Thermal conductivity values of several laser materials were determined by photothermal measurements and compared to predicted values. The effect of the ytterbium doping concentration could be modeled using a simple cationic mass difference model. For ytterbium content corresponding to an absorption coefficient of 10 cm-1 (or 85% absorption of the pump power) Yb:GdVO4 (c-axis) and Yb:Gd3Ga5O12 laser materials present the highest measured thermal conductivity values of 8.1 W m-1 K-1 and 7.7 W m-1 K-1, respectively. Yb:Y3Al5O12, Yb:Lu3Al5O12, Yb:CaGdAlO4, and Yb:YAlO3 belong to the 6–7 W m-1 K-1 range while Yb:CaF2 and Yb:Lu2SiO5 are situated in the 5–6 W m-1 K-1 range. Other matrices such as Yb:SrLaGa3O7, Yb:CaGdAl3O7, Yb:SrGdGa3O7, and Yb:BaLaGa3O7 have thermal conductivity values lower than 5 W m-1 K-1. With the knowledge of the thermal conductivities and the determination of the thermal expansion coefficients, thermal shock parameters are evaluated for several ytterbium doped laser hosts.