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The comprehensive career launch guide for physicians.

Download the Early Career Guide Here

How to find a rewarding job and negotiate a fair offer. And how a locums agency can help.

For new physicians entering the workforce, it’s a complicated time to get into medicine. Despite a rising demand for providers, job satisfaction for many physicians is on the decline. A recent survey showed a 27% drop in the number of doctors who are happy at work compared to before the pandemic. Burnout, staffing shortages, and increased administrative pressures have many physicians questioning whether there’s a better way to practice.

As a physician, understanding your options and the employment landscape helps you take advantage of the demand for your specialty, and build a more fulfilling and successful career.

In this guide, we’ll review common practice settings, tips for landing a job, and explore compensation, benefits, and other factors that impact your lifestyle and job satisfaction. You can also learn more about Weatherby's $2,000 resident/fellow bonus.

Private practice or group practice?

Private practice offers undeniable potential for entrepreneurial physicians. However, working with a group or healthcare system usually offers more stable income and fewer compliance concerns. Group practices also usually have better negotiating leverage with insurance companies.

Comparing hospitals

Most physicians work in hospitals — they’re engaging environments with opportunities to learn from colleagues in diverse specialties. The type of hospital you choose can also affect many aspects of your job.

Non-profit hospitals offer patient-focused care many physicians find rewarding. Philanthropic and community support can offer better job security for physicians, with the potential tradeoffs of lower compensation or more bureaucracy.

For-profit hospitals often come with higher compensation, access to cutting-edge resources and facilities, and oftentimes more streamlined decision-making. They’re also more vulnerable to market forces, and sometimes develop a reputation for putting profits over patient care.

Faith-based hospitals are known for patient-centered care, and often have a strong sense of community. Drawbacks include more oversight from religious authorities and potential conflicts between physicians’ personal beliefs and medical ethics.

Academic hospitals with strong reputations may offer higher salaries and benefits. They’re often on the forefront of research and developing technologies. On the other hand, jobs are highly competitive and may come with demanding workload expectations.

Other practice settings and career options

Urgent care centers: A dynamic environment where every day is different.

Retail clinics: Improve access to care among people who need it most.

Telemedicine: Ideal for physicians who want to work remotely.

Home health agencies: Treat patients in the comfort of their own homes.

Government health agencies: Contribute to critical public-health efforts.

Test-drive practice settings with locum tenens

Many new physicians aren’t quite sure about how or where they want to practice. Locum tenens can be a great way to explore different environments and discover your preferences before committing to a permanent position.

Explore practice settings: Gain exposure to different work environments and patient populations.

Flexibility without commitment: Maintain more control of your schedule as you explore various opportunities and specialties.

Build your network: Cultivate professional relationships that can aid in future job searches.

Work with Weatherby

Permanent positions are the most common career choice for physicians, but they’re not the only option. Working locum tenens as an independent contractor can combine the flexibility and higher earning potential of private practice with the stability of a permanent role.

Permanent employees

  • Usually employed by hospitals, practice groups, or healthcare systems

  • Regular W-2 salary with taxes automatically deducted from each paycheck

  • Often includes benefits like malpractice coverage, healthcare, and retirement

Independent contractors

  • May run their own practice, or more commonly work with a staffing agency

  • Considered a 1099 employee; responsible for their own taxes, health coverage, and retirement savings

  • Typically work on a short-term basis from a single shift to several months

Remember, both options can coexist. Many permanently employed physicians work locums to supplement their income, and many full-time locums physicians later transition to permanent roles.

Once you’ve got an idea of your preferred work environment, it’s time to track down a job.

An eye-catching CV, robust professional network, and polished interview skills will all pay dividends throughout your career.

Polishing your CV


Include a cover letter. Focus on your employer’s needs and mission and what you can bring to the organization.

Keep it concise. Aim for 2 - 3 pages max. Use a clean, simple design and easily legible fonts.

Highlight your achievements. Showcase your relevant skills and any publications, presentations, or awards.

Tailor it to each job. Use keywords from the job description and show you understand the role.

Include relevant training. List all relevant education, including fellowships or other specialized training.

Keep it professional. Avoid slang or abbreviations, and proofread closely before submitting.


Include a photo. While common in some regions, it’s against hiring norms in the U.S.

Include irrelevant information. Unless your role was important, skip long lists of conferences or extensive publication details.

Be generic. Avoid cliches that apply to any candidate — focus on specific skills or achievements.

Use an unprofessional email. Use your real name, not a nickname or online handle.

Include references unless or until they’re specifically requested.

Finding job opportunities

A strong professional network can help you discover openings and get valuable referrals that put you at the top of the candidate list.

Network in person. Attend conferences, job fairs, and other industry events. Get to know other physicians and professionals, and follow up afterward to stay in touch.

Utilize social media. LinkedIn is a valuable platform to connect with other physicians and share your professional accomplishments.

Mentors, colleagues, and alumni networks. Connections from medical school, residency, or previous jobs can provide leads, advice, and professional introductions.

Professional organizations. The American Medical Association and other specialty-specific associations offer excellent networking opportunities.

Talk to a locums agency. Leading agencies like Weatherby Healthcare employ consultants trained in your medical specialty and can connect you with job opportunities all over the country.

Nailing the interview

An impressive interview can secure you an offer almost immediately — and a bad one can end your chances at employment just as quickly.


Research the employer. Learn everything you can about their mission, values, and reputation.

Practice active listening. Listen carefully to questions, and give thoughtful responses that aren’t overly rehearsed.

Share relevant stories. Use specific examples to show your experience and how you’ve handled challenging situations.

Emphasize collaborative skills. Employers value physicians who work well as part of a team.

Ask thoughtful questions. It demonstrates interest, and helps you learn more about the role and company culture.

Send a follow-up. Sending a quick email demonstrates professionalism and shows you’re serious about the role.


Be late or unprepared. It’s the fastest way to disqualify yourself from consideration.

Dress unprofessionally. Business casual is a better choice than your favorite band T-shirt.

Ramble or be negative. Keep your answers brief, and be professional when speaking about previous employers or career challenges.

Focus only on salary. Be confident in your value, but don’t come across as greedy.

Understanding the basics of compensation leads to more informed decisions when weighing employment options — and puts you in a better position to negotiate.

What factors determine physicians’ pay?

Experience: Seasoned physicians generally get paid more for their services. 
Location: Cost of living and regional economics make a major difference. 
Specialty: Research average pay for your specialty so you know what’s fair. 
Market factors: Demand, competition, and industry trends all play a role.

Common compensation structures for physicians

Physicians may encounter different compensation models — sometimes even within the same offer. Employers often paint a rosy picture of your potential compensation, so be sure you’re clear on the best- and worst-case income scenarios.

Fee-for-service: Physicians are paid a flat rate for each service, incentivizing them to perform more services and procedures.

Salary: Physicians are paid a fixed salary, encouraging them to focus on quality of care rather than quantity of services.

Productivity-based: Physicians are paid based on productivity metrics—typically the number of patients seen or the number of services performed.

Value-based: Physicians are paid based on quality of care as determined by metrics like patient satisfaction, patient outcomes, and cost efficiency.

Hybrid: A mix of multiple compensation models—for example, a base salary with incentives for productivity, quality metrics, or other performance goals.

How is locum tenens compensation different?

Locums physicians are independent contractors (1099 employees) of a staffing agency and are usually paid by the hour. Some locums contracts also include sign-on or completion bonuses. Like permanent jobs, several key factors influence how much you’ll get paid when working locums.

Relevant skills: Expertise with relevant procedures or patient populations can lead to higher pay.

Location: Areas with severe shortages or higher costs of living may pay more to attract skilled physicians.

Specialty: Physicians in hard-to-fill specialties can command higher rates.

Patient load: High-workload assignments generally pay more than slower-paced facilities.

Shift type: Weekends, holidays, and overnight or call shifts often command higher hourly rates.

For more details, check out our in-depth guide on compensation for locum tenens physicians.

Understanding your benefits package

Pay close attention to the benefits offered beyond your salary. They can impact your family’s healthcare costs, your long-term financial planning, and your work/life balance.

Health insurance: Many employers offer individual or family health plans. Co-pays, deductibles, and premiums can vary widely, so dive into the specifics.

Retirement: Retirement benefits like 401(k) plans are also common. Employer-matched contributions, profit sharing, or pensions can separate an average offer from an excellent one.

Paid time off: Be clear about how you accrue vacation time, how much rolls over, and any available sick days or holidays.

Malpractice insurance: Most compensation packages include malpractice insurance — be sure you understand the details and any limitations.

Life and disability insurance: If these benefits are offered, look into their terms, any additional premiums, and whether they include short-term or long-term disability (or both).

How do taxes and benefits work for locums physicians?

As independent contractors, locums physicians are responsible for paying their own taxes and coordinating their own benefits like health insurance and retirement planning. While this takes a bit of effort, it also opens up some potential opportunities for tax savings and the chance to customize a plan that makes the most sense for you and your family.

It’s also important to remember that locums physicians don’t have to handle everything on their own. Tax experts, CPAs, and financial advisors are valuable resources for any physician, especially independent contractors who coordinate their own benefits.

Check out our detailed tax guide for locum tenens providers, or learn more about benefits for locum tenens physicians.

Important considerations beyond salary and benefits

Career satisfaction is about more than just money — it’s about the lifestyle you’re able to live, the daily realities of your job, and your ability to achieve your goals. While everyone has their own priorities, be sure to consider factors like:

  • Patient load and number of call days

  • Schedule flexibility and work/life balance

  • Telecommuting opportunities

  • Development opportunities

  • Quality of resources and support staff

  • Regulatory and administrative burden

  • Facility reputation and culture

  • Location and patient population

Reviewing the terms of your contract

Your employment contract is a legally binding agreement, so it’s essential you understand what you’re signing. It’s always wise to have an employment attorney review the offer to protect your rights and ensure fair, reasonable terms.

Compensation and benefits. Make sure the salary, health benefits, and other incentives align with your needs and professional goals.

Work schedule and expectations. Note the number of hours you’re expected to work, the call schedule, and any after-hours duties.

Non-compete clause. Note the duration and geographic scope of any non-compete clauses.

Duration and termination. Make sure you understand the terms for renewal, termination, and any repercussions if you decide to move on before a contract is completed.

Malpractice insurance. Ensure any provided policies will adequately cover you in case of a claim.

Intellectual property ownership. If you’ll be involved in research, it’s important to know who owns the rights to any IP you create during the terms of your contract.

Miscellaneous clauses. Become familiar with any non-disparagement clauses, non-disclosure agreements, or arbitration agreements that could impact your employment or future prospects.

Negotiating your offer

Some people find negotiating uncomfortable, but it gets easier with practice, and it’s often critical to securing a competitive offer.

Know your worth. Research compensation packages for physicians in your specialty and geographic area so you have a frame of reference as to what’s fair.

Prioritize your needs. Every individual has their own priorities when it comes to compensation, scheduling, benefits, and other factors.

Consider the entire package. Salary is only part of the equation. Consider health and retirement benefits, paid time off, and your work schedule and scope of responsibilities.

Negotiate from a position of strength. Multiple offers or an in-demand specialty give you leverage to ask for more. In competitive job markets, you may have less wiggle room.

Ask for what you want. Be clear, confident, and specific in expressing your expectations. Never be afraid to ask, but know where you’re willing to compromise.

Always be respectful. Be prompt, professional, and courteous in your responses, even if the negotiation doesn’t go as planned. Don’t compromise future opportunities by burning bridges.

How locum tenens contracts are different

Locum tenens contracts are work agreements between physicians and staffing agencies, who have their own contracts with healthcare facilities. Well-renowned staffing agencies can help physicians with:

Negotiating contract terms. Great locums agencies are proactive in pushing for rates and contract terms that benefit their physicians.

Identifying red flags. Locums consultants have seen a lot of contracts, and they can provide support during the review process to point out any abnormalities or areas of concern.

Acting as a liaison. Staffing agencies streamline communication between you and the client organization and ensure contracts and any logistical details are finalized efficiently.

Learn more about locum tenens contract negotiation and important things to watch for when reviewing a locums contract.

As the physician shortage continues to worsen, the locums market is growing fast — it’s projected to reach $23.5 billion by 2027. One survey from the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO) found that 80% of healthcare facilities had used locum tenens staffing within the previous year.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of locum tenens, debunk some common myths, and explore tips for working with an agency — and for deciding if working locums is right for you.

Why more physicians are choosing locum tenens

Challenges like burnout, administrative burdens, and a growing patient-to-physician gap are causing many physicians to become disillusioned with traditional employment arrangements.

Working locums can lead to a more satisfying personal and professional life and remind you why you went into medicine in the first place. The most notable benefits of locum tenens include:

Increased income. Supplement your current income, or increase your overall earning potential.

More time for patients. Fewer administrative tasks means more time to focus on your patients.

Flexibility. Part time or full time — work where, when, and however much you choose.

Variety. Experience new practice settings and patient populations, or enjoy a change of pace.

Travel opportunities. Experience new places and different cultures on every assignment.

Professional development. Develop new skills, learn from other professionals, and build your network.

Work/life balance. Choose assignments that suit your goals, lifestyle, and preferences.

How locum tenens can benefit physicians at any career stage

Whether you’re a recent graduate, a seasoned physician, or approaching retirement, locum tenens broadens your options. There’s a reason one in three physicians are currently working or have previously worked locum tenens.

New physicians can use locums to help pay off student loans faster or to save for big purchases like a home. It’s an excellent way to explore different practice settings and employment arrangements before committing to a permanent position. Traveling the country and working in different facilities also helps build a vast professional network that often leads to greater opportunities down the road.

Mid-career physicians often work locums to supplement their current salary or increase their full-time earning potential. Building new skills and experiencing different clinical environments keeps physicians at the top of their game, and a switch to locums can also help alleviate burnout and rejuvenate administration-weary physicians who just want to focus on patient care.

Semi-retired physicians can use locums to transition to retirement at their own pace and as a way to remain engaged in medicine and keep their license current without having to work full time. The travel opportunities and supplemental income from working locums also enable a more fulfilling and comfortable lifestyle, both leading up to and following retirement.

Common myths about locum tenens

A few myths about locum tenens persist despite a lack of evidence — or sometimes due to a simple lack of information about available options. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common myths:

Myth #1: Locum tenens physicians deliver lower-quality care.

Locum tenens physicians have no significant difference in mortality rates compared to their full-time colleagues. Some studies have even shown patients treated by locums physicians experience shorter hospital stays with no increase in readmissions. A NALTO survey also showed 94% satisfaction among facilities using locum tenens providers.

Myth #2: Career stability is impossible with locum tenens.

While your location and schedule may change more often, leading agencies can provide consistent placements and ongoing career support. Best of all, you can schedule time off whenever you need it.

Myth #3: Working locums requires constant travel.

Though lots of physicians enjoy traveling, it’s not for everyone. Many regions have local locums assignments available, allowing you to expand your career options while staying close to home. Over half of locums physicians report working close to home. A locums consultant can help you research the volume and variety of assignments in your area.

Do I need an agency to work locums?

It’s possible to work locum tenens on your own, but it’s complicated. You’ll be responsible for making business connections, negotiating contracts, and coordinating all logistics. Agencies offer many benefits that streamline locums work and provide physicians with peace of mind, including:

Network of opportunities. Well-established agencies have a broad range of clients and assignments at top facilities around the country.

Negotiating power. Agencies can often help physicians negotiate better rates and contract terms.

Legal protections. Reputable agencies have contracts in place to protect physicians from disputes or liabilities.

Licensing and credentialing. Agencies often take on time-consuming tasks like verifying education and securing licensure.

Travel and logistics. Top-tier agencies will book flights, lodging, and rental cars and coordinate all other details.

Malpractice insurance. Many agencies offer malpractice coverage — but not all of them include tail coverage like Weatherby.

Ongoing support. A great agency will be responsive to any issues that arise, inside or outside of the clinic.

How do locum tenens agencies make money?

Locums agencies establish relationships with healthcare facilities around the country, who reach out when they have unmet staffing needs. Agencies then recruit qualified physicians and coordinate all logistics like travel, credentialing, and licensing.

The locums agency negotiates with the facility to establish a rate that benefits the physician, and adds a small markup to cover the agency’s own costs. Facilities often pay locums physicians higher rates than they would for permanent positions because they know the long-term cost of compromising their patient care standards due to understaffing.

How to choose a locum tenens agency

The agency you choose can make a major difference when working locums. Pay attention to these key factors when weighing your options.

Reputation: Check out an agency’s reviews, and ask for input from colleagues who have worked with them.

Specializations: You don’t have to choose a specialty-specific agency to get top-tier service — larger agencies like Weatherby have dedicated teams for different specialities.

Size and reach: Larger agencies often have a broader range of industry contacts and job opportunities.

Available support: From travel arrangements and credentialing to on-assignment support, choose an agency that takes stress off your plate.

Compensation: Rates should be fair and transparent. Watch for bait-and-switch offers that are too good to be true.

Flexibility and communication: Choose an agency that accommodates your preferences and stays in regular contact throughout an assignment.

Malpractice insurance: Ensure your agency’s coverage still protects you in the case of a claim after your assignment ends.

Preparing to work locum tenens

Because locum tenens physicians are independent contractors, there are a few important steps you should take before you start doing business.

Get a federal Employer Identification Number. The IRS will issue you one for free here.

Separate your finances. Open a separate bank account and credit card for your business so it’s not intertwined with your personal finances.

Keep detailed records. Look into bookkeeping software like Quickbooks that will track and organize your income and expenses.

Do I need a business entity to work locum tenens?

You’ll be considered a sole proprietor by default if you don’t set up a dedicated business entity for working locum tenens. This works just fine for many locums physicians, especially those who also receive a W-2 salary from a permanent employer.

Setting up a business entity like an LLC or S corp to work locum tenens doesn’t necessarily reduce your liability or lower your taxes, but it does make sense for some physicians. A financial advisor can help you choose the best option for your circumstances.

Learn more about LLCs and other business entities for locum tenens.

How does the locums agency process work?

Every agency does things a little differently, but a streamlined and straightforward onboarding process can make all the difference when getting into a groove with your first few locums assignments. Here’s how we do things at Weatherby:

Step 1: You’re matched with a specialty-trained consultant who gets to know you and what you’re looking for in an assignment.

Step 2: Your consultant finds and shares suitable assignments and presents them for your review.

Step 3: After you choose an assignment, we’ll walk you through the online application and aid in gathering required documents.

Step 4: Our credentialing team helps you compile all necessary credentials and obtain a state license if necessary.

Step 5: We arrange transportation, rental cars, and accommodations that meet your needs.

Step 6: Your consultant provides ongoing support throughout your assignment — from work issues to restaurant recommendations.

Step 7: Repeat from Step 1, as you and your consultant build a long-term work relationship.

Tips for your first locum tenens assignment

It’s normal to have some nerves before starting any new job, especially one where you’ll be traveling to an unfamiliar location and facility. Building these simple but important habits will ensure things run smoothly on your first assignment and throughout your locums career.

Get organized. Keep important details like location, schedules, and contact information in one place. Weatherby uses a helpful app to keep these details accessible for our physicians.

Ask questions. Clarify your role, responsibilities, and schedule, and make sure you understand a facility’s expectations and requirements.

Stay flexible. Be willing to adjust your schedule if needed, and remain open-minded about new people and work environments.

Communicate effectively. Stay in regular contact with your consultant and facility colleagues, and address any concerns promptly.

Be professional. Punctuality, positivity, and professionalism go a long way toward establishing a good reputation.

Take care of yourself. Your first few assignments may feel chaotic at times. Rest, exercise, and proper nutrition help manage stress and maintain your physical and mental health.

How to decide if working locums is right for you

Everybody’s career and lifestyle aspirations are unique, and there’s no employment arrangement that’s perfect for every physician. To decide if locum tenens is a good fit for you, ask yourself these questions, and keep a few other things in mind:

  1. Do you want more flexibility and control over your workload?

  2. Do you enjoy travel, and does your personal situation allow it?

  3. Do you want to expand your skill set and your professional experience?

  4. Do you thrive in changing environments, or do you prefer more of a routine?

Consider your circumstances: Locums is a fantastic way to accelerate your career but may not be ideal for those with young children or aging relatives.

Consult with colleagues: Ask fellow healthcare professionals who have worked locums about their experience.

Talk to an agency: A worthwhile locums agency will be happy to answer questions and explore options without pressuring you into anything.

Working locums is an excellent option for physicians at any career stage looking to boost their income, broaden their skills, and explore different practice settings. More physicians are choosing to work locum tenens due to various benefits like higher pay, greater flexibility, and more control over their work/life balance.

When you choose Weatherby as your locums agency, you’ll be partnered with a specialty-trained consultant who can help you launch your career and achieve your full potential. They’ll get to know what you’re looking for in an assignment and walk you through every step of the process from collecting required documents to booking travel arrangements. And thanks to our long-time relationships with leading healthcare facilities, we’re able to offer top-tier assignments in all 50 states and over 100 specialties.

Learn more about the benefits of working locum tenens, or explore our other helpful resources for physicians.

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