Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Entry-level non-clinical physician job salaries

Let me clarify what I mean by "entry-level" here: I'm referring to non-clinical jobs that physicians may find if they leave clinical medicine to pursue a non-clinical job in a company (such as a medical communications company, a health IT company, pharma/biotech, a consulting company, etc.).

So, let's look at several examples:
  • A primary care physician who's making $120k/year leaves clinical medicine and begins to work in a a medical education company. How much could he/she make?
  • A medical school graduate chooses not to pursue residency. He/she chooses to work in a consumer health company. How much could he/she make?
  • An MD/MBA grad completes residency (earning around $50k/year as a senior resident) and finds a corporate consulting job. How much will he/she make?
  • An oncologist who has been practicing medicine for 10 years leaves the practice of medicine to work in pharma. How much could he/she make?
Is there an "average" figure for the examples above? Suppose the range is roughly $80k to $250k/year, so the average is $165k/year. Is that accurate? Not quite. Should we be looking at mean, median, or mode?

The reality is that many entry-level jobs will not pay above $150k/year unless you're a medical specialist. If you lack corporate experience, then you're in a different category compared to physicians who have extensive corporate work experience.  Some sources will tell you that entry-level job salaries for an "average" physician ranges roughly between $90-130k/year.  How do you make an argument that you deserve $130k/yr if a company offers you $90k/yr?  Several key factors impact this salary range. They include:
  • Geography. Living costs will greatly influence your salary.
  • Budgets. Some companies have much more negotiating "flexibility" around budgets. Others have very rigid budgets.
  • Risk. Some managers have a "high risk/high reward" mentality and they may be willing to take a big risk by paying a high salary to acquire the best talent. 
  • Gender. Even today, men tend to earn higher salaries compared to women. It's not fair, but it's what frequently happens.
  • Type of industry. Salaries for a "medical director" in industry #1 could vary tremendously compared to industry #2. Some companies simply have deeper pockets and bigger budgets. 
  • Your negotiation skills. 
To ensure that you receive a competitive salary, you need to have very strong negotiating skills. I've found that most physicians lack such salary negotiating skills because they haven't had much experience in this area. If you're considering a new job, make sure you don't undersell yourself.

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