What a Physician Should Expect During Salary Negotiation

Intended Audience: Doctors who want to get paid as much as possible with their salary.

Medical school is a costly endeavor, both for the price you pay for school and the time you spend there. But the knowledge you obtain is invaluable and your salary should be commensurate with it.

One crucial lesson they don’t teach everyone in medical school is how to get paid what you’re worth. As you start in a new practice or work your way up the ladder, this skill of negotiation comes in handy.

For many physicians, the idea of facing down medical emergencies is just another day. Negotiating their business dealings is a new level of stress they don’t want to handle, though!

If you want to know what to expect during the salary negotiation process so you get what you deserve, check out these tips.

1. It’s All in the Agreement Label

Every medical practice uses their own variation of a typical business model. Learn what that model is before you agree to an interview so you are aware of what you’re getting into.

This business practice will cover everything from how you get paid to what kind of benefits you get. Typical agreements include:

  • Contracted employment from an independent practice – This model assigns your hours and limits your independence but offers benefits and paid vacation to make up for it. 
  • Partnership agreements – A partnership splits profit and loss, risks, and benefits, down a predetermined percentage. It’s not an independent medical office, but it’s close. 
  • Independent contractors – As an independent contractor, you can come and go as you please. However, you are responsible for your own taxes, payroll, perks, and retirement.

Once you know what kind of model you are walking into, you can begin to think about negotiating your salary.

2. Know What’s Important to You

A negotiation is a give-and-take compromise until both parties are happy with the terms. As such, you need to know which factors are non-negotiable and which ones you’re okay with giving up.

Terms that are frequently part of this negotiation process include:

  • The length of the initial contract term
  • Potential sign-on bonuses
  • Vacation time
  • The work schedule
  • Practice rules and restrictions
  • Benefits
  • Paid malpractice insurance
  • Potential steps up the ladder

Someone looking for a little extra vacation time may have to be willing to accept working more during the rest of the year, for example. Know your hard limits and keep looking until you find a medical office that will meet them.

3. Know the Payscale in the Area

Your friend in the big city may be banking six figures a year, but not every town averages the same incomes for similar jobs. Take some time before you interview or renegotiate your contract to search the area you’re in.

Sites like Indeed and Glassdoor give users the average pay for the jobs in a specified area. You might find that you can get a lot more money by hopping over to the next county and adding an hour to your commute.

4. Use Psychology Skills in Your Interest

Manners go a long way when working with others. Try to phrase your requests positively. 

When you aren’t thrilled with the salary, for instance, ask for more by starting with a compliment. Tell the manager that you like the atmosphere and the benefits, but to leave your current job would require a higher annual income to justify it.

This may be followed by silence as the other side considers your proposal. Some people can’t handle the awkward silence, but during negotiations, it happens. 

The pause is good. It’s your chance to consider what you’ll do if they decline and decide if you are willing to walk away from the rest of the perks of the job. Don’t jump in and change your mind. They might have been just about to agree!

5. Don’t Sign the Contract Right Away

No matter how great the job sounds, never sign a contract without having it reviewed by a legal representative first.

You don’t have to say, “I’m going to run this by my attorney.” Some managers may take offense at that. Instead, ask for a copy of the contract and 24 to 48 hours to consider the details.

This is a perfectly common request. If it’s a busy office, you could be taking the chance that they’ll fill the position before you can get back with them. But it’s worth the risk to make sure you aren’t signing something that you’ll regret later.


Starting a new job in the medical field or renegotiating your current contract gives you a lot of flexibility. If you’re a reputable physician, you don’t have to settle for less than you want, as long as it’s within reason.

The salary negotiation process is your chance to improve your quality of life. Don’t be nervous or hesitant to ask for what you want. Know what you’re willing to compromise on and which parts are an absolute must. Then negotiate!

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