Whether you are a recent graduate of a technical or nursing program seeking a residency, or simply looking to make a move that improves your career and quality of life, you may be considering relocating. The process of searching for a career in healthcare can be exciting. However, recent national and worldwide economic struggles such as rising inflation, fears of recession, and increasing housing costs may have you worried about your future.
Overall, however, demand for healthcare workers has been increasing. The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as unprecedented worker resignations across the country have caused a boost in demand for work. Additionally, many professionals are over the age of 65, heading into retirement and leaving behind an abundance of positions. This demand isn’t limited to doctors and nurses, either. Mental healthcare providers and social workers are in dire need, as more people than ever seek out psychological care.
To help you on your search, we’ve compiled the 8 best states for you to live in as a healthcare worker. This list is based upon the demand for healthcare jobs as well as the cost of living per state at the end of 2022. Comparing these two factors can help you decide which state is the best place for you to settle down and begin the path of an exciting career.
Cost of Living Ranking: 17/51
Key benefits: low cost of living, high demand for professionals
Texas is an expansive and interesting state with many opportunities for healthcare workers. However, if you’re considering moving to the Lone Star State, Houston is one of the best cities for healthcare professionals. Houston boasts the Texas Medical Center, which is one of the world’s largest nonprofit healthcare organizations. This institution creates over 73,000 jobs in Houston, making this city one of the most attractive options.
Additionally, Texas has fewer physicians per person than the national average. This creates an opportunity for doctors all throughout the state. The state also has been increasing in population in recent years, with over 30 million people living there. Because of this, Texas has many new opportunities for healthcare workers.
Cost of Living Ranking: 37/51
Key benefits: high demand for doctors, moderate cost of living
When people think of Arizona, they often think of arid landscapes, cactuses, and Georgia O’Keefe paintings. However, it is also a great location for healthcare workers to live. Though the state doesn’t sport an exceptionally low cost of living, it does have an extremely high demand for caregivers. This is especially true if you are a physician. Over 3 million people living in Arizona have limited access to primary care doctors. These people live in rural areas, where there may be large distances to travel when seeking out healthcare.
Additionally, the population of doctors in Arizona is continuously aging. It is reported that around a third of doctors in the state are over the age of 60, meaning in upcoming years, a massive portion of working doctors will age into retirement, causing even greater demand. Arizona also ranks in the bottom 10 states for patients who regularly seek a primary care physician. Though there is demand across all sectors of healthcare, moving to Arizona presents a fantastic opportunity for doctors especially.
Cost of Living Ranking: 21/51
Key benefits: lower cost of living, high demand for workers
While Wisconsin may not be the first state that comes to mind when considering where to move for your career, it is an optimal location for those working in healthcare. Recent studies by the Wisconsin Hospital Association have shown that Wisconsin faces a shortage of skilled healthcare workers across all professions. Out of the 17 fields tracked in the report, including nurses, physician assistants, doctors and technicians, it was found that 13 of them faced job shortages. This creates a high demand for labor, and it’s a great opportunity for technicians and nurses especially.
If you want to live somewhere more urban, Milwaukee provides a host of medical centers and hospitals that are hiring due to the high demand rate created by COVID and the effects of the Great Resignation. There are also many programs available for people to advance their careers, such as the Gundersen Health System’s program for nurses. This program allows CNA’s to get paid while they train to become RN’s. These incentives make Wisconsin a great place to relocate and to continue your education.
Cost of Living Ranking: 33/51
Key benefits: aging population, high demand for doctors, desirable environment
If you can handle the heat, moving to Florida can be great for your career. While featuring beautiful landscapes and oceanside views, it is also a prime destination for retirees and the elderly in the United States. Additionally, many “snowbirds” split their time between colder states and move to Florida in the winter season. This increased aging population as compared to the rest of the country ensures that there is high demand for healthcare workers, especially in-home health aides and geriatric specialists. Florida has many residential facilities for the elderly, providing all levels of assistance for patients. The geriatric community is a major source of demand for healthcare workers in this warm and sunny state.
Aside from the more popular areas such as Naples, Miami, and Orlando, rural areas of Florida face an increased need for healthcare workers as well. They are especially struggling with a shortage of specialized providers, such as doctors and physician assistants. In fact, it is projected that within the next two decades, there will be a shortage of nearly 20,000 doctors in Florida. Seizing the opportunity to work somewhere with such high demand will boost your job security and opportunities as you progress in your career.
Cost of Living Ranking: 25/51
Key benefits: high demand, moderate living cost, mild climate
North Carolina is a state known for its welcoming and beautiful environment. It features mild winters, mountains, and beaches, and is the perfect location for anyone who loves nature, climbing, hiking, or swimming. It is also a state that is very popular for transplants, and it has a growing population of retirees. This bodes well for the demand for healthcare workers, and the cities of Charlotte and Raleigh have plenty of opportunities to offer.
However, North Carolina struggles with rural poverty. This creates a high demand for healthcare workers of all kinds, but especially doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. If you choose to move to a rural area to provide this necessary assistance, there are state programs that use funds to support healthcare provisions. The lower cost of living in this state combined with increased demand help North Carolina chart high up on our list.
Cost of Living Ranking: 27/51
Key benefits: extremely high demand, moderate living cost, historic cities for medicine
When medical professionals think of Pennsylvania, they likely think of Philadelphia, where the first medical school in the country was founded back in the mid 1700’s. Philadelphia is a center of progress for medicine, and a major hub for the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries. Additionally, the University of Pennsylvania’s research and healthcare center, Penn Medicine, is centered here, providing research and career opportunities. It also provides an extensive range of fellowship and residency programs for doctors starting their careers.
Pennsylvania’s state government also recently passed a bill to support the healthcare industry, totaling over 200 million dollars. The majority of this funding is allocated towards hospitals, such as emergency care centers, children’s hospitals, and critical access for underserved populations. Pennsylvania is similar to North Carolina for its rural populations, so if city life isn’t for you, you can also seek out employment in one of the needier areas of this state.
Cost of Living Ranking: 49/51
Key benefits: extremely high demand, attractive location
Many people working across all fields dream of moving to California, especially to historic regions such as Los Angeles, San Diego, or the Bay Area. As you may have already known, the downside to living in California is the high cost of living. However, it is also one of the states that pays the most for healthcare workers. In fact, it is the highest paying state for nurses in the United States, with an average salary of $124,000 per year for RN’s. This high salary rate can seriously offset the increased cost of living, making California an attractive destination for nurses, as well as other healthcare workers.
Additionally, there is high demand for healthcare professionals in this state. Over 11 million people living here are underserved in their healthcare needs. This isn’t limited to rural locations, as around one third of the residents in Los Angeles suffer from a shortage of professionals. California is an extremely populous state, but there is still a dire need for nurses, doctors, and other healthcare specialists.
Cost of Living Ranking: 48/51
Key benefits: extremely high demand, big city life, state funding
When people think of moving to New York, they often think about moving to New York City. While there is a massive population in need of healthcare in the big city, there’s also the issue of housing costs. A one-bedroom apartment in New York City can cost thousands of dollars a month, and purchasing a condo, co-op or apartment can be prohibitively expensive for someone starting out in their career.
However, if you plan on living in the city or downstate, the high demand for healthcare workers may set off the high cost of living. According to the New York State Department of Health, in 2023, the state government will be allocating four billion dollars towards wages, bonuses and incentives for healthcare workers across the field. This is not limited to workers living in New York City. These increased wage incentives can make living upstate an enticing prospect as well. Upstate living costs are drastically lower than city living costs, and housing is far more affordable as you migrate from the downstate area. New York is a progressive state that, while more expensive than most other states, supports its healthcare workers and provides a place to settle into your career.
Moving for a career change can be one of the most difficult decisions you make in your life. Knowing the cost of living in your location and demand for work can help you gauge important lifestyle factors such as daily living expenses, how much you can invest towards retirement, potential renting costs, and how much house you can afford if you plan on buying a home. Though it can be a tough decision, moving for a new job can also be a rewarding experience that gives you new opportunities both in your career and personal life.