Top 5 States for Primary Care Pay
Doctors are among the highest earners in the United States, but primary care physician compensation can vary greatly depending on geographic location, practice setting and specialty.
So how does primary care pay compare to other physician salaries, and what are the highest paying states?
[RELATED: Locum Leaders’ Locum Tenens Salary Guide: 3 Important Considerations]
Average compensation for all physicians
The 2017 Medscape Physician Compensation Report reported the average physician compensation was $294,000 annually for full-time physicians. This annual benchmark report included survey responses from more than 19,200 physicians in 27 specialties.
The total compensation for employed physicians includes salaries, bonuses and any profit-sharing. The compensation for those who own their own practice, whether partners or solo practitioners, includes business earnings after taxes and deductible business expenses, but before income tax.
Medscape researchers pointed out that average compensation of physician specialists was $316,000, which was 46 percent higher than the average primary care physician compensation of $217,000.
Five states stood out with the highest average physician pay overall, across all specialties:
North Dakota - $361,000
Alaska - $359,000
South Dakota - $354,000
Nebraska - $346,000
New Hampshire - $337,000
Why do some of the least populated states top the list for physician compensation? In part, it can be attributed to incentives used to attract physicians to practice in more remote and rural areas that have high-needs for skilled physicians.
This trend of higher pay in smaller states is also seen in the average primary care physician compensation for the disciplines highlighted below, including family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics.
Top 5 states for family medicine salaries
Family physicians are dedicated to treating the whole person; they integrate care for patients of all genders and every age, and advocate for their patients in a complex health care system.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) reports that family medicine practitioners conduct approximately one out of every five office visits, or 192 million visits annually.
The average primary care pay for family physicians in the Medscape report was $209,000 annually. The respondents reported a modest salary increase of 1 percent compared to the previous year. Regional averages showed that the South Central region of the country had the highest pay overall for family practitioners.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2016 data, here are the top five states for the average general practitioner or family practice pay:
Iowa - $243,580
New Hampshire - $236,830
Alaska - $232,560
Wisconsin - $229,900
Mississippi - $226,640
Note that because of the way data is collected, the BLS data on physician compensation is reflective of employed physicians only and not physicians who own their own practice.
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Top 5 states for Internal medicine salaries
The American College of Physicians describes internal medicine physicians as “specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness.” Internal medicine physicians can work as general internists or get additional training to subspecialize in areas ranging from cardiology to infectious diseases.
The annual internist compensation, according to the Medscape survey respondents, was $225,000, compared to the average of $201,840 for general internists reported by the BLS.
The top 5 paying states for general internists (per BLS data):
South Dakota - $275,760
Alabama - $274, 930
Arkansas - $266, 980
New Mexico - $266,550
North Carolina - $265,150
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Top 5 states for pediatrician salaries
Pediatricians specialize in the care of infants, children, adolescents and young adults, managing physical, behavioral and mental health issues.
Primary care physician compensation for pediatricians was the lowest out of all specialties in the Medscape report, with a national average of $202,000 annually. The BLS data reports an average annual pediatrician salary of $184,240.
The top 5 paying states for pediatricians (per BLS data):
Mississippi - $270,430
Alaska - $269,530
Utah - $267,020
Montana - $244,940
South Dakota - $237,290
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OB/GYN salaries – are they primary care?
Though obstetricians and gynecologists are specialists in the female reproductive system, with expertise in surgery and other areas, many women consider their OB/GYNs their primary care physicians. Physicians and health leaders continue to debate whether they belong in the same group with family practitioners, internists and pediatricians, however.
For comparison, OB/GYN salaries were higher than all three areas of primary care pay, but slightly below the average for all physicians in the Medscape survey. Their reported average earnings were $286,000 in 2017, which was a 3 percent increase over the prior year.
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43% increase in overall physician salaries in 7 years
Medscape reports that the average physician compensation has increased steadily over the past seven years, due in part to increased competition between hospitals and health systems. In 2011, the average physician compensation across all specialties was $206,000, compared to the $294,000 average in 2017.
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