Medical doctor salaries vary widely, and may depend on specialty, geographic location, and institutional size.
Starting salaries for family practice medical doctor post-residency work have a national average of $120,000*. There is a wide range of first year salary expectations depending on medical specialty. Generalists typically earn lower starting salaries while specialists who go through additional years of residency should expect a higher than average salary.
A family practice doctor's average salary is $166,000** while top plastic surgeons can reach in excess of $459,000**. Larger institutions tend to pay physicians more than smaller private practices, according to Payscale's Median Salary By Company Size Charts.
Opportunities for advancement
It is rare for doctors to change specialization, but there are many other ways physicians can advance their careers. Medical Doctors, regardless of specialization, can advance through seniority, practice size, patient load, and advancement to physician practice management roles. Physicians who want to strike out on their own can set up their own private practice, where their salary will depend on profitability of their small business. Physicians can also advance their careers by moving to larger institutions, corporations, pharmaceutical/medical device/biotech companies, HMO/Insurance companies, federal, state, and local government work. Doctors can affiliate with universities to teach medical students and/or conduct medical research.
Medical doctors with a few years of experience can consult or contract. Some physicians will consult or contract full time, while others will pick up additional shifts as supplemental income. Typically the hourly consulting/contracting can be higher paying alternatives, though those options typically don't include benefits.
Benefits and perks
Paid time off, pension, health care, 401K/403b, insurance, bonus, and taxes increase the total compensation package by an average 20%-24%**, bringing the average total medical doctor compensation range between $215,000 and $398,000, depending on specialty.
Salary negotiation tips
Large institutions (hospitals, government health agencies, or private companies), typically set up a salary range (or salary band), so the organization will have a little room to move on salaries (about 5-10%). Smaller organizations, such as private medical practices are less likely to have as much wiggle room on salary. Either way, don't expect an employer to give you a higher salary just because you ask. Instead, prepare a well documented justification and stay within the organization's salary range for the specific position so you'll have a good chance at getting the salary increase you're targeting.
In addition, medical doctors have some other advantages in negotiating salaries. Shortages of certain specialties may exist in specific regions, resulting in higher salary opportunities. A profitable, large, and loyal patient following can also be translated into higher salary.
Your greatest ability to negotiate salary is when you have options. Interview with a number of hospitals, medical practices, local and state government health agencies, university hospitals, Veterans Administration, and private companies. In addition, do your homework – get salary information online with AOL Jobs Salary Center or from staffing and recruiting firms in your industry. Sometimes just having research on average salaries for your local market may provide rationale for a higher salary.
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* According to www.payscale.com.
** According to www.salary.com