Locum Tenens Physician Salary

With the increasing demand for healthcare professionals, the topic of a Locum Tenens Physician Salary has never been hotter 🔥. 

You may have heard the term’ Locum Tenens’ whispered in hospital hallways, or perhaps you’ve seen it flashed across a medical journal. But what does it really mean? And more importantly, how does it translate into cold, hard cash for those who decide to tread this career path? Let’s dive deep and unearth the treasures hidden beneath this intriguing profession.

First, for those unfamiliar, ‘Locum Tenens’ is Latin for ‘place holder.’ In the medical world 🌍, it refers to physicians who temporarily fulfill the duties of another. They might step in for a doctor on maternity leave, sabbatical, or simply fill a gap where there’s a shortage. With the unpredictability of healthcare needs and evolving Physician Employment Trends, these professionals often find themselves in unique positions – sometimes in remote locations, other times in bustling urban centers.

The beauty of this profession is its flexibility. Imagine being a doctor 🩺 with the freedom to travel and choosing when and where you work. Sounds dreamy, right? But then, there’s the all-important question: how much do these wandering medics earn? 

After all, uprooting one’s life and adjusting to new environments, especially considering different Physician Compensation Models, should come with its fair share of perks, shouldn’t it?

Medscape report indicates that a permanent physician’s average annual salary varies considerably across specialties, often making it hard to pin down an average for locum tenens. Meanwhile, Becker’s Hospital Review offers insights suggesting that locum tenens often have the potential to earn competitively, if not more, depending on the situation.


But hey, we’re not here just to throw numbers at you. We’re about to embark on a comprehensive journey 🚀 through the ins and outs of the Locum Tenens Physician Salary. Buckle up, grab your stethoscope, and let’s get started!

What Is the Job Outlook for Locum Tenens Physicians?

The job outlook for Locum Tenens Physicians has been quite favorable in recent years and continues to show promising signs. One of the primary driving factors for this positive outlook is the persistent physician shortage across many parts of the world, especially in rural and underserved areas. With the growing demand for healthcare services and an aging population, there’s an ever-increasing need for physicians to cater to these needs, and Locum Tenens’ positions have come to the rescue for many healthcare institutions.

Another reason for the upward trajectory in the demand for Locum Tenens Physicians is the evolving nature of the medical profession. With more physicians seeking work-life balance, locum tenens positions’ flexibility is highly appealing. Instead of being tied down to a permanent position with rigid hours, locum tenens physicians can choose when and where they wish to practice. This model not only offers them diverse experiences but also enables them to explore different regions, healthcare systems, and patient demographics.

Furthermore, many healthcare institutions find hiring Locum Tenens Physicians as needed cost-effective. Instead of investing in full-time salaries and benefits, these institutions can ensure they have the right staffing levels to meet patient demands without long-term financial commitments. This flexibility is particularly valuable during fluctuating patient volumes, such as seasonal changes or pandemics.

In addition to these factors, the rise in telemedicine has also contributed positively to the job outlook for locum tenens. With the ability to consult and treat patients remotely, these physicians can serve even more regions, especially those with limited access to specialized care.

In summary, given the current trends in healthcare demands, physician preferences for flexibility, and the cost benefits to healthcare institutions, the job outlook for Locum Tenens Physicians is bright and promising.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Physician Locum Tenens?


  • Flexibility: One of the most celebrated benefits of locum tenens work is flexibility. Physicians can choose when and where they want to work, allowing for a more balanced personal and professional life.
  • Diverse Experience: Working in different environments, from rural clinics to large hospitals, allows physicians to gain a wide range of experiences and skills.
  • Financial Incentives: Often, locum tenens positions offer competitive compensation, especially when considering the short-term nature of many assignments. Some positions might also come with housing and travel allowances.
  • Filling the Gap: Locum tenens roles can serve as a bridge for physicians between permanent positions or during times of transition in their careers.
  • Networking: Working in various facilities can help physicians broaden their professional network, potentially opening doors to future opportunities.



  • Lack of Stability: While many physicians enjoy the change, others might find a stable, consistent workplace challenging.
  • Benefits and Perks: As temporary staff, locum tenens might not always get the same benefits (like health insurance or retirement contributions) as permanent staff.
  • Adjustment Period: Constantly transitioning between facilities can mean regularly adapting to new teams, systems, and protocols, which can be taxing.
  • Isolation: Moving between jobs can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation, as building long-term professional relationships might be more challenging.
  • Credentialing and Paperwork: Each new assignment might come with its own set of credentialing requirements and paperwork, which can be time-consuming.

Does Locum Tenens Pay More?

The question of whether Locum Tenens pays more is a nuanced one, as several factors come into play. Generally speaking, locum tenens positions often offer competitive hourly or daily rates higher than some permanent physicians earn. Here are some reasons why:

  • High Demand in Short-staffed Areas: Particularly in underserved or rural areas, where it’s challenging to attract and retain permanent medical staff, healthcare facilities might be willing to pay a premium for locum tenens physicians to ensure they maintain adequate patient care levels.
  • Urgency: In situations with an immediate need — for instance, if a physician goes on unexpected leave — hospitals might offer higher pay to fill the position promptly.
  • Specialization: Specialists, especially those in high demand and low supply, might find that locum tenens positions offer them a chance to earn more than their permanent counterparts.
  • No Long-term Benefits: While locum tenens physicians often earn a higher hourly or daily rate, they may not receive the same long-term benefits like health insurance, paid time off, or retirement contributions that permanent staff do. Thus, the higher pay can sometimes offset these missing perks.
  • Flexibility: The ability to take on assignments when and where they want allows locum tenens physicians to potentially work more hours or take on higher-paying assignments in rapid succession, thereby increasing their overall earnings.

However, it’s essential to note that while many locum tenens positions offer attractive compensation, it’s not universally true that they always pay more than permanent positions. The location, specialty, demand, and the individual physician’s negotiation skills all play a role in determining compensation.

How Much Is the Average Locum Tenens Physician Salary?

Quantifying an “average” Locum Tenens Physician Salary is complex because of the variability in assignments, specialties, locations, and individual negotiations. 


However, some general insights can help provide a clearer picture:

  • Variability by Specialty: Just as with permanent positions, locum tenens salaries can vary widely based on specialty. For instance, a locum tenens anesthesiologist might command a different rate than a family medicine physician.
  • Location Matters: Geographical location plays a significant role in determining pay. Areas with a higher cost of living or those that are particularly underserved might offer higher compensation to attract locum tenens physicians.
  • Length of Assignment: Short-term assignments, especially those requiring immediate placement, might offer higher daily rates than longer-term positions.
  • Additional Perks: Apart from the salary, many locum tenens positions come with added benefits like housing stipends, travel reimbursements, or malpractice insurance coverage. The effective earnings can be significantly higher when these are factored into the overall compensation package.

To give a ballpark figure, some locum tenens physicians can earn anywhere from a few hundred dollars per day to several thousand dollars per day, depending on the abovementioned factors. 

However, it’s always essential for physicians to conduct thorough research, consult peers in similar specialties, and possibly seek advice from locum tenens staffing agencies to understand potential earnings in their specific situation better.

What Is the Highest-Paid Locum Tenens Physician Specialty?

Locum tenens physician compensation varies considerably based on multiple factors, with specialty being a significant determinant. Historically, specialties that require more years of training, have higher levels of responsibility, or are in greater demand tend to earn higher salaries, whether in permanent or locum tenens positions.


Among locum tenens positions, several specialties consistently report higher earning potential:

  • Cardiothoracic Surgery: Cardiothoracic surgeons, who operate on the heart, lungs, and other thoracic (chest) organs, are among the highest-paid professionals in the medical field. Their specialized skills, extensive training, and the critical nature of their surgeries often result in significant compensation.
  • Neurosurgery: Neurosurgeons, specialists who operate on the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, also rank high in terms of locum tenens earnings. Their work’s intricate and high-risk nature and long training durations make their expertise highly sought after.
  • Radiology: Radiologists, especially interventional radiologists, are also on the higher end of the pay scale. Their ability to diagnose and treat conditions using imaging modalities is crucial, and their skills are in substantial demand.
  • Orthopedic Surgery: Orthopedic surgeons who address disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles, often have considerable earning potential, given the widespread need for musculoskeletal care in the population.

It’s worth noting that while these specialties might lead the pack in earning potential, the exact compensation can vary based on geographical location, the urgency of need, and the specific institution’s resources. Additionally, the healthcare landscape is ever-evolving, and the demand for specific specialties can shift over time, influencing locum tenens compensation trends.

What Are the Benefits of Locum Tenens Physicians?

Locum tenens physicians offer numerous benefits, both to themselves and the healthcare institutions they serve:

  • Filling Gaps: Locum tenens physicians play a crucial role in ensuring continuous patient care, filling in for absences due to vacations, illnesses, or educational leaves. They can also address short-term spikes in patient volume.
  • Specialized Skills: They can provide specialized services that might not be available at a particular institution, ensuring patients receive the care they need without having to travel to another facility.
  • Flexibility: For physicians, the flexibility of locum tenens work allows them to control their schedules, take breaks when desired, and explore various practice settings and locations.
  • Work-Life Balance: The ability to choose assignments based on preference can lead to a better work-life balance, reducing the risk of burnout.
  • Exploration: New graduates or those in transitional phases of their careers can use locum tenens positions to explore different specialties or settings before committing to a permanent role.
  • Financial Benefits: Depending on the specialty, location, and demand, locum tenens assignments can offer competitive compensation, often with added benefits like housing and travel stipends.
  • Networking: Working in diverse settings allows locum tenens physicians to expand their professional networks, potentially opening doors to more opportunities in the future.
  • Reduces Physician Shortage Impact: Especially in underserved areas, locum tenens physicians can ensure that communities have access to quality healthcare, even if only temporarily.
  • Fresh Perspectives: Bringing in physicians from different backgrounds and institutions can provide new perspectives and approaches to patient care, benefiting the entire healthcare team.

Does Working as a Locum Tenens Physician Pay Off?

Working as a Locum Tenens physician presents a unique proposition in the medical field. It offers a blend of professional and personal advantages alongside potential challenges. 

Evaluating whether it “pays off” requires considering various factors.

Financial Benefits: From a purely financial perspective, locum tenens assignments can be quite lucrative. Many healthcare facilities are willing to pay premium rates to locum tenens physicians due to urgent staffing needs, especially in hard-to-fill specialties or in geographically isolated regions. Also, locum positions often include additional financial perks like housing allowances, travel reimbursements, and malpractice insurance coverage.

Flexibility: One of the most touted benefits of locum tenens work is its unparalleled flexibility. Physicians can choose their assignments based on their personal preferences, ranging from the location to the length of commitment. This flexibility can allow for extended breaks, vacations, or even opportunities to explore different medical settings and cultures. For many, the prospect of avoiding the routine of a 9-to-5 job and being able to practice medicine on their own terms is a significant payoff.

Diverse Experience: Every new assignment provides an opportunity to work in a different environment, be it a large urban hospital or a rural clinic. Such experiences can be immensely enriching, helping physicians expand their skill sets, adapt to diverse patient populations, and become more versatile in their practice.

Reduced Administrative Burden: Being a locum often means being spared from some of the administrative burdens of a permanent position. It allows physicians to focus more on patient care and less on paperwork.

Potential Downsides: However, there are considerations. Locum tenens positions might need more stability and long-term benefits (like pension or consistent health insurance) associated with permanent roles. Some physicians may find the frequent changes in the work environment disruptive, and the need for a consistent team might feel isolating.


In conclusion, the decision to work as a locum tenens physician is highly individual. For many, the financial incentives, combined with the flexibility and diversity of experience, make it a rewarding choice. However, physicians must weigh these benefits against potential downsides to determine if the locum tenens path truly pays off for them.

About Us:

We are a dedicated team of legal professionals specializing in physician contracts at Physician Contract Attorney. With years of experience in the healthcare industry, we deeply understand the challenges faced by physicians when navigating complex employment contracts. Our mission is to ensure that our clients are protected and well represented. We focus on providing sound legal advice tailored to your unique needs, empowering you to negotiate your contract with confidence. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please reach out to us today.

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