If you want to make more money, move to North Carolina. That's one conclusion you could draw from a report this week by American City Business Journals, a chain of newspapers that analyzed statistics on some of the top-paid U.S. professions.
Crunching numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a reporter for the newspapers found that general dentists make more money in Charlotte, NC, than any other large U.S. metropolitan area.
Dentists in Charlotte averaged $195,540 a year, a third more than the $147,010 average for the country as a whole. A couple of hours down the highway, Raleigh, NC, dentists were making $178,650, which put them in seventh place among big cities.
Business Journals gave no explanation for the discrepancy, so we asked Alec Parker, D.M.D., executive director of the North Carolina Dental Society, why North Carolina dentists are doing so well. The higher incomes for dentists there came as news to him.
"If I were going to guess, the reason I would say that North Carolina dentists have been able to keep their practices under their own control," he said. "People have been able to stay busy without having to get into the dental alphabet soup and sign up for the various discount programs out there."
He did note that Tar Heel dentists have mostly maintained independent practices. And he said dentists in the state often take advantage of the ADA contract analysis service.
The BLS survey itself, published in May of 2007, sheds a little more light on the subject. For one thing, it shows that Tacoma, WA, dentists are actually the highest paid at $208,180. Apparently the town wasn't big enough to be included in the business journal report. Among states, North Carolina ranks second after Delaware.
The statistics also show that, as a general rule, metropolitan areas with the highest incomes for dentists have higher median incomes. It's not too surprising that dentists in San Juan, Puerto Rico, make only $66,570 a year, since the median household income there (according to U.S. Census data) is only $19,901.
Likewise, Tuscaloosa, AL, where dentists make $83,420, and Billings, MT, where dentists make $90,820, have lower-than-average household incomes.
The household income in Charlotte, $53,211, is above the national average of $50,740.
But there are some striking exceptions. Why should dentists in Barnstable Town, MA, make only $83,720 when the median household income there, $60,150, is so much higher than the national average?
Another clue may be supply and demand. In general, where there are more dentists per person, dentists make less money. In Charlotte, there's a dentist for every 4,215 people. In Barnstable Town, there is a dentist for every 611 people. So there's your prescription for success: Go to a wealthy city without a lot of dentists.
Maybe it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that out.
Speaking of which, dentists fared well against just about everyone but brain surgeons in the Business Journals analysis. The publications group found that most of the 23 other high-paid professions it studied, including lawyers ($118,280 per year), made less than dentists. Exceptions were CEOs ($151,370) and medical doctors ($155,150). Surgeons were at the top, with annual income of $191,410.
OK, maybe you already own your own practice, which makes you a CEO, sort of. If you don't want to move to Charlotte, there's always med school.