Best Cities for Surgeons

Surgeons are some of the most highly trained doctors in the medical field, and their field is one of the most competitive in terms of residency, fellowship, and specialization placement. Jobs in surgery are projected to grow 24% from 2010 - 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth rate is ten percentage points higher than the national job growth of 14%, which makes surgery one of the fastest growing fields in the United States.

If you're considering this career, or are interested in relocating, we've developed a list of the best cities to work in for surgeons. The list is based on a combination of factors: salaries, the employment concentration, and the cost of living.

The average national salary for surgeons is $225,989in the United States as of May 2012. This average salary figure can range widely, starting from $159,600in the metropolitan area of Oakland / Fremont / Hayward, CA to almost $100,000 more in the metropolitan area of Huntington, WV and Ashland, Kentucky ($251,980). There are a reported 30,620 surgeons operating in the United States. The highest concentration of surgeons is in the city of Danbury, CT, where there are almost seven times as many surgeons as a percentage of all occupations compared to the national average. The three metropolitan areas with the highest count of surgeons are New York City, followed by Los Angeles, and Chicago.

More: Salary Comparison for Surgeons

Top Five Best Cities for Surgeons

1.Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY

The metro area of Huntington, WV, and Ashland, Kentucky, is the best city for surgeons to practice in ValuePenguin's study. Huntington, the 2nd largest city in West Virginia, and Ashland, the 5th largest metro area in Kentucky, scored well in all categories to take the top spot for surgeons. There are twice as many surgeons in this area employed at clinics and top hospitals such as Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary's Medical Center, and King's Daughters Medical Center. With outdoor areas such as Beech Fork Lake and Ritter Park in Huntington, and Central Park and the Paramount Theater in Ashland, this metropolitan area has a multitude of afterwork attractions for relocated professionals. The metro area has the lowest cost of living index of 85 on our top 20 list, and the average salary for surgeons here is $251,980.#### 2. Alexandria, LA

Located in central Louisiana, this city of 154,000 is the #2 city on our list. Surgeons working in Alexandria, LA earn an average salary of $250,140, and with a below average cost of living index of 88, earnings can be stretched further. After shifts at city hospitals such as Rapides Regional Medical Center (ranked the #3 best hospital in LA according to US News), and Christus St. Francis Cabrini Hospital, surgeons can unwind just minutes away at the Kisatchie National Forest or any of the golf clubs nearby.

3.Columbus, OH

Columbus, OH is another city with great fundamentals for surgeons to consider practicing in. It has two nationally ranked hospitals, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children's Hospital, which are recognized for their heart surgery and neurosurgery departments. $247,240 is the average salary reported among the 560 surgeons operating here. There is a diverse array of attractions in the area, from football games at Ohio State University to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (one of the best in the nation).

4. Wichita, KS

The city to grab the fourth spot in our Best Cities for Surgeons list is Wichita, KS. The second largest industry here is healthcare. Via Christi, the largest provider of healthcare services in Kansas, recently opened a regional center in Wichita, and orthopedic surgeons can practice at the Kansas Spine Hospital in the city as well. Surgeons here make $248,350 on average, and about 10% more than their counterparts elsewhere.

5. Bowling Green, KY

Rounding out the top five on our list is Bowling Green, KY. Bowling Green is home to two major hospitals,Greenview Regional Hospital and the Medical Center at Bowling Green, each with specialties from plastic surgery to neurological surgery. The average salary for surgeons in this city is $245,890. While there are only 60 surgeons reported in the city, this count is roughly three times the national concentration for this profession.

Top Twenty Best Cities for Surgeons to Work


Average SalaryLocation QuotientJobsCost of Living
1Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY$251,9802.429085
2Alexandria, LA250,1401.583088
3Columbus, OH247,2401.8756087
4Wichita, KS248,3501.4313087
5Bowling Green, KY245,8903.186091
6Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN230,2803.4266084
7Canton-Massillon, OH249,4701.277088
8Michigan City-La Porte, IN236,5903.415088
9Oklahoma City, OK240,4501.4728086
10Chattanooga, TN-GA241,1503.2324092
11Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL250,5100.835084
12Lancaster, PA245,2402.0515094
13Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN225,6401.5850085
14Greensboro-High Point, NC249,1101.0312090
15Salisbury, MD243,6902.0730100
16Tulsa, OK211,3302.1529088
17Clarksville, TN-KY245,5701.283094
18Athens-Clarke County, GA239,7702.085096
19Fargo, ND-MN234,3505.0321098
20Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO215,8301.339086


These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list.

1. What can surgeons earn in the city?

We ranked the best cities for surgeons based on the average annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their career or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.

2. How affordable is it to live in this city?

Now that we have the average salary, we’ll look next at the cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost of living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost of living index of 85, such as Huntington-Ashland would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 15% cheaper compared to the average city.

3. What is the location quotient for surgeons in the city?

A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. Location quotient measures the concentration of surgeons in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for a surgeon's services.


  • Median Salary: Cities with the highest median annual salary, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data as of May 2012
  • Cost of Living: Cities with the lowest cost of living, with data sourced from Sperling's Best Places COL Calculator. Data as of July 2013
  • Employment: Cities with the highest location quotient metrics, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data as of May 2012
  • Best Hospitals from US News:
  • Photo Courtesy: Cabell Huntington Hospital

Ting is a ValuePenguin Co-Founder. She previously evaluated corporate mergers and acquisitions as a Financial Analyst at Citigroup.