Industry Trends Physician

Top 10 highest paying states for physicians in 2021

Many physicians have felt the impacts of the COVID pandemic over the past two years — both in their work and their compensation. Whether you’re considering an new practice opportunity or want to give locum tenens a try, compensation will be an important factor in where you choose to work. Medscape recently reported where physicians earn the most. Here is 2021’s list of the top 10 highest paying states for physicians.


1. Alabama

Physicians who want to increase their earnings or pay down student debt can get paid more in Alabama than in any other state — an average of $348,000 per year. Not only is the pay impressive, the healthcare at the top hospital in the state is something to write home about. Four specialties at University of Alabama at Birmingham are ranked top 20 in the country, with six more specialties in the top 50. And if you’re looking to relocate, the state’s largest cities — Birmingham, Huntsville, and Montgomery — are consistently ranked among the top 25 cities with the lowest cost of living.  

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2. Kentucky

Kentucky is known for its strong workforce, particularly in the education, car manufacturing, and healthcare fields. In fact, physicians in Kentucky can bring home an average of $340,000 annually, while at the same time enjoying a cost of living that’s lower than the national average. Coupled with the respectably low rent costs, you’ll have the budget to explore new place like the Kentucky Bourbon Trail where you’ll learn the secrets behind how the famous liquor is made at 11 distilleries, or take in the many events during Kentucky’s fifth season, Derby Season.

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3. Oklahoma

Physicians with a family should check out Oklahoma: the Sooner State was recently ranked as the fourth most affordable state for cost of living in the U.S., and Oklahoma City is rapidly growing due to its ranking as one of the top ten cities in which to raise a family. Physicians with the desire to put down roots could earn an average of $338,000 a year in Oklahoma. Bonus for the locum physician: Oklahoma pays 115% above the national median for locums pay.

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4. Indiana

Indiana is home to six Indiana University hospitals that are nationally ranked in high-performing procedures. No surprise then that the Hoosier state pays medical professionals well: physicians in Indiana will make on average $337,0000 per year, and locums physicians can expect to earn slightly more than the national average (103%). Along with a strong healthcare system, recreation and sports have a rich history in Indiana: the state is known as the Basketball Capital of the World, and many pros like Larry Bird hail from Indiana.

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5. Missouri 

In 2021, Missouri burst onto the scene as a state that pays its healthcare workers what they deserve. Physicians in the Show-Me State earn an average annual salary of $332,000, and locums physicians earn 117% more than median pay for locums physicians in other states. Along with good earning potential, there are great places to land when it comes to finding a job in Missouri. A recent report by U.S. News found that out of 160 hospitals in Missouri, two are nationally ranked, with seven more recognized for meeting national standards. If quality of life is your goal, Missouri has it all, including six national parks and 100 state parks. Plus, the median house price is 30% lower than the national average.

View locum tenens physician jobs in Missouri

South Carolina

6. South Carolina

Like Missouri, physicians in South Carolina can expect to make top dollar, or an average of $332,000 per year. Great paychecks could translate to a nice retirement nest egg if you’re a physician in South Carolina, one of the top states in which to retire, according to a list by Forbes. There are enough beaches and resort attractions in the state to fuel either a family lifestyle or that long-awaited retirement dream. The healthcare scene isn’t bad, either; the Medical University of South Carolina has been ranked number one for five years in a row, with a few specialties ranking the highest in the country.

View locum tenens physician jobs in South Carolina


7. Florida

Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S. — attracting old and young alike with year-round sunshine, white sand beaches, and pristine golf courses. With a growing population, the need for physicians continues to rise. With state of the art hospitals — Florida’s UF Shands Hospital has nine top ranked specialties — the Sunshine State was also ranked as the 21st best state to practice in, with an average physician salary of $331,000.

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8. Georgia

Coming in at eighth on the list of highest paying states for physicians is Georgia, up two spots from 2020; physicians in Georgia earn an average of $330,000 a year. Not only will you make top dollar in Georgia, you may have the opportunity to work with physicians hailing from one of the best medical schools in the south: Emory School of Medicine. Not only is Atlanta is home to over 250,000 students attending various universities, Emory has been ranked 22 in research. On your time off, soak in the entertainment industry in Georgia, where you can tour one of many famous movie sets or attend one of their many film festivals.

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9. Iowa

Physicians in Iowa earn on average $330,000 per year, the same as Georgia. Iowa offers a tie-breaker though: locums physicians working in the Hawkeye state get paid 106% more than the national median when it comes to locums pay. BestPlaces recently ranked Iowa as the 9th cheapest place to live in the U.S., so the extra income will go far while exploring Iowa’s historical sites, water parks, and natural wonders.

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10. Tennessee

Finishing up the top 10 is Tennessee, a southern gem where a physician can make an average of $329,000. Known as the 20th best place to practice medicine by Medscape, Tennessee is home to the famous Vanderbilt University Medical Center, ranked 20 on the Best Hospital’s Honor Roll; as well as a lively music scene, famous barbecue, and much more. Physicians looking to relocate will benefit from putting down roots in Tennessee, since there is no state income tax and the property taxes are relatively low. Locum physicians working in Tennessee will bring home a paycheck averaging 118% more than the national median.

View locum tenens physician jobs in Tennessee

Ready to earn more by working in one of these states? We can help you see what it’s like to practice there with a locum tenens assignment. Give us a call at 954.343.3050 or view today’s locum tenens job opportunities.

About the author

Rachel Kirk Brown

Rachel is originally from Portland, Oregon. She has writing and editing experience in various fields. Rachel enjoys reading, binge-watching murder-mystery documentaries, cooking, and discovering new areas of Salt Lake on her scooter.