Guide to Locum Tenens Pay Rates & Salary

Locum tenens is Latin term meaning, “to hold a place.” As a medical professional, a locum tenens physician or advanced practitioner will fill in for medical professionals. Many times, the resident professional is on leave or absent for other reasons, but other times the hospital or healthcare facility will staff locum tenens or temporary healthcare providers full time. This helps them plan for fluctuations in patient demand, among other benefits.

Due to the rising demand for locum tenens professionals– largely because of the nationwide physician shortage– locum tenens salary rates are climbing every year. Now is the best time to explore career opportunities as a locum tenens or temporary provider. It is becoming more and more common to earn more than a regular full-time doctor or advanced practitioner.

Locum tenens careers offer a variety of perks. These often include travel opportunities, schedule flexibility, and extra income. If you desire, working as a locum tenens provider often allows you to work full-time. Alternatively, locum tenens physicians can combine temporary work with a permanent healthcare provider job as supplemental income.

How Much Do Locum Tenens Doctors Make?

Depending on job factors, it is possible for locum tenens physicians to earn over $2,000 per day. In fact, primary care physicians can generate over $150,000 a year as a locum tenens provider. Studies have found that on average, full-time locum tenens physicians can make $32.45 per hour more than doctors that receive a salary as permanent physicians.

Often, a locum tenens physician can earn more by simply working weekends as opposed to working all year. The average pay rates vary across all medical specialties, but certain specialties offer higher locum tenens salaries due to immediate need, scarcity, or patient demand. For example, in March and April of 2020, we saw a huge surge in need for critical care and pulmonology physicians to account for an increase in COVID-19 patients.

Here is what you can expect some common medical specialties for locums doctors pay rates:

  • Family Medicine and Internal Medicine: $100 to $135/hour
  • Emergency Medicine: $160 to $300/hour
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology: $110 to $150/hour
  • Psychiatry: $150 to $200/hour
  • Critical Care: $190 to $265/hour
  • Radiology: $175 to $245/hour

What Determines Pay Rates for Locum Assignments?

Various factors can influence your hourly rate for locum tenens jobs:

Locality

Rural areas and smaller cities have access to fewer medical professionals. Typically, the smaller the location, the higher a relative locum tenens salary. This is done to attract physicians and advanced practitioners.

Extra shifts and on-call options are more abundant as a temporary physician or advanced practitioner, too. States such as Indiana, Florida, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, and Wisconsin are known to pay the highest rates for locum tenens positions.

Demand for a Specialty

Supply and demand plays a significant role in locum tenens salary rates. The higher the need for a specialty, the more salary a hospital will be willing to pay for a qualified provider. Specialized skills like neurosurgery and cardiology typically earn a higher salary compared to a more common specialty like family or emergency medicine. Always remember that a physician’s salary may be negotiated if you are willing to work longer hours, nights, or weekends when needed.

Facility Type

The locum tenens salary offered by a modern university medical center or private hospital differs from a salary at a small-town clinic. That’s because larger facilities have bigger budgets that can accommodate higher salary packages. However, big institutions are typically well-staffed. If the hospital already has multiple staff members that practice your specialty, it can make them less flexible to pay your desired salary.

Experience

Typically, the more experienced you are, the higher the locum tenens salary you can negotiate. If your expertise surpasses that of the physicians already on staff, it’s possible to negotiate a better salary. Rural community facilities struggling to attract highly experienced specialists are generally open to a higher salary for top candidates.

Shift Type and Patient Load

Working weekends, holidays, or calls may pay better, depending on the facility and your specialty. Again, this all comes down to supply and demand.  Assignments with a more appealing shift schedule or slower pace may pay lower locum tenens rates when compared to an assignment with required call or a high patient load.

How Much Do Locum Hospitalists Make?

A hospitalist is typically a board-certified internal medicine physician who has chosen to practice medicine in a hospital. We have also seen hospitalists with a background in emergency or family medicine. Locum tenens hospitalist salary rates are often comparable– if not higher than– permanent hospitalist positions. This is often due to the high demand for hospitalists and the inevitable need for them around the clock and on holidays.

Hospitalist pay rates vary based on locality, how quickly they are needed to fill the position, special skills needed, board certification requirements, call requirements, and other factors. On average, locum tenens hospitalist rates are usually between $100-$200/hour.

Where Does Locum Tenens Pay Rank Among Job Benefits?

Working as a locum tenens offers unique benefits unavailable to permanent hospital staff. Because locum tenens assignments are available all over the US, many medical practitioners use locum tenens jobs as an opportunity to take “working vacations.” For example, we staffed a well-paying Monday through Friday physician job that was a 3-month assignment in the Caribbean island of Curacao. Many providers jumped at the opportunity to spend three months living and working on a beautiful island!

Having job options all over the country gives you freedom to travel and explore professional development opportunities without compromising your salary. Locum tenens physicians and advanced practitioners also have more flexibility regarding their working hours. Physicians can work full-time, part-time, on call, or any other preferred arrangement.

Another attractive benefit of working as a locum tenens physician or advanced practitioner is the pay. By partnering with the right healthcare staffing agency, you can find work that matches your discipline and salary requirements. A locum tenens provider can often find the work they prefer while also enjoying more financial freedom than a full time physician.

Insurance & Taxes: What you need to know as a Locum Tenens Physician

Locum tenens medical practitioners receive their paychecks from their staffing agency. The staffing agency does not deduct things like the  physician’s Medicare, income taxes, or Social Security payments from the check.

Instead, a locum physician must provide their own medical insurance, benefits, and retirement savings. Locum tenens physicians can buy medical insurance via a health exchange or use their spouse’s plan.

A locum provider basically operates as an independent contractor. As a result, a physician may claim more work-related expenses. These typically include travel, housing, equipment, and more expenses on your taxes.

The Best Locum Tenens Companies for Nurse Practitioners and Other Specialists

The best locum tenens agencies will take the time to understand your specialty, preferences, and skills. Doing so enables the agency to provide you with temporary job opportunities. These opportunities should match your short and long-term career goals. In addition, staffing agencies also offer the following benefits:

  • Negotiation: Staffing agencies will assist with negotiating benefits and other contract terms on your behalf and in your interest. If you’d like, they can typically act as a liaison between you and the practice, which simplifies the process for you. The negotiated terms may include pay enhancers (such as mileage reimbursements or shift premiums), days off, shift preferences, and more.
  • Relocation Expenses and Expertise: Many agencies include travel and housing reimbursement as part of the negotiation process. In addition, some will even assist with booking car rentals, plane tickets or hotel rooms as a perk for moving to their location.
  • Credentialing and Malpractice Coverage: One of the best perks of working with a staffing agency is that they will handle the complicated background paperwork needed in order to get you moving forward with the new position. This includes handling the documentation and verification process, acting as a liaison between the physicians, state boards, and various offices that are contacted during the application process, and setting you up with some form of malpractice insurance coverage.

How do Healthcare staffing agencies make money?

Hospitals and healthcare facilities contact locum tenens staffing agencies for assistance with finding temporary coverage. Locum tenens staffing agencies use their vast network of healthcare professionals to find the best match.

The staffing agency pays the physician or advanced practitioner and in turn, the hospital or healthcare facility pays the staffing agency for finding the physician or advanced practitioner. They also pay for taking care of things like licensing, credentialing, privileging, housing and travel arrangements.

The best staffing agencies are able to get to know their healthcare professionals. They understand a professional’s needs, and match them with opportunities that fit them. On the healthcare facility’s side, they are also paying for this service; they expect each provider we send their way to be precisely what they are looking for.

Work With Lucidity

Working with an established staffing company like Lucidity ensures competitive locum tenens salary rates and prompt payment. We listen to our providers’ needs and ensure they have the freedom to practice medicine on their terms.

Our proprietary matching engine will connect you with medical facilities that want your exact skills while still considering all your personal preferences. Hiring facilities recommended by our matching system will be high-quality and fit your specifications. A physician’s preferred rate or salary, locality, working hours, and more are included in our matching system.

Perhaps you want to travel more or spend more time with your family. Finding the right company for locum tenens work is difficult. Lucidity can make it happen, regardless of your medical specialty or experience. Sign up today to start your profile and discover the best locum tenens opportunities for you.

Get access to thousands of vetted, ready-to-work providers.

Learn more about hiring.

Tap into a database of locum and permanent healthcare jobs, customized just for you.

Learn more about working as an Advanced Practitioner or Physician.