Physician recruiting has become highly competitive because of the increasing shortage of physicians. In fields such as primary care, more than 50% of physicians receive 100 or more job solicitations throughout their training; the need for physicians working in family medicine is also on the rise. Because of this large volume of job offers, it is important for physicians to be able to evaluate contracts from potential employers.

The primary part of a physician’s employment contract is the base salary. This is sometimes coupled with a production bonus formula based on relative value units or other metrics, such as adherence to treatment protocols or patient satisfaction scores. With the outline of a base salary and production bonus, physicians can determine the minimum and maximum amounts they might earn during a contract period.

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Contracts may also include a range of other financial benefits. One of these is a signing bonus; these are often offered by large employers including hospitals, medical groups, and community health centers. According to data published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, 1 physician recruiting firm reported that 76% of that firm’s searches included a signing bonus. These are often negotiable to a point, and the number may be more robust for a physician who is leaving an established practice and relocating for the contract in question.

Relocation allowances are another potential contract bonus, present in approximately 95% of physician contracts, and averaging just more than $10,000 for all physicians. Continuing medical education allowances are also offered by some employers, and are generally the same across specialties. They are usually coupled with a standard 5 days annually for continuing medical education.

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A physician’s contract may also contain standard employee benefits such as health insurance, malpractice insurance, and a retirement plan such as a 401(k). In addition, approximately one-quarter of contracts include educational loan forgiveness in exchange for a commitment for a stated period of time. This may be more common in rural areas or underserved communities, where it is more difficult to recruit physicians.

Although most of the focus of an employment contract is on the salary, in the case of a physician employment contract, there are a number of bonuses and benefits that can be included or negotiated. By evaluating and considering these additional features of a contract, physicians can ensure that the contract is competitive and fair, based on their individual needs.


Singleton T, Miller P. Evaluating physician employment contracts: how do your benefits measure up? Fam Pract Manag. 2017;24(5):9-11.