Add cost of living to the equation when deciding where to practice

It may seem counterintuitive, but the best-paid doctors in the country aren't necessarily the ones pulling in the highest salary, according to an article in The Atlantic.

On average, doctors receive high salaries compared to other professions, but a report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a more-nuanced set of metrics called "price-adjusted wages," which account for the difference between average salary and average cost of living in a given area. Using these numbers, The Atlantic pinpoints the Ozark Mountain town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, as the area with the best-paid surgeons in the country.

This doesn't necessarily mean medical graduates should pack their bags for Fort Smith, however. There are only 90 surgeons in town, according to the article, and pay probably shouldn't be the sole factor on which young physicians decide where to practice. Still, looking beyond the high salaries offered in major cities to a comparatively lower income in a place where those dollars can cover more ground in terms of real estate and household expenses makes long-term financial sense, according to the article.

In some areas, that gap has become more pronounced since the physician shortage has driven up the incentives rural areas offer to doctors, both in salary and signing bonuses, according to previous reports in FiercePracticeManagement. Among cities, The Atlantic notes a variance of as much as 30 percent between San Jose and San Antonio, so even for docs committed to an urban setting, it pays to keep an eye on cost of living when deciding where to practice.

To learn more:
- read the article
- here's the Bureau of Labor Statistics report