Best states to practice medicine: An MDLinx analysis

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published June 21, 2018

Key Takeaways

As politicians are known to say: “All politics is local.” Physicians could say the same thing about medicine, because where you practice can make all the difference. To that end, MDLinx looked for the best and worst states for physicians to hang their shingle. Which state came out on top? And, where did your state rank? Read on to find out.

But first, a few words of explanation. This analysis considered several factors, all of which were given equal weight:

  • Salarydata from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
  • Cost of livingbased on data from the Council for Community and Economic Research
  • Physician densityfrom Association of American Medical Colleges 2017 State Physician Workforce Data Report
  • Health care access and qualityfrom US News & World Report’s Best States for Health Care rankings
  • Cost of medical malpractice insurancethe industry average yearly costs of medical malpractice insurance for physicians in solo and group practices, from Capson Physicians Insurance Company
  • Family friendlinessfrom’s 2018’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family
  • Quality of lifefrom US News & World Report’s Quality of Life rankings

Each category ranks all states from first (#1) to worst (#50). The average of these scores generated our overall ranking. Data were not available for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Using these factors as a basis, it’s not difficult to see how some of the best states ranked high in our analysis. These states scored well in terms of physician salary and health care, and low in numbers of physicians per population. They’re also well-regarded places to raise a family and enjoy a high quality of life.

Now without further ado, here are MDLinx’s 10 best places to practice.

10. Colorado

State government is committed to health and wellness

Not only is Colorado one of the physically fittest states, but the governor has made a commitment to make the Centennial State the healthiest state in the nation. For physicians, Colorado scores well on income (#11), health care (#9), and quality of life (#10).

9. Idaho

One of the fastest growing job markets in the nation

There’s more than potatoes growing in Idaho. It’s also one of the states with the fastest job growth. Idaho’s unspoiled natural landscapes are great for fishing, hiking, and getting away from it all—including other physicians. It’s ranked #2 among states with the fewest physicians per population.

8. Wyoming

Low physician population equals multiple practice opportunities

The Equality State boasts 7 national parks, not the least of which are Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Like Idaho, Wyoming is a state with low physician density (#3), yet it also ranks well for physician wages (#7).

7. New Hampshire

#1 in physician salary coupled with no state sales tax

Although the state motto is “Live Free or Die,” residents of this leafy New England state don’t exactly live there for free. Then again, New Hampshire does top the list of states with the highest physician salary (#1), and it’s one of the few states with no sales tax. It also ranks #3 among states to raise a family and #4 for quality of life.

6. Utah

2016’s fastest growing population in the US

Some consider Utah behind the times, but the times they are a-changin’—Utah was the state with the fastest growing population in 2016. It’s also one of America’s best ski areas—the mountains just a few miles outside of Salt Lake City average 40 feet of snow per year. It also scores well in terms of physician density (#7), health care access and quality (#10), and places to raise a family (#16).

5. Minnesota

Ranks 2nd in the nation for both quality of life and where to raise a family

The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” may have one of the harshest winters of any state in the lower 48, but its residents are some of the most warm-hearted, giving this state a #2 rank for both raising a family and quality of life. Health-care access and quality are good (#7), and it’s the state with the fifth lowest average cost for medical malpractice insurance.

4. South Dakota

No income tax and comes in 2nd for physician salary

South Dakota is more than Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. It’s also the third most “tax friendly” state in the United States, and it’s one of the few states that have no income tax. In addition, it ranks as the #2 state for the highest physician wages and #5 for quality of life.

3. Wisconsin

One of the lowest average costs in the US for medical malpractice insurance

Just next door to Minnesota, “America’s Dairyland” may be full of cheeseheads, which perhaps affects its health ranking (#17). But Wisconsin scores high for physician salary (#3), raising a family (#6), and is also known for its high quality of life (#3)—or “gemütlichkeit,” as its residents may say. It’s also one of the states with the lowest industry average cost for medical malpractice insurance (#8).

2. North Dakota

Best overall quality of life in the nation

The second-best state to practice medicine is North Dakota. What has been called the Roughrider State—and is now called the Peace Garden State—ranks #1 in quality of life. North Dakota topped the quality-of-life list not for its glittering nightlife (a sky full of stars, perhaps?), but for its social support and its sense of tight-knit community, according the ranking criteria. North Dakota also scored high among places to raise a family (#4) and physician pay (#5).

And the number 1 state to practice medicine is…Iowa!

Ranks in the top 10 for 5 of our 7 criteria

According to our MDLinx analysis, the best state for physicians to practice is Iowa. The Hawkeye State is also #1 overall in US News & World Report’Best States rankings. For physicians, Iowa ranks among the top 10 states in almost all of our categories: wages (#9); quality of life (#9); physician density per population (#8); places to raise a family (#8); and health care access and quality (#3).

Again, all medicine is local—so despite our rankings, a small-town doctor in Takoma Park, MD (not a highly ranked state), might enjoy practicing medicine more and have a better quality of life than a general surgeon in Des Moines, IA, for example.

Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter