The top 10 highest paying states for locum tenens physicians in 2021

map of highest paying states for locum tenens physicians

A recent AAMC report found that by 2034, we could have a national shortage of up to 134,000 physicians. The physician shortage certainly isn’t good news, but it does mean demand and compensation will continue to rise for physicians who are willing to work locum tenens. We recently partnered with two of the largest locum tenens staffing agencies to determine which states have higher than average locum tenens pay. Here are the top paying states for locum tenens, and some of the reasons behind the higher than average pay.

10. Delaware: 108%

Delaware is one of only four states that doesn’t have its own medical school, which means it produces fewer newly trained physicians, contributing to the shortage there. And it’s likely the physician shortage in Delaware is going to get worse: nearly 30 percent of physicians in Delaware say they’re planning to retire within the next five years. Physicians who take locum tenens assignments in Delaware will earn an average of 108% of the national median for locums pay.

9. Iowa: 110%

Iowa ranks 46th in the country for the number of physicians per 100,000 people. In particular, Iowa is seeing shortages in doctors who specialize in pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology. Like Delaware, Iowa’s physician shortage is at its worst in rural areas. Most physicians practice in the bigger cities where there is higher demand. Lack of access to healthcare services means rural patients often have to commute long distances to receive medical care for themselves and their families. Locum physicians will earn a higher than average wage in Iowa — 110% above the national median.

8. Kentucky: 110%

By 2025, Kentucky will have a shortage of 960 physicians, which is the third largest physician shortage in the country. Kentucky is facing several unique healthcare challenges: the University of Kentucky College of Medicine is at capacity, meaning it turns away 100 qualified medical students every year. Plus, the state has some of the country’s worst rates for obesity, diabetes, mental health, childhood poverty, drug use, and smoking. Locum tenens physicians looking to explore the Bluegrass State could earn well above of the national median for locums pay (110%).

7. Wisconsin: 112%

Wisconsin is experiencing a shortage in primary care physicians. The overall number of physicians in the state has increased by 13% in the last decade, but the number of primary care physicians has failed to keep pace — only increasing by 7% in that time. It’s likely that primary care physicians are migrating to bigger cities like Chicago or Minneapolis, where they have more opportunity. The shortage is particularly problematic in rural Wisconsin. Locum tenens physicians will earn 112% of the national median when working in Wisconsin.

6. Idaho: 112%

Idaho was once 49th in the country for the number of working physicians. This shortage is influenced by the highly rural nature of Idaho, and the fact that physician salaries there are lower than the national average. Idaho’s low physician pay has contributed to the physician shortage which, ironically, means that it’s one of the top paying states for locum tenens. Because of the shortage, Idaho needs locum tenens physicians to step in and help, and the state is willing to pay above market rates — 112% of the national median.

5. Tennessee: 115%

Tennessee faces similar challenges in delivering rural healthcare. However, one factor that is driving up locum tenens wages in Tennessee is its lack of residency opportunities. The state’s population has doubled in the past 25 years, while the number of available medical residencies has stayed the same. So, if doctors train in Tennessee, it’s likely they’ll leave the state for residency training, and they often don’t return. Things may get better, though — a recent senate bill aims to increase the number of residencies in family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine and psychiatry. For now, locum physicians in Tennessee can earn 115% of the national median.

4. South Dakota: 118%

In South Dakota, primary care physicians are only available to residents along Interstate 29 and in the Black Hills area. This means that patients outside of these areas have to travel for healthcare, even if it’s an emergency. Plus, with winter temperatures that drop well below zero, it can be difficult to recruit locum tenens physicians to travel there. One way South Dakota competes is with pay, which is an average of 118% above the national median for locums.

3. Missouri: 118%

Missouri has a growing population, yet since 2010, four rural hospitals in Missouri have closed. Missouri recently invested five million dollars toward reducing the physician shortage, but for now, there are only 56 doctors for every 100,000 rural Missourians. These areas particularly need primary care doctors, and Missourians aren’t getting the care they need. To attract locum tenens physicians, Missouri pays 118% compared to the national median.

2. Nebraska: 119%

Nebraska’s doctors are closer to retiring than most states’ doctors. Nearly one in four doctors in Nebraska are over 60, and many plan to retire soon. Plus, Nebraska’s population is changing and becoming increasingly diverse, yet the doctors currently working in Nebraska don’t always reflect that change. The state desperately needs locum tenens physicians who will bring their diverse skill sets, backgrounds, and cultures with them as they care for Nebraskans. Locums physicians in Nebraska get paid 119% of the national median.

1. Kansas: 127%

Kansas is the top paying state for locum tenens — 127% of the national median. Like many of the other states on this list, Kansas faces a severe shortage; out of 105 counties in Kansas, 92 counties are medically underserved. Kansas has a medical school, but struggles to retain doctors after they graduate; just 37% of medical students stay in Kansas. This leads to a shortage of care but a premium for locum tenens physicians in more rural areas.

If you’re looking for higher pay for your time as a locum, these ten states are great places to start.

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