Do rural doctors get paid more?

In the vast landscapes of Australia, the provision of medical services is diverse, mirroring the contrasting environments from bustling metropolitan areas to isolated rural regions. A recurring question is whether doctors working in these remote areas receive higher compensation than their urban counterparts. Let's delve into this topic to provide some clarity.

Rural doctors in Australia do have the ability to get paid more. Working as a rural doctor offers a range of benefits both professionally and personally, including great rates.

In addition to overall higher rates, most locum placements include travel and accommodation. With fewer things to spend money on outside of work, you'll have ample opportunity to save the extra money you're earning and switch off when you finish work.

Why might rural doctors earn more?

Incentive programs: Recognising the challenges of attracting and retaining medical practitioners in rural and remote areas, the Australian government and various state bodies have rolled out incentive programs. These schemes are designed to provide financial incentives to doctors who commit to working in rural locations, often for a specified period. Such bonuses can significantly augment a rural doctor's earnings.

Higher billings: Rural doctors often wear multiple hats due to the scarcity of specialists. This multi-faceted role means they can bill for a broader range of services than they might in urban areas, where tasks are more delineated.

Bulk billing rates: In some rural regions, doctors opt for higher private billing rates instead of bulk billing, due to reduced competition and a different patient demographic. This can result in increased earnings.

Opportunities for locum work: Locum positions in rural areas frequently offer attractive pay rates, especially when there's an urgent need to fill a vacancy. Many doctors capitalise on these opportunities to boost their income.

Demand: There's a higher demand for skilled practitioners in rural and remote locations - health systems and medical centres pay more in these areas. As a rural doctor, you are expected to be more of a rural generalist working across a range of specialties and treating patients all along their journey. There are interesting and diverse medical practices in rural areas. Doctors are likely to be dealing with more complex health concerns day-to-day than a typical GP and get the opportunity to experience just about everything over your time.

Remoteness of the location: Rural doctors are often working in the literal middle of nowhere, but this doesn't mean there's no fun to be had. Some of the best sites and experiences in the country can be found in remote locations - it's the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a tight-knit community, get to know the locals, and discover something different.

How much more are rural doctors earning?

The NSW Rural Doctor's Network has reported that rural doctors can earn 11.5% more than those working in major cities. GPs in rural and remote areas, and outer regional Australia are earning more money, and also may be financially incentivised to make the move to these areas.

Comparing salaries: urban vs. rural:

While the potential for higher earnings in rural areas is evident, it's crucial to understand that salaries vary based on specialisation. For example, a specialist surgeon in a metropolitan hospital with a high caseload might earn substantially more than a rural GP. Conversely, a rural GP with a broad scope of practice might out-earn a city-based GP, especially when factoring in rural incentives.

The narrative that rural doctors in Australia earn more has some basis, primarily due to government incentives and the nature of rural medical practice. However, it's essential to consider the entire picture, including the demands of rural medical practice and the non-financial rewards it offers. For many doctors, the decision to go rural is a blend of professional challenge, financial incentives, and the allure of a different way of life.

By taking an opportunity to work as a rural doctor, you'll be able to earn more money in addition to evolving your skillset, progressing your career, and enjoying a different lifestyle. If you want more information or support you can join the Rural Doctors Network .

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Jessica Allen
04 October 2023Article by Jessica AllenMedrecruit Editor