Rural Regions Pay Doctors More Than Urban Areas

By Brenda Neugent

New research finds that doctors in rural areas such as the American West are paid more than physicians in highly competitive regions such as Boston or San Francisco.

According to the San Francisco-based startup Doximity, a networking site for physicians, high-cost municipalities actually pay less in salary than rural areas of the country. Making that dream job at a prestigious medical center seem much less desirable.

“High-cost areas actually pay less,” said Jeff Tangney, CEO and founder of Doximity. “Medical school teaches the science of medicine, but not the business of medicine.”

According to Doximity research, physicians in rural regions make about $1,500 on average a year more than doctors in urban areas.

“We believe that the higher rural compensation is a result of more of a supply problem. The demand for doctors stays relatively consistent with population, with some exceptions,” said Doximity spokeswoman Lauren Lloyd. “However, in areas with a lower supply of physicians either due to the number of training programs or the desirability of the location, we’re seeing that those areas are paying higher wages to meet their demand.”

Emergency medicine, family medicine, occupational therapy, and psychiatry were the most sought-after specialties and paid more in Texas, Florida and Minnesota. Doctors in Massachusetts, New York, and California, however, reported the lowest salaries in those specialties.

Essentially, the more in need a region is of a physician in a certain specialty, the higher the compensation. If another doctor in the same specialty moves to the region, salary tends to drop slightly.

“Our data does show that as you add more physicians per capita, you see a decrease in compensation. We also see that areas with high physician shortages, correlate with lower wages as well,” Lloyd said. “The areas receiving higher wages do not necessarily have a shortage of physicians, likely because they’re paying higher wages to meet their demand.”

The information is based on a survey of more than 18,000 Doximity physician members over the course of four months.

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