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The Best and Worst States to Practice Medicine


Today is National Doctors Day, a day set aside to honor the women and men who devote their careers to healing. While doctors are generally applauded by society, several factors make some states more difficult for physicians building a career.

Doctor exam

Today is National Doctors Day, a day set aside to honor the women and men who devote their careers to healing.

The Kaiser Family Foundation counts nearly 900,000 physicians in the US, a little less than half of whom (425,000) are primary care doctors. California has the most physicians of any state, with more than 100,000.

Yet, while physicians are revered for their good works, they also face a number of hurdles. Though doctors are usually well-compensated, they face high costs such as malpractice insurance and payouts, and many live in high-cost regions where their salaries don’t stretch as far as many assume.

The website WalletHub decided to use the occasion of National Doctors Day to publish a list of the best and worst states for physicians. They looked at a dozen metrics, such as wages (adjusted for cost of living), pay disparities, competition and job opportunities, insurance rates, and more.

Below are the 5 best and 5 worst states on the list, along with WalletHub’s cumulative “Opportunity and Competition” rank, and “Work Environment” rank. Note: WalletHub included Washington DC in its list, even though the district isn’t a state. Thus, all rankings are based on the 50 states plus DC.


5. Kansas


Opportunity and Competition Rank: 3

Work Environment Rank: 9

Notes: Kansas has the second-highest annual wages for physicians (adjusted for cost of living), and the third-least-expensive malpractice insurance.

4. Mississippi


Opportunity and Competition Rank: 1

Work Environment Rank: 22

Notes: Mississippi has the fourth-highest salaries for physicians, and also the lowest rate of competition, something that’s not so good for patients, but which results in more opportunities for doctors.

3. Texas


Opportunity and Competition Rank: 6

Work Environment Rank: 5

Notes: The Lone Star State had the fourth-lowest malpractice payouts (per capita). However, the state also has a wide range of salaries, holding the fourth-highest pay disparity between physicians.

2. Minnesota


Opportunity and Competition Rank: 26

Work Environment Rank: 1

Notes: Minnesota’s state medical board was ranked the third-least punitive of the 50 states, contributing to its positive work environment rank. The state also has the second-least-expensive malpractice insurance.

1. South Carolina

South Carolina

Opportunity and Competition Rank: 8

Work Environment Rank: 3

Notes: South Carolina has the best scores overall. The one area where they stand out the most relates to the state’s medical board, which was deemed the least punitive in the US.

Those states are the best, according to WalletHub. Now on to the 5 worst states…


5. Maine


Opportunity and Competition Rank: 43

Work Environment Rank: 48

Notes: Maine didn’t stand out in any single category. However, on a cumulative basis it was found to have the third-worst work environment for physicians of any state.

4. New York

New York

Opportunity and Competition Rank: 40

Work Environment Rank: 50

Notes: New York is home to many of the world’s best physicians, but that also creates a lot of competition (the fourth-highest, according to WalletHub). The state has the highest per-capita malpractice payouts of any state, contributing to its poor work environment score.

3. Oregon


Opportunity and Competition Rank: 51*

Work Environment Rank: 24

Notes: Oregon has the fourth-lowest wage disparity of any state, and its work environment is in the middle of the pack. However, the state has the very lowest opportunity and competition rank of any state.

*The list includes Washington DC, thus the “51” ranking.

2. New Jersey

New York

Opportunity and Competition Rank: 50

Work Environment Rank: 31

Notes: The Garden State has the second-highest malpractice payouts per capita, helping to earn it a below-average work environment rank. However, the lack of opportunity and competition is what sinks the state in this list.

1. Rhode Island

Rhode Island

Opportunity and Competition Rank: 49

Work Environment Rank: 30

Notes: Rhode Island is the worst state in which to practice, according to WalletHub. The state has the fifth-highest malpractice payouts per capita, and the second-highest rate of competition, according to the study.

Read WalletHub’s entire list here.

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