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The 10 Best States for Doctors

By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor

Whether you are new to practicing medicine or a seasoned physician looking for a change, there are many factors that can influence where you decide to practice. These factors might include where you grew up, where your family lives, where your spouse can find work, or simply which regions of the country appeal to you.

Now, a new report from WalletHub looks at the best states for doctors based on opportunities and working conditions, offering additional factors that may help you plan the next step in your career.

The WalletHub 2018 report looked at 16 different metrics, such as pay adjusted for cost of living, competition for positions, malpractice insurance rates, malpractice payouts, and how punitive the state medical board is in comparison to others. Researchers collated the data and divided it into two major categories—Opportunity and Competition, and Medical Environment. 

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The results? Several Midwestern and Western states came out on top of this year’s report.

The 10 best states for doctors  

  1. South Dakota
  2. Nebraska
  3. Idaho
  4. Iowa
  5. Minnesota
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Kansas
  8. Montana
  9. North Dakota
  10. Wyoming

*WalletHub, 2018’s Best & Worst States for Doctors

These top 10 states might surprise some physicians--due to their smaller populations and lesser-known destinations—but the rankings can provide a different perspective for those currently job hunting or considering a move.

Robert B. Rhodes, MD, FAAFP, a board-certified family physician practicing in Lincoln, Neb., said he believes that WalletHub looked at some of the most important factors affecting physicians in their recent report. 

"It is true that Nebraska has a favorable malpractice cap that limits the potential payouts for damages," he noted. "Physicians might also want to consider other factors, such as, do they want the autonomy of running their own practice or the security of being an employee. In Nebraska the ratio of independent versus employed physicians is still 50-50, but on the coasts, about 80 percent of physicians are employees."

Considering that medical students graduating in 2017 owed $190,000 in loans on average, physicians who are motivated to pay down these loans quickly might want to focus on the states that have the highest annual physician salaries. 

The five best-paying states for doctors (adjusted for cost of living), per the WalletHub report:

  1. Mississippi
  2. South Dakota
  3. Iowa
  4. Georgia
  5. Tennessee

RELATED: Top 5 States for Primary Care Pay

Additional factors when choosing where to practice

Out of WalletHub’s list of the 10 best states for doctors, four also made the US News 2018 list of the 10 Best States to live, with Iowa coming in at No. 1, Minnesota at No. 2, North Dakota at No. 4 and Nebraska at No. 7.

The U.S. News list of best states was based on a range of livability factors including health care, education, economy, opportunity, infrastructure, crime & corrections, fiscal stability and quality of life. 

"South Dakota and Nebraska are ‘fly over states’ to some people—but it is our secret that we have running water, technology and electricity," joked Rhodes who is the current president of the Nebraska Medical Association and who did his undergrad and medical school at University of South Dakota. 

Having lived in both of these top two states from WalletHub’s list, he vouched for them as great places to live and work. 

"Lincoln and Omaha have some of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten in. As college towns they offer lots of opportunity for concerts, theater, an active social scene and they care about retaining young professionals." He also praised the local golf courses—including Sand Hills in Nebraska, ranked No. 9 in the United States by Golf Digest—the Omaha Zoo, great school districts and strong entrepreneur/start-up communities that help make these the best states for doctors and their families. 

Finally, Rhodes recommended that physicians in transition also consider who their co-workers or partners will be, because those are relationships that require trust and compatibility. 

RELATED: Medical Job Interview Tips

How to try out the top states for doctors

Whether you choose from WalletHub’s best states for physicians due to their opportunity and medical environment, top-ranked states from the U.S. News list based on livability factors, or have an entirely different way of evaluating the states you might want to call home, a locum tenens position allows you to explore new places on your terms.

In fact, a locum assignment is the best way to try out a different city or state before making a permanent move.
Locum tenens jobs can last for a few weeks or a few months. They offer competitive pay and free housing arranged by the locum tenens agency; your malpractice insurance in covered, and your recruiter and team will help with state licensing, credentialing and privileging, to get you where you need to go.
As you explore your new location as a locum, you’ll also get to experience the work environment and determine if it is a match for your skills, personality and career aspirations.

How to Get Started with Locum Tenens
Locum Tenens Benefits and Licensing
Plan Now for a Rural Physician Job
LOCUM LEADERS, an AMN Healthcare company, recruits physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants for locum tenens jobs across the country.  CONTACT OUR TEAM to learn more.