on the European mainland, Austrian doctors make $141,500 a year, and their specialists make $213,200.
  • Ireland “scores consistently on any list of “best-paying countries for both specialists and G.P.s,” with the former making $209,000 and G.P.s making $164,700.
  • Swiss doctors can earn $172,800 as a general practitioner and $228,000 as a specialist. It’s good to note that Switzerland has the highest cost of living in Europe.
  • Canada comes in at number 5 on this list, with G.P.s making $158,200 per year and specialists earning just under a quarter of a million at $249,000.
  • Another European country, Germany, pays their specialist $222,700 and their G.P.s $214,700. Add an affordable cost of living, and the outlook looks enticing.
  • Belgium specialists can make over $300,000 at $331,200 each year. By comparison, G.P.s make less than some countries on this list and only pay their doctors $138,700.
  • Our own country, the United States, is listed as the second highest-paying country for doctors. This report says that G.P.s make $242,400 annually, and specialists can make about $350,300.

The country paying the highest for its doctors? Luxembourg, a tiny country tucked between France, Germany, and Belgium, has this distinction. Specialists make $352,300, and G.P.s can bring home $278,900 annually.

Group of Medical Staff

The country’s population is 645,397 as of this year, and it is consistently ranked among the top 20 countries that offer the highest quality of living worldwide. Part of this ranking was earned by its political and economic stability.

Expatistan listed a single person’s cost of living in Luxembourg in 2022 at $4,879 each month (converted from Euros to U.S. dollars). A family of four can expect to spend $3,055.96 each month. Luxembourg is more expensive than 85% of cities in Western Europe and more expensive than 78% of cities in the world.

Want to know what you would pay for some everyday items in Luxembourg?

Item Cost
12 large eggs $4.24
16 oz of cheese $8.86
One bottle of good-quality wine $9.84
Monthly rent for 900 sq ft in a furnished apartment $2,244.97
One gallon of gas $6.28
One month gym membership $45.27
Two movie tickets $20.67

This site had a few different countries on their “Top 10 Countries with the Highest Salaries for Doctors” article this summer. They included:

  • New Zealand pays its specialists $138,261 per year
  • Israeli doctors can make just under $75,000, and specialists make around $147,000 annually
  • German specialists take home around $150,000 each year
  • The United Kingdom pays its doctors an average of $85,250 and their specialists $174,000 per year
  • Icelandic specialists can attract around $202,000, while their doctors bring home an average of $182,000

Not all sources agree on the salary G.P.s and specialists in these countries would make, but they do seem to agree that the countries listed above make the list of countries where doctors make the most money.

It’s comforting to learn that we, as American doctors, can earn a good living in our country. I’m grateful for the opportunities we have and the freedom we enjoy to live life and practice medicine on our terms.

If you’re interested in taking the first steps toward financial freedom as a doctor, be sure to check out the other articles I’ve written! There is a vast amount of knowledge available on my blog page, which can get you started in the right direction.

For example, just the other week, I wrote an entire article all about becoming a medical-legal consultant as a part-time gig. In that article, I talked all about what a medical-legal consultant is, what their duties are, and where you can find work as one. You can find that article right here.

Or perhaps, you’re interested in becoming something like a telemedicine doctor but don’t quite know what to expect in terms of salary. Luckily, I’ve written an article all about that topic as well! In that article, I listed some of the best-paying cities for telemedicine doctors, the highest-ranked companies for telemedicine physicians, and much more on the topic! You can read that article here.

Or maybe, you’re simply interested in starting a side hustle but aren’t quite sure what to choose. In my “Ultimate List of Side Hustles for Physicians” article, you’ll find plenty of information about both medically-related and non-medically-related side hustles to give you some inspiration! That article can be found over here.

There is so much information available to you on my blog page, and I highly urge you to check it out!