Graduating from medical school not only takes a lot of work, but a ton of money too! The Association of American Medical Colleges found that M.D. graduates end up with a median of $200,000 in student loans. And the average student debt amongst the over 300 physicians we’ve consulted has been even higher at $320,000.
It’s clear the average doctor is graduating with loads of student debt. That’s why it’s more important than ever for doctors to choose wisely when deciding on where to settle down to begin their practice.
10 best states to practice medicine with student loan debt in 2019
What are the best states to “set up shop” when you’re a doctor trying to pay off student loans? Data was analyzed from a variety of sources to find the top 10 states to practice medicine with student loan debt in 2019.
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $253,549
With an average doctor’s salary (after adjusting for cost of living) at $253,549.60, Idaho is the sixth highest-paying state for doctors. Idaho also ranked No. 6 in the percentage of hospitals that are state-run or nonprofit. This is important for doctors who want to work in hospitals that qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) as opposed to opening their own private practice.
There are plenty of beautiful sights to see in Idaho, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. Shoshone Falls is called the “Niagara of the West,” and for good reason — it stands 45 feet taller than Niagara. Idaho is also known for its refreshing hot springs, like Miracle & Banbury and Pine Flats.
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $215,270
Although Washington is only ranked No. 30 in cost-of-living-adjusted doctor’s salaries, it placed within the top 21 in each of the other four factors analyzed. Most notably, Washington is ranked No. 8 in per capita income at $60,871. With an average income that high, more patients in Washington will have the means to afford high-quality healthcare.
When you’re not taking care of patients, you could search Washington’s San Juan islands for orca whales on a Sea Quest Kayak Tour. And of course, Seattle, Washington has a little bit of everything to offer, including several professional sports teams and lots of great coffee.
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $226,030
Oregon is the only state on this list that ranked in the top 25 in all five data factors. Ranking No. 9 in hospitals that qualify for PSLF, 95% of Oregon’s hospitals are either state-owned or nonprofit. For doctors hoping to receive student loan forgiveness, Oregon is one of the best places to practice medicine.
Oregon has both a gorgeous coastline and breathtaking mountain ranges to enjoy. Those mountains are great for skiing in the winter and hiking and biking in the summer. You could also check out the Oregon Trail or one of Oregon’s many ghost towns.
7. North Carolina
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $243,342
At $243,342, North Carolina’s average doctor salary falls just outside the top 10 at No. 11. And with a low average medical malpractice insurance cost of $7,242, doctors will be able to keep more of that income in North Carolina than they’d be able to in other states.
Charlotte is one of North Carolina’s largest cities and the home of Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Nascar Hall of Fame and the Carolina Panthers. Chapel Hill, North Carolina is home to the University of North Carolina and their legendary Tarheels basketball program. When you’re not watching local sports in North Carolina, get back in touch with nature by traversing the famous Appalachian Trail by foot, bike or car.
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $239,149
With only 440 doctors for every 100,000 members of the general population, Kansas is ranked No. 5 in physician density. This makes Kansas one of the best states to practice medicine because fewer doctors means less competition. And less competition should hopefully result in higher income and faster student loan payoff.
Safari Zoological Park is a popular Kansas tourist spot along with the Kansas Motorcycle Museum and Evel Knievel Museum. Major Kansas cities that could be great places to start your practice include Wichita, Overland Park, Topeka and Kansas City.
5. New Hampshire
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $248,601
New Hampshire offers the perfect blend of high average doctor salaries and high per capita income (ranked No. 8 and No. 7 respectively). Despite how doctor-friendly New Hampshire may be, it still ranks in the top 20 for physician density. And it ranks No. 16 for percentage of hospitals that qualify for PSLF, with 86% of hospitals fitting the bill. All those factors help to make New Hampshire one of the best places to practice medicine.
Doctors with kids will want to bring them to Story Land, a New Hampshire amusement park that appeals to small children. TripAdvisor recently ranked Story Land one of the Top 25 Amusement Parks in the U.S. Kids will enjoy riding the Polar Coaster and visiting Cinderella’s castle. And 3- to 5-year-olds can often get in to Story Land for free with a Preschool Play Pass!
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $269,038
Ranking No. 2 in average cost-of-living adjusted salary for doctors is a major reason why Wisconsin placed so high on this list. But those high salaries are probably a major reason why Wisconsin has the second-highest leave of physician density in the U.S. This means competition for patients will be stiffer in Wisconsin than in other states.
However, even if you decide against opening your own practice in Wisconsin, there’s a good chance you could find employment at a hospital that qualifies for PSLF. That’s because in Wisconsin, 92% of hospitals are public hospitals or nonprofits.
While Wisconsin natives do love their Green Bay Packers, there’s a lot more to do in Wisconsin than just watch football. Wisconsin Dells is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S.. Commonly referred to as the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” Wisconsin Dells has many large and small water parks to choose from. The Dells’ largest water park, Noah’s Ark, is also the largest water park in the United States.
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $273,803
Before taking anything else into account, Iowa ranked No. 3 in doctor salaries with an average salary of $246,670. But when cost of living was considered, things got even better. The Tax Foundation estimates that $100 is actually worth over $110 in Iowa. When this is taken into account, Iowa jumps all the way up to No. 1 in average doctor’s salary at $273,803.
When you’re not taking care of patients in Iowa, you could take a tour of the Field of Dreams — yes, the actual one from the movie. You could also try to grab a selfie at some of the famous covered bridges in Winterset, Iowa that inspired the novel behind the Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep flick “The Bridges of Madison County.”
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $248,304
Ranking No. 9 in average doctor’s salary, No. 5 in PSLF-qualifying hospitals and No. 5 in medical malpractice cost, Minnesota is one of the best states to practice medicine in 2019. With a ranking of No. 34, physician density is a slight concern with Minnesota but not as much as with its neighboring state of Wisconsin.
Minneapolis is Minnesota’s largest city, and there’s a ton to do there. If you’re a sports fan, you’ll love that the Vikings (NFL), Twins (MLB) and Timberwolves (NBA) all call Minneapolis their home. And if you love shopping, you’ll be overwhelmed (in a good way) by the Mall of America, the largest mall in the United States.
Average doctor’s salary in the state: $263,425
Nebraska simply offers the perfect combination of everything that a doctor with big student loan debt would want.
- Nebraska ranks No. 3 in doctor’s salaries, boasting an average salary of $263,425.
- For doctors who want to pursue PSLF, all but 6% of Nebraska hospitals are qualifying facilities.
- Nebraska has the fourth most affordable medical malpractice insurance.
- They are ranked No. 20 in per capita income at $52,110.
Yes, Nebraska falls just outside the top 25 in physician density at No. 27. But when you consider all the pros Nebraska has to offer doctors, it’s actually somewhat surprising that it isn’t ranked lower.
When you’re off-duty, you’ve got to check out Carhenge. It’s 39 vintage cars stacked together to look like Stonehenge. And if you’re brave, give “tanking,” a try, the term Nebraska natives have given for riding a livestock tank down a river. Yes, you read that right. Kids will enjoy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, which includes the world’s largest indoor rainforest and desert ecosystem.
To come up with this list, five different factors were analyzed:
- Average cost-adjusted doctor salary (30% of overall score): Data was taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2018 wage estimates and the Tax Foundation’s 2018 real value of $100.
- Percentage of hospitals that qualify for PSLF (20% of overall score): Data was taken from the American Health Association.
- Per capita income (20% of overall score): Data was taken from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
- Physician density (20% of overall score): Data was taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2018 occupational estimates.
- Average medical malpractice insurance premiums (10% of overall score): Data was taken from Capson Physicians Insurance before its 2019 liquidation.
Each category ranked all states No. 1 to No. 50. The overall ranking was taken from the average of these individual scores.
As indicated above, some categories were weighted more heavily than others. Average physician salary had the most influence on the overall score, for instance, while average medical malpractice insurance had the least.
Finally, we screened out states with a population of less than one million people as it’s easier for data to skew with population sizes that small.