Primary care docs in rural areas secure highest average salaries and signing bonuses

By Aine Cryts

Internal medicine and family practice physicians whose primary goal is paying down their medical school debt may want to consider working in rural communities, as a new report shows that is where the money is for these doctors.

Internal medicine physicians working in rural areas earn an average of $256,667 a year, according to an advance copy of a new report by The Medicus Firm, a healthcare search firm. They are followed by family practice physicians in rural areas, who earn an average salary of $227,261, according to the follow-up report that provides an in-depth look at primary care practitioners taken from trends revealed in February based upon the recruiting firm's placement of physicians and advanced practice clinicians.

Here are additional findings from the newest report on hiring trends for primary care physicians and physician assistants:

Signing bonuses in rural areas are more generous. The average signing bonus for family practice and internal medicine physicians in rural parts of the United States is $22,846, which is about $5,700 higher than bonuses received by primary care physicians in urban areas. Physicians practicing in mid-size areas, which the recruiting firm defines as having populations of between 25,001 and 500,000, receive bonuses worth about $6,000 less than their colleagues practicing in rural areas.

Geographic region matters when it comes to salary. Physicians who want to earn the highest salaries should consider practicing in the South/Southwest, where they can earn an average salary of $227,050. Next up are states in the central United States/Upper Midwest, where physicians draw down salaries in the $218,500 range. With an average salary of $192,300, primary care physicians in the Southeast/Carolinas earn the lowest salaries, reports the firm.

Demand for physician assistants increases. Physician assistants--in high demand and the fourth most placed clinician by the firm in 2015--received an average salary of $112,680. But the average signing bonus for physician assistants fell from $7,500 in 2014 to $6,250 in 2015. Still, the firm says 43 percent of the physician assistants it placed received signing bonuses in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.

To learn more:
- read the original placement report