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Choosing to Practice as an Associate

As an associate, you're an employee of the practice – not an independent contractor. An employee receives a specified salary while an independent contractor is paid only for the time worked. Employees typically receive benefits that the employer offers such as health insurance, paid vacation and a 401(k) plan.

For some D.C.s, an associate position is a great way to practice. It can be ideal if:

  • You’re unsure where you want to practice
  • You’re not confident you could run your own practice
  • You’d like to learn how to run a practice from another D.C.

Questions You Should Ask

When you talk to a hiring D.C. about an associate position, here are a few questions to ask. These may lead to additional questions or issues to address when interviewing.

  • How will you be paid? What is the base salary? You can discuss a percentage, but it should be in addition to a base. How are additional percentages determined? Be sure you understand the determination process.
  • How often will you be paid? If you are on a percentage, you should receive a calculation of how the percentage was determined.
  • What happens if you are sick? Do you still get your base?
  • Who pays your malpractice insurance?
  • Do you get any holidays off?
  • What are your expected work hours?
  • Are you expected/required to stay with the practice a certain length of time (1 year, 3 years, etc.)?
  • Are you expected to recruit patients or just work in the office? Your work responsibilities should be explicit and complete.
  • Is the non-compete agreement reasonable? (See discussion in Getting Hired section.)
  • Is the doctor willing to pay you for continuing education seminars, including travel expenses?

How Can You Help the Hiring D.C.?

When interviewing for a position as an associate, it’s important to point out what you can bring to the practice in terms of your skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and determination. Ensure that the hiring D.C. understands how you can help grow the practice. Emphasize what you can bring to the practice – your unique selling points such as:

  • Updated techniques
  • Skills in recruiting new patients
  • Flexibility in hours
  • New business management skills
  • Technology skills

If you decide to pursue a position as an associate, find out more about negotiating a contract. It may also be wise to have your attorney review the contract.

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