In many parts of the globe, there’s a considerable shortage of doctors and nurses, weighing on the already stretched healthcare systems, be it in North America or Europe. It turns out people are training to pursue a career as a pilot, working in the lucrative coding field or (gasp!) becoming lawyers. This has raised alarm bells among public policymakers attempting to avert a medical care crisis.
One prescription for this escalating problem is raising the typical doctor's salary, potentially incentivising doctors to remain working in their profession or encouraging young people to become physicians.
Whether it’s in the Netherlands or in many advanced parts of the world, it’s incredible to see how much doctors — both specialists and non-specialists alike — can earn on a monthly basis.
So, where are these top salaries for doctors? We have compiled a list of the top 10 countries with the highest salaries for doctors, courtesy of data compiled by Lenstore.
Average annual salary: £89,330 ($119,130)
Denmark, like the other Scandinavian nations, has an excellent healthcare system, both in terms of primary and specialty care, with a huge emphasis on prevention and healthy living, and has a significant demand for primary care doctors. But over the years, the nation has been experiencing a shortage in primary care primarily because of doctors retiring.
Denmark requires all practising physicians to be licensed, and jobs are first given to Danes and doctors from the European Union. That said, one requirement for the job is the ability to speak Danish, thus limiting the number of foreign applicants. If you meet the licensing criteria, the country offers an excellent quality of life, coupled with good retirement benefits.
Average annual salary: £94,052 ($125,416)
Italy, with its population of 60 million, has had difficulties in its healthcare system for many decades. The country is very diverse geographically, with people spread all over, and delivery of healthcare is not equal. Excellent healthcare is available for those living in inner cities and large towns, but those living in rural areas only have access to primary care physicians.
The healthcare infrastructure is not as developed as other European nations, and it also suffers from a shortage of physicians at all levels of healthcare. Patients continually face long delays in seeing specialists. Unlike other nations, Italy has been reluctant to allow foreign doctors to practise in the country; even those from the EU need to speak Italian as a requirement for medical practice.
Junior doctors have to work in the public health system before they can enter private practice.
Average annual salary: £104,878 ($139,836)
Japan has traditionally been a closed nation to many professions, including medicine. However, it has a well-established healthcare system that rivals the best in the world. Even rural areas offer state-of-the-art diagnostics and treatments that are available in major cities. Japan has a rapidly aging population, and many of its doctors are on the verge of retirement.
So far, Japan has not recruited foreign doctors because one requirement for practising medicine is the ability to speak Japanese. In addition, Japan has no shortage of specialists but lacks primary care physicians.
Unlike most other nations, Japanese doctors work very long hours, and their lifestyle is poor. Burnout in the system is common. Even though the government has introduced reforms to promote healthy working hours, this has led to an increase in overtime to meet patient demands. Women physicians particularly do not fare well in the Japanese system because they have to work long hours and, consequently, have no time to balance a family.
Average annual salary: £105,910 ($141,212)
France has an excellent healthcare system that meets the demands of its 68 million citizens. The country is huge, but the quality of healthcare is excellent, which results to doctors being the highest paid job in France. The nation also offers an excellent lifestyle for doctors, significant professional autonomy in the practice of medicine, and many job opportunities. Whether one works as a physician in private practice or a hospital, the working conditions are good.
However, France has a shortage of primary care doctors. Besides accepting doctors from other European nations, it also accepts doctors from many French-speaking nations from Africa. Most hospitals also provide extra language courses for doctors from outside France. North Americans are usually not permitted to work in France, except for fellowships.
Average annual salary: £116,532 ($155,375)
Iceland is a tiny nation with only 340,000 people. It has a decent healthcare system and doesn’t have any shortage of doctors to cater to existing demands. In order to work as a doctor in Iceland, candidates must be able to speak Icelandic but, fortunately, most of the population is bilingual or trilingual.
Though salaries for doctors are generous in Iceland, it is one of the most expensive countries in the world.
Average annual salary: £123,042 ($164,057)
Norway, like Denmark, has a solid healthcare system. But doctor burnout is not uncommon in Norway, mainly because of the long working hours. Patients generally have no complaints about the healthcare system, because it is as good as the top centres in Europe. Norway needs primary care workers in rural areas, but job opportunities are limited to those who speak Norwegian or are from the EU.
4. The Netherlands
Average annual salary: £123,116 ($164,155)
The Netherlands has an excellent healthcare system that rivals some of the top countries in the world. The country has solid labour laws that protect healthcare workers from long hours and prolonged overtime. The system also provides healthcare workers with many benefits, including paid parental leave, paid sick leave, at least 40 days of vacation a year, and mental health support to prevent burnout. Doctors can work in private or public healthcare.
Average annual salary: £144,704 ($192,939)
Finland is a small nation, and its healthcare system is financed by tax revenues. While the healthcare system is excellent in the cities, it diminishes for citizens in rural areas. There’s a great emphasis on preventive medicine. Doctors who speak Finnish are preferred, and foreign-trained doctors outside the EU have difficulty entering the system.
Average annual salary: £151,599 ($202,131)
Belgium, like most European nations, has an excellent healthcare system. Belgium is a small country, and the deficiencies are limited to primary care. Citizens of Belgium and the EU are given preferences in the medical profession.
1. United States
Average annual salary: £153,476 ($204,634)
The US is one of the most attractive countries to practise medicine. Not only does it accept foreign-trained doctors from any part of the world, but it also offers high salaries for all physicians and grants them citizenship.
The US has no shortage of specialists, and there are also ample opportunities in rural areas for people who want to practise primary care, pathology or psychiatry. While the US has advanced healthcare, it’s not evenly distributed among the population. Doctors are at liberty to work for the government or in private practice.
Clearly, some places worldwide possess a greater number of medical care providers than others. For example, according to the World Health Organization, the UK maintains 58.23 medical doctors per 10,000, but India only has 9.28 medical doctors per 10,000.
If you’re a doctor, either coming out of medical school or considering relocating for work, it’s typically best to go where the money is, as long as you can adapt to the conditions, rules and regulations. Be it the US or France, the world is your oyster!
Are you a doctor and thinking about moving abroad for work? Which of these countries would you like to move to? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 12 December 2016.