Locum Leaders' Locum Tenens Salary Guide: 3 Important Considerations
Are you considering
working a locum
tenens assignment — or even deciding whether a series of locums assignments
could be a viable career option? Either way, you are probably interested in
knowing what to expect in a locum tenens salary package.
First, it's important
to understand that locum tenens salary dynamics have changed considerably over
the several decades since this practice type was introduced into the U.S.
healthcare system. Now, more than in the past, locum physicians can expect to
earn roughly the same rate of pay as full-time, permanent physicians.
Often, the employer
will be paying more than the standard salary, but a portion of that is
collected by the locum
tenens staffing agency, which, in return, saves the employer the
considerable cost of hiring a new physician, and provides the locum tenens
worker with a variety of benefits that include malpractice insurance, licensing
assistance, and a reliable paycheck.
Locum jobs that
involve relocation or travel should also include reimbursements for housing and
With all of this in
mind, locum tenens salaries can differ quite a bit based on these three primary
3 variables that affect your locum
1. Medical specialty
As we all know,
physicians working in different medical specialties will earn different
salaries, and this holds just as true for locum tenens physicians as for any
So how do those
specialty salaries break down? According to the 2017 Medscape Physician Compensation
Report — gleaned from a survey of more than 19,200
physicians across 27 specialties — primary care physicians make, on average, a
salary of $217,000 per year, while specialist physicians averaged $316,000.
The same report tells
us that the top three highest-earning physician specialties are orthopedists at
$489,000 per year, plastic surgeons at $440,000, and cardiologists at $410,000.
The lowest earners are pediatricians ($202,000), family physicians ($209,000),
oncologists and cardiologists’ incomes was virtually unchanged this year [from
2016-2017], while all other survey respondents reported an increase,” the
and advanced practice nurses, who are also eligible for locum assignments, can
also expect to earn equitable salaries to their permanent counterparts.
2. Facility type
As with any physician
or advanced practitioner job, locum tenens or not, your salary will also vary
depending on the type of facility in which you're working. You can expect
small-town clinics to offer different locum tenens salary packages than cutting-edge
university medical centers, for example.
At the same time,
experience plays a big role in locum tenens salary, no matter what the facility
An employer in a rural
community may pay more for a specialist with premium levels of experience, for
instance, while that same highly experienced specialist may have to accept a
lower level of compensation in a larger facility where he or she is just one
In rural areas, locum
tenens are often more in demand because physicians are scarcer. By way of
comparison, physicians are relatively abundant in cities and urban areas — say,
New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and the nation's major population
In general, this means
that locum salary rates are much more competitive in a city, where there are
many more applicants competing for each job. In rural areas, however, locum
salary rates may be quite a bit higher simply because the need is much greater.
This is hardly an
iron-clad rule, though, and tends to lose its bearing on situations involving
highly skilled or experienced professionals.
Here, then, a choice
Which is more
important to you when choosing a locum tenens location: living in a highly
desirable area, or earning the maximum locum tenens salary rate available given
your specialty and experience level?
If you're a seasoned
physician decades into your career, you may choose the former; if you're a young
physician looking to pay down medical school debt, it's more likely to be
which opportunities to consider, be sure to let your recruiter know if earning
the highest possible income is more important than geography," advises the National Association of Locum
Tenens Organizations® (NALTO).
"Pay rates do not
vary all that much from agency to agency, but they can be significantly higher
in remote locations where the need for physicians is greatest," the report
"In areas where
demand is high and doctors are in short supply, it is not uncommon for locum
tenens practitioners to earn attractive rates and pick up extra shifts and
added call to boost income. Some locum tenens agencies also offer bonuses to
physicians who are willing to practice in one location for an extended period
of time. A hospital or practice that needs physician coverage for several
months usually prefers to have one practitioner for the entire time rather than
several who each stay for only a few weeks."
physicians can sometimes negotiate higher locum tenens salary rates than those
who sign on with an agency — Dr. Kevin Pho (a.k.a. KevinMD) reported in Medscape earning as much as 33 percent over a
standard physician salary this way.
Yet other experts have
emphasized the importance of maintaining reasonable
expectations when negotiating
locum tenens salary rates. Most locum agencies, such as Locum Leaders, offer a fixed salary in
addition to other benefits and guarantees, such as:
• Travel arrangements
• Housing and travel reimbursements
To learn more about
the specific locum tenens benefits available to you from Locum Leaders, connect with a recruiter today.
Ensuring a Fair Locum Tenens Salary & Prompt
Payment: The Benefits of Working with an Established Locum Staffing Company
The fact that locum
tenens salaries tend to outpace standard physician salaries is just one of the
benefits of locum tenens employment.
"If you don’t
mind travel and are a fairly adaptable individual (i.e. can learn new EMR
systems, staff idiosyncrasies, and navigate hospital politics without excessive
angst), then you can expect to make at least 33% more in salary working as a
locum (with professional liability insurance, housing and travel covered
included)," as Dr. Pho puts it in his Medscape article.
"In addition, you
have no administrative or teaching responsibilities, coding/billing hassles, or
staff management issues," Dr. Pho adds. "You’re paid an hourly rate
for a minimum number of hours, with overtime negotiable. You get to see
different parts of the country, and can control where you go and how much you
work. (e.g., summers in Sonoma, winters in Florida … not a bad lifestyle
In his classic
article "A Physician's Guide to Locum
Tenens," Dr. William T.
Cushing stresses the importance of working with a locum tenens staffing company
that's reliable, attentive and considerate to make sure that you receive your
locum salary in a timely and hassle-free manner.
defined payment terms an "important factor in locum tenens work," Dr.
Cushing describes a payment ordeal he underwent with an unreliable locums
partner that took him two years to resolve.
"Get it in
ink," he advises, regarding locum salary rates and payment schedules, as
well as all other aspects of your work agreement. "Travel arrangements and
expenses should also be stipulated in the agreement," as should lodging and
All of which you can
expect when you take an assignment with a reliable locums partner like Locum
Leaders. And when you do partner with a reliable company,
you're likely to find locum tenens employment assignment to be, in the words of Dr. Janice Boughton, "a truly great option."
Locum tenens work
"allows me to know that I will be able to stay busy in my field and make
enough money to support my family and to have breathing space to do other
important things," she adds.
Combined with flexible
assignment options and a locum tenens salary that's more than competitive with
any other part-time or full-time work, locums employment is an appealing option
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