Locum Tenens Salary & Finance 101
Locum tenens recruiters often talk about the many career benefits that come with locum tenens work. From the opportunity to work a flexible, customized schedule, to the chance to build experience in practice settings of all shapes and sizes nationwide, these benefits are well known
to physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice nurses who work locums assignments.
But locums pay is another factor crucial to those considering locum tenens work.
Medical job seekers want to know: how does a locum tenens salary compare to regular practice, and how do physicians and practitioners manage the sometimes complicated world of locum tenens finance?
Overview Of Locum Tenens Salary & Finance
Locum tenens work can be richly rewarding, giving you the chance to help out healthcare facilities facing personnel shortages. And, thanks in no small part to the nation's ongoing physician shortage, working locum tenens assignments can also include a significant financial reward.
In fact, due to supply and demand, it's now possible in some specialties for locum tenens physicians to earn more than working in a permanent practice.
Here's the basic scenario regarding locum tenens compensation.
When physicians or advanced practitioners accept assignments with a locum tenens staffing company like Staff Care, they will earn a per diem salary, in addition to extra compensation for overtime, on-call, and weekend work. Some pay rates may be open for negotiation but must be finalized by contract before an assignment begins.
As far as compensation for locum tenens physicians, the hourly or daily rate varies by medical specialty, just as pay rates vary for permanent positions. In fact, our recent data shows that locums pay can range from several hundred dollars per day to over $2,000 per day.
Primary care physicians — who are among the most in-demand locum tenens physicians — typically have an hourly rate of about $90 to $100, though some contracts offer more.
"A primary care physician working as a locum tenens full-time can easily generate $180,000- $200,000 a year in income, and with overtime shifts, they can earn considerably more," according to Jeff Decker, president of Staff Care.
Decker added that a locum tenens practitioner should never pay a fee to an agency.
Average Locum Tenens Pay Ranges For Some Key Specialties
- Family medicine physician: $90-$125 per hour
- Hospitalist: $140-$180 per hour
- Critical care physician: $190-$265 per hour
- Emergency medicine physician: $160-$245 per hour
- Psychiatrist: $145-$180 per hour
- Radiologist: $175-$245 per hour
The pay rates for advanced practitioners and physician specialists can vary significantly, with some specialized surgeons earning more than $300 per hour.
Check current locum jobs in your specialty for the latest compensation offerings.
Where Does Locum Pay Rank Among Job Benefits?
In Staff Care’s 2017 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends, 50 percent of all respondents — MDs, PAs, and NPs — ranked locum tenens salary rate as the second-most desirable benefit of locums work.
By comparison, the first benefit was "freedom/flexibility," which 89 percent of respondents cited as their favorite benefit. Lack of politics, the ability to travel, and professional development opportunities ranked third, fourth and fifth on the list.
When choosing specific assignments, two-thirds (67 percent) of the providers surveyed admitted that the locum tenens pay offered is a key factor in their decision-making.
Locum tenens salary rates are also dependent upon how often physicians are working locum tenens assignments, which can also vary based on specialty. Although some assignments last just a couple of weeks, some can last up to a year.
According to Decker, “Some locations have a hard time finding permanent doctors and rely on locum tenens doctors until they can find one, which can take some time."
Part-time locum assignments are also available for candidates who want to earn extra income on their days off from their permanent job.
Locum Tenens Finance: Insurance & Tax Advantages
Locum tenens physicians and practitioners are paid by their staffing agency, but income taxes, Medicare, and Social Security payments are not withheld from their paychecks. As independent contractors, they are also required to provide their own insurance, benefits, and retirement savings. Most locums, however, receive some tax advantages as they are able to claim more work-related expenses than employees, including travel, housing, meals, and equipment.
Experienced locums recommend working with a tax professional and financial planner to help take full advantage of the opportunities available to you.
A locums staffing agency will also provide practitioners with medical malpractice coverage, travel expenses, free housing, and state licensure and privileging assistance — all of which are extremely convenient, and can save practitioners significant time and money. An added benefit of working with a locum tenens staffing agency is that they consistently monitor malpractice policies to make sure there aren’t any complications.
Financial gains vary for each locum tenens physician or advanced practitioner based on a list of factors including medical specialty, experience, skillset, and assignment location.
Regardless of the specifics, however, there are clear benefits for every locum tenens clinician, including competitive compensation rates and flexible options that make working locum tenens jobs an attractive opportunity.
How Much Could You Earn As A Locum Tenens?
If you’re a physician or advanced practitioner interested in locum tenens career opportunities, we invite you to search available locum tenens jobs.