Psychiatrists are highest paid Minnesota state employees

Published 5:41 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2022

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ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s highest-paid state government employees are psychiatrists.

State payroll data shows that two state-employed psychiatrists each earned more than $500,000 in 2021.

More than 59,000 people work for various state agencies, boards, Minnesota State colleges and universities and the court system. Payroll data reviewed by the Star Tribune does not include University of Minnesota staff.

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The median pay for the 19 psychiatrists listed as full-time state employees last year was about $345,000. Fourteen of the 20 state workers who earned the most money in 2021 were psychiatrists. A decade earlier, five of the 20 top-paid staff worked in mental and behavioral health centers.

The executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota, Sue Abderholdren, says psychiatrists’ pay stands out in the vast number of government employees that include college faculty, corrections officers and administrative specialists because the state does not hire many other doctors.

“We should be comparing their salaries to the medical field and not necessarily to other state employees,” she said. “It’s the only part of health care that the state provides. So if the state provided other health care — cancer treatment, other types of health care — they wouldn’t be the highest paid.”

The average pay for psychiatrists in public and private sectors nationwide was less than $250,000 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.