How Much Do Rural Physicians Really Make? Your Salary Guide

Doctors are some of the most highly-paid professionals in the United States. The average salary for physicians is $208,000 per year, and many rural physicians make even more. Whether you’re looking to become a rural family physician or a rural emergency medicine physician, it’s important to know what your earning potential is.

In this article, we’ll discuss how much physicians in non-metropolitan locations make across different areas and practice specialties, share the average rural family medicine salary, and provide some tips on how to find top-tier rural physician jobs.

Rural Physicians vs. Urban Physicians: Is There Really a Difference?

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, there’s a minor discrepancy in the salaries of non-metropolitan and metropolitan area first-year primary care physicians. Citing national compensation survey data from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the report says that new rural physicians make an average of $205,588 per year, while new urban physicians make an average of $200,000 per year.

However, it’s different for first-year surgical specialists working in rural locations. New surgical physicians working in non-metro areas have a median annual pay of $250,000, while those in the metro stand to earn $320,000 per year. The tides could change later, though, as the low competition in rural locations could mean higher productivity for physicians, thus leading to a much higher pay down the line. In addition, rural areas have a significantly lower cost of living.

The bottom line? Physicians in rural areas make a good living, but the difference between rural and urban salaries is not as drastic as one might think.

What Factors Influence a Rural Physician’s Salary?

There are a number of factors that can influence a rural family medicine salary. Some of the most important include:

  • Geographical location: Physicians in rural areas tend to make less than their urban counterparts. However, rural physician specialists may earn more than those in metropolitan areas.
  • Practice setting: Rural physicians who work in hospital settings typically make more than those who work in clinics.
  • Years of experience: As with most professions, the longer you’ve been practicing, the more money you’ll likely make.
  • Type of specialty: Some specialties pay more than others. For example, rural emergency medicine salaries are typically higher than rural family physicians. 
  • Size of the community: The size of the community a rural physician is practicing in also has an impact on salary. A rural family medicine salary is usually less in small towns than in larger rural communities.

Average Rural Physician Salary Per Practice Area

Physician salaries in non-metropolitan locations vary depending on the specialization. However, there are some general trends that can be observed. Here are some of the highest paying rural family medicine practice areas and their average salaries, according to ZipRecruiter.

  • Emergency Medicine Physician: $346,222
  • Emergency Physician: $295,034
  • Remote Emergency Medicine Physician: $244,907
  • International Emergency Medicine Physician: $243,986
  • Executive Emergency Medicine Physician: $243,598

Cities With the Highest Paying Rural Medicine Salaries

If you’re looking for a high-paying rural physician job, consider moving to one of these cities.

  • San Mateo, California: $160,648/year
  • Boston, Massachusetts: $155,479/year
  • Juneau, Arkansas: $155,460/year
  • Berkeley, California: $154,392/year
  • Daly City: $153,956/year

Tips On Landing a Top-Tier Rural Family Medicine Physician Role

If you’re looking to become a rural family physician, it’s important to note that the competition for top roles might be fierce. However, with the right strategy, you can set yourself up for success.

Here are a few tips: 

1. Network with rural physicians in your area. Ask them about their experience practicing in a rural area and what they like and don’t like about it. This can give you a better idea of what to expect if you decide to take a job in a non-metropolitan location.

2. Start by targeting small towns and rural communities that are in need of physicians. The smaller the community, the less likely it is to have a lot of competition for the job.

3. Cast a wide net when you’re applying for jobs. Don’t just focus on rural family medicine jobs. Applying for roles in other specialties, such as emergency medicine, can increase your chances of getting hired.

4. Keep an open mind about relocating. If you’re not willing to relocate, you’ll likely have a hard time finding a job in a rural area.

5. Use a physician staffing specialist like Strelcheck Healthcare Search to help you find top-tier rural family medicine jobs. We have a large database of rural physician jobs and can help you find the perfect role for your skills and experience.

Working as a rural physician can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to know what to expect before you make the switch. By understanding the factors that influence rural physician salaries, you can make an informed decision about whether this is the right career for you.

Looking for a High-Paying Rural Physician Job?

Strelcheck Healthcare Search is a healthcare staffing firm that places physicians in the best rural and urban communities in the country. With years of experience, we can help you find the perfect job in a location of your choosing. Browse our opportunities page today to check out open rural family medicine roles that offer attractive salaries, or sign up for ideal opportunity alerts to stay updated on openings as they are announced.