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Negotiating Your Compensation

One of the first questions many new D.C.s ask is: How much can I expect to be paid as an associate or independent contractor? It's a fair question, but there's more to a compensation package than a paycheck. Understanding the various components can help you better negotiate a compensation package that suits your needs.

Location, location, location

Compensation packages can vary significantly from one part of the country to another and between urban and rural communities. Keep in mind that the cost of living will vary across the country as well.

Pay structure

Another factor when evaluating your compensation is how the pay is structured. You'll want to look into whether the position is set up as:

  • Associate position with a flat salary
  • Associate position with a base level salary plus a negotiated percentage of the collected income on new patients generated for the office
  • Associate position with a buyout option (ideal if you want to set up independently)
  • An independent contractor (you’ll  give up the security of an associate position, but can develop your own clientele while leveraging an existing practice's business expertise and office setup)

Each of these options has advantages and drawbacks. It’s important that you understand these and to rule out practice situations that are less likely to be right for you. Conducting a self-assessment profile and taking inventory of your aptitudes and interests will be critical as you seek a position that's best for you – regardless of pay.

Patient Profile

In addition to location and pay structure, the case-mix of the practice will often affect compensation.

Note: If you're being compensated through a percentage arrangement, it's especially important to review the source of patients. In particular, your compensation could be considerably less than you expect if a high amount of insurance is paid on a schedule.

Remember, most percentages are based on the collected revenue not the billed charges.

How to Effectively Sell Yourself

Many new associates make the mistake of thinking they can demand a high salary because of the large investment they have made in their chiropractic education. This is understandable, but in the real world, this approach may not go over well with a hiring doctor.

From a hiring doctor's perspective, a new graduate initially brings very little to the table other than a willingness to learn, the potential of youthful enthusiasm and the motivation to work hard. And the doctor will need to be convinced that hiring you will not mean a reduction in his or her income and/or cause a change in lifestyle. Of course, many established doctors want to share their experiences and wisdom with new D.C.s – but not at the expense of their own standard of living.

So, keep in mind that one of the key things a hiring doctor is looking for is a "good value" in an associate. This means it's up to you to sell how you will benefit the hiring doctor and the practice.

A good place to start is to find out why the doctor wants to hire an associate in the first place. Here are some examples:

Busy doctors who want to grow their practice may be a good match for new D.C.s who:

  • Are entrepreneurial
  • Have good management abilities/organizational skills

Consider talking to the hiring doctor about:

  • The revenue you can help the D.C. retain by serving patients who cannot be accommodated due to the doctor's busy schedule.
  • How new patients can be enticed to the doctor's practice through your specialized skills, e.g., sports, nutrition, speaking another language or another skill not being used in the practice.

Doctors who wish to maintain their practice but spend more time with family or on personal pursuits may be a good match for new D.C.s who:

  • Have good management abilities/organizational skills
  • Are more interested in learning and applying skills rather than starting out on their own right now.

Consider talking to the hiring doctor about:

  • How you could jump in right away and relieve some of the stress of managing a practice, enabling the doctor to have more free time.

Doctors who wish to specialize may be a good match for new D.C.s who:

  • Have good management abilities/organizational skills
  • Want to learn about that particular specialty

Consider talking to the hiring doctor about:

  • How you can handle the bread-and-butter cases, while they branch out the practice in a new direction.
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