Family doctors may set up practices in both rural and urban areas, though wages generally tend to be higher for those working in areas with a higher cost of living. Other factors that affect the salary of a rural family practice doctor include his level of experience and type of practice.
According to a 2005 report compiled by the Center for Studying Health System Change, rural physicians earned an average salary of $204,000 per year, in comparison with the average of $218,000 earned by those in urban areas. The average income of a family physician working in a rural county adjacent to a metropolitan area was $201,000 a year, while those nonadjacent to metropolitan areas earned an average of $212,000.
While salaries for family doctors in rural areas tend to be lower, their “real” income, or income which takes into account their purchasing power based on the cost of living of their area, tends to be higher than that of urban doctors. The Center for Studying Health System Change reports the average income of rural family physicians adjusted for the cost of living was $225,000 a year, while that of urban physicians was lower, at $199,000. The “real” income of family physicians in rural counties not adjacent to metropolitan areas was $242,000 a year, while the real income of those adjacent to metropolitan areas was $217,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the rural, or nonmetropolitan, area with the highest level of employed family doctors in the United States was the "other North Carolina area", which offered an average salary of $189,080 a year. The highest concentration of rural family practice doctors was in southwestern New Mexico, where the average income was $223,270, which was also one of the highest paying rural areas in the nation. The New Iberia nonmetropolitan area of Louisiana offered a higher salary for rural family practice doctors at an average of $225,860 a year.
According to the BLS, the employment rate of doctors is predicted to increase 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, with those willing to practice in rural and low-income areas facing the best job prospects, as those areas tend to have greater difficulty attracting workers. The Center for Studying Health System Change points out that rural residents have a ratio of 53 family doctors per 100,000 people, while urban residents have a ratio of 78 to 100,000.