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Negotiating a Raise

Kyle Claussen

Negotiating a raise can be a touchy and uncomfortable subject for many physicians. You may feel that because you are asking for more, when you are already paid more than most Americans, that you are being greedy. Or, you may just not know how to approach the topic, so you lack confidence when it’s time to negotiate. Whatever the reason, there are ways to prepare yourself with the necessary resources and knowledge to negotiate successfully.

Measure Your Value

As a physician, you know that research is only valuable if it is backed by legitimate supporting evidence. Negotiating a raise is no different. You must come to the negotiating table with the supporting evidence that you deserve the pay increase.  Approximately two thirds of physicians are compensated based on productivity measures. These measures may be in the form of relative value units (RVUs), billings, or collections.  

You can compare your production numbers to data sources and compensation reports, including the reports from Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).  This data allows you to compare median compensation and benefit numbers for physicians in your specialty. Keep in mind that data sources such as MGMA’s compensation reports can be manipulated in different ways and are not always easy to interpret.

These reports and data sets are also not free, and will require payment to gain access. Having a team that specializes in contract review and negotiation can be very helpful in this step, as they will be well versed in industry compensation averages and will have access to these reports.

Leverage Competing Offers

Leveraging competing offers can be a powerful means to getting your raise. However, it can come back to bite you if you do not have another legitimate offer to reference. This tactic requires a delicate balance of assertiveness and realistic possibility that you may actually take a competing offer.  In the event your current employer is willing to let you leave rather than increase your compensation, you will need to be prepared to move on to your next job or back down.

Set a Reasonable Target

Once you, or those you are working with, have laid the groundwork for determining how much your raise should be, set a specific target. This target number should reflect industry averages and be reasonable considering other factors including geographic location and practice type. If you have been practicing for your employer for a considerable amount of time, you will most likely have an understanding of the upper limit of what they can afford. Be reasonable in both your request and demeanor, and do not give up your negotiation if your employer balks at pair fair market value for your services. Conversely, do not come in with a number that is unrealistically high, as this may hurt your chances for further negotiation.

More than Salary

Negotiating a raise is not strictly limited to just salary. If your organization is not willing to budge on a salary increase, there are other avenues you can take to increase the value of your overall compensation. These additional opportunities may include board certification expenses, medical staff dues or a retention bonus. Remember that these additional benefits can really add up, so do not be discouraged if the salary you envisioned is not possible.


Letting your employer know beforehand that you will be discussing a potential raise is common courtesy and potentially bodes well for the actual negotiation. This gives them time to consider all of the factors that go into a pay raise and ensures that they do not feel caught off guard. If you have an annual performance review that may be a good time to broach the subject. This also gives you the necessary amount of time to develop your strategy for how you will respond to your employer’s response. Preparation is key in having a fruitful and effective negotiation.

Consult with an Attorney

Chances are that as a physician you are not well-versed in the negotiation process, especially if you just recently finished training. Reach out for professional help if you feel you are not equipped to handle the negotiation. Attorneys, especially those who specialize in physician contracts, can be immensely helpful in getting you the raise you feel you deserve. Resolve offers first time employment contract negotiation as well as contract renegotiation services. Start your employment off right, or get your employment going in the right direction, with Resolve’s experienced contract team.