The Best States to Be a Nurse or Doctor

Kat Casna
Licensed Insurance Agent and Medicare Expert Writer
December 08, 2019

Are you considering a career in medicine? Schooling for registered nurses (RNs) and general practitioners (GPs) can be long, challenging, and expensive, but it all pays off in the end, right? Actually, it could depend on where you land a job after graduation.

The average RN owes $30,000 for schooling and will make $75,510 per year. 1,2 Meanwhile, medical doctors working as GPs bring in an average of $211,780 and carry $190,000 of medical school debt.3,4 To put that into perspective, the average US worker’s wage is $51,960.5

But medical professionals don’t earn the same wages in each state, and the number of RNs and GPs varies from state to state. How are prospects for RNs and GPs in your state? We took the industry’s pulse to find out.


We pulled data about registered nurses, general practitioners, and other occupations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2018 report (most recent available information). Then, we crunched some numbers and compared salaries between registered nurses and general practitioners by state. A positive number indicates higher relative wages, and a negative number shows lower relative wages.

Correlations and key findings

Looking at the data, we discovered a wide pay discrepancy for both registered nurses and doctors across states. There’s also a wide range in the number of people employed in these jobs. When you take into consideration state populations, some medical professionals may find their schedules fuller than RNs and GPs in other states.

  • RNs in California make nearly double what those in South Dakota make, a difference of almost $50,000.
  • On average, the highest paid RNs work in California, where they bring in an average of $106,950, or 46% less than GPs in their state.
  • There are 294,510 RNs in California, compared to 11,970 GPs.
  • South Dakota RNs receive the lowest wages ($58,340 on average), 73% less than GPs make.
  • Just 12,760 RNs work in South Dakota, compared to 450 GPs.
  • The highest paid GPs work in New Jersey, where they average $264,470 annually—69% more than RNs.
  • GPs make the least in Rhode Island: an average of $175,250, which is 55% more than RNs earn in the state.
  • For GPs, the highest and lowest paying states differ by $89,220.
  • The pay disparity gap between RNs and GPs is smallest in California (46%) and highest in Kansas (75%).
  • Wyoming is home to the fewest employed RNs at 5,010; California has the most, with 294,510. That’s one RN for every 115 Wyomingites, compared to one for every 134 Californians.6
  • West Virginia is the state with the fewest employed GPs—100. Florida has the most at 12,870. That calculates to one GP for every 18,060 West Virginians and one per 1,655 Floridians.7


If you're deciding whether to become a nurse or a doctor, check out each occupation in your state—and any state you'd be willing to call home. Nursing and medical school can be expensive, and it never hurts to know where to look for the best jobs after you graduate.

Content on this site has not been reviewed or endorsed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the United States Government, any state Medicare agency, or any private insurance agency (collectively "Medicare System Providers"). is a DBA of Clear Link Technologies, LLC and is not affiliated with any Medicare System Providers.

Kat Casna
Written by
Kat Casna
Kathryn is a Medicare and geriatric specialist who has appeared on Baby Boomers, OppLoans, and Best Company. Her readers don’t need a degree in government-speak to get the right coverage because Kathryn sifts through Medicare’s parts, plans, and premiums to distill only the most useful information. Her favorite place in the world is a hammock that swings peacefully between two crabapple trees somewhere in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest.
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