Primary Care Physician Salaries [And the Factors That Influence Them]

With the job title of primary care physician, you are the number one point of contact with your patients.

You’d think that your pay would reflect that.

However, according to The Heartland Institute, the salary for primary care physicians has barely increased in the past five years, while specialty physicians have seen a constant rise in salary.

Now, data from Sullivan Cotter does show that physician compensation across the board is still rising due to increased demand.

This means that physicians have more leverage in salary negotiations.

While there are certain factors that you can’t control, you can take measures to ensure that you are earning a base salary above the national average.

This article will delve into those measures. We’ll also discuss ways to protect your income and how to set yourself up for a strong financial future.


Average Primary Care Salary

While different sources report slightly different salary ranges, it’s clear that a position in family medicine can earn you a very healthy salary.

MGMA’s data shows the highest salary range for primary care physicians. According to their 2019 report (the most recent version), the average salary for this specialty is around $273,500.

Medscape’s average is slightly lower. According to their data, the average salary for a full-time primary care doctor in 2021 is $236,000.

Zippia has $206,000 posted on their site as the average salary for a physician in family practice.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the mean annual wage of primary care physicians to be $214,370.

Two other sources report a much lower salary for primary care physicians. Salary.com reports this number as $175,441, while Glassdoor has an even lower number of $157,946.

Not surprisingly, Medscape’s salary report shows that only 57% of primary care physicians feel fairly compensated.

If you are a primary care physician, there are ways that you can increase your physician compensation and feel like you are better rewarded for your time on the clock. We’re going to talk about those below.

The best way to ensure you’re getting a fair salary is to have a professional review all contract offers before you accept a job. Our contract review and negotiation services will ensure you get a fair deal.

Factors That Affect a Primary Care Physician’s Salary

There are a number of factors that can affect how much a primary care physician earns.

They fall into three categories:

  • Years of experience
  • Location
  • Type of practice

Years of Experience

According to Medscape’s report, a new resident earns around $64,000, with a slight increase each year of residency.

After completing residency, the doctor’s pay increases with experience but greatly depends on the location and type of practice in which they work.

Location

When it comes to salary for any medical subspecialty, regional costs of living and staffing demands come into play.

The Top-Paying States

ZipRecruiter provides a state-by-state breakdown of the income for primary care physicians around the U.S.

On this list, you can see that Washington, New York, and Massachusetts are among the top-paying states for primary care doctors, with jobs paying between  $200,000 and $300,000.

Midrange states include Indiana, Montana, and Texas.

The lowest-paying states, such as Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina, have an average salary of $175,000 or below.

Zippia has a nifty search box that lets you search salary information by city. According to this data, the highest-paying city for primary care physicians is Manchester, NH, with an average salary of $220,268. The lowest-paying city is Springfield, Missouri, with an average of $175,583 for primary care doctor jobs.

Related: The 10 Best States to Practice Medicine

Type of Practice

Woman physician standing smiling with a married couple holding a baby behind her

Before becoming a primary care provider, you need to decide which type of practice you will work in. If your main goal is to earn the highest possible income, you should know this data.

Private Practice

According to Medscape, self-employed family physicians made about $30,000 more per year than those working in another setting.

There are many different types of private practice. One area that has seen tremendous growth is telehealth, especially for patients with a chronic or infectious disease.

According to ZipRecruiter, the top 90th percentile of physicians in telehealth can earn up to $315,000 per year.

Hospital

Hospitals have the biggest demand for primary care physicians, which equates to easier placement, especially for those new to the practice.

You can earn a higher-than-average hospital income by taking locum tenens positions. Specialties, such as radiology or cardiology tend to make the most in these positions. However, there are plenty of opportunities for primary care physicians, as well.

You can learn more about the opportunities in locum tenens in our comprehensive Locum Tenens Guide.

Related: What to Expect from the Hospital Credentialing Process

Outpatient Clinic

The urgent care field has proven to be one of the fastest-growing and best-paying areas in healthcare.

You may be working hand in hand with critical care physicians to treat patients in need of urgent care.

According to MGMA, physicians were earning $277,393 on average in 2019. AMGA lists the median salary for urgent care even higher at $295,605 per year.

Academic

As with all specialties in the medical field, primary care physicians working in academia earn the lowest salaries.

This article claims that academic physicians make 13% less than their non-academic peers on average.


Primary Care Physicians and Their Student Loan Debt

All primary care physicians will come out of medical school with some sort of student loan debt (most come out with significant student loan debt).

This debt can begin to feel heavier as the years go by, accumulating interest and compounding your financial stresses.

The best approach for relieving yourself from this financial burden is to enlist a professional advisor to help you navigate through the many student loan repayment options.

It could be that you would be best served by refinancing or taking advantage of a position that includes student loan repayment as part of its benefits.

You may also be missing out on some very helpful tax breaks. We’ll discuss that in more detail later.

Nevertheless, if student loan payments are eating a bigger chunk out of your salary than you would like, contact our team of compensation specialists to set you up with the best repayment plan for your unique situation.


Primary Care Specialties

Man sitting at desk typing on calculator

The primary care umbrella covers a wide area of medicine, which means there’s a lot of opportunity.

Here are the average annual salaries of some primary care specialties (not subspecialty) :


Additional Ways to Increase Your Primary Care Physician Salary

Data shows that primary care physicians in private practice earn the highest income. Setting up your own practice can help you increase your income.

Rent and Real Estate

When you own a practice, purchase a building instead of leasing a practice office, and rent out the extra offices to other physicians. Not only will you save money on rent, but you’ll create a source of passive income (which you can invest in your future).

Employ Assistance

Hire physician assistants and nurse practitioners to care for simple cases while you focus on the patients that need more intense care.

These additional employees can also free up some of your time, which you spend doing extra work outside of the clinic, such as on-call coverage or urgent care.

Sub-specialize

As the data in the last section showed, you can increase your salary if you develop a niche or subspecialize in the higher-earning subspecialties.

One such niche could be preventative medicine. According to AAFP, preventative care visits yield doctors 25% more than a regular visit.

Bonuses

If opening your own practice isn’t possible, or you prefer to work as an employed physician, you can increase your income through incentive bonuses.

Medscape shows that primary care physicians earn an average of $27,000 in incentive bonuses each year. That’s a nice cushion on your compensation.

But if you do want to open a practice, it’s good to have some guidance. Our private practice startup consultants can walk you through every step to ensure you start off on the right foot.

How to Negotiate Your Primary Care Employment Contract

Even after you have found the perfect position in the right location, you won’t be earning at your highest potential if you don’t negotiate your employment contract wisely.

Negotiation skills aren’t something you learn in medical school, so if you feel intimidated by the process, don’t stress about it — many physicians feel unprepared for their first contract negotiations.

Every complete employment contract should have certain terms clearly fleshed out and understood by both parties.

Here are some terms that every contract should cover:

Before you sign an employment contract, it is wise to have a knowledgeable team of professionals review the document. This will protect you from any clauses or terms that aren’t in your best interest.

You should have your contract reviewed any time it’s adjusted. This includes when you are entering, exiting, renewing, or renegotiating a contract.

If your compensation package is changing or you are transitioning from employee to a partnership arrangement, you should also enlist the help of a team of advisors. We offer contract review services and negotiation assistance to ensure you’re properly compensated for your work.


Disability Insurance to Protect Your Salary

As a physician, you need to protect your income.

In the event that you become unable to perform your daily duties as a primary care physician, a comprehensive disability insurance plan will allow you to continue to pay your bills and provide for your family.

Many physicians have lots of questions about what to look for in a disability insurance plan — and with good reason. These insurance plans range widely in coverage and benefits.

Read through our Disability Insurance Guide to understand what you need in a disability insurance plan and allow us to help you find a plan that matches those needs.

Building a Retirement From Your Annual Salary

Planning for retirement should begin as soon as you complete your residency. Your first paycheck is your first opportunity to start saving.

There are a variety of employer-sponsored retirement accounts and pension funds.

As an employee, you have little control over the amount added to these accounts.

Nevertheless, it’s important to know how much to expect at retirement so that you know how much you need to add to your retirement savings in other ways.

Read through our Official Guide to Physician Retirement to better understand your options. It discusses everything you need to know, including profit-sharing plans, defined-benefit plans, IRA accounts, and other retirement plans.

Effective Tax Planning

Most physicians fall into the 24% tax bracket. But with effective planning and the help of a tax professional, you can reduce your tax liability by thousands.

Don’t miss out on deductions and credits. Our financial planning team can help you set yourself up to keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket at the end of the year.


No matter your salary, it’s almost always possible to earn more as a primary care physician.

All that is needed is a little knowledge and some help from professionals that can help you navigate the steps to get there.

Want a contract review, negotiation help, or financial guidance?

Contact Physicians Thrive today.

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