How do your staff salaries stack up?

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Some staffers are worth their weight in gold. Here's what one survey says they're worth in dollars and cents.


How do your staff salaries stack up?

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Some staffers are worth their weight in gold. Here's what one survey says they're worth in dollars and cents.

By Gail Garfinkel Weiss
Senior Editor

If you want to attract and retain quality employees, you'd better pay them the going rate for your area.

To help you do that, we turned to the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) for the results of its 2002 staff salary and benefits surveys. One report, based on 615 responses from PAHCOM members across the country, lists average salaries for seven clinical and 13 clerical positions. A second report, based on 870 responses, focuses on office manager salaries and benefits. You'll find detailed salary information in the tables that follow, but here are some highlights on rates of increase and fringe benefits.

Office managers' compensation showed a moderate but steady increase, says Roger Landers, PAHCOM's business manager and the editor of its newsletter, Medical Office Management. Pay for office managers increased 2.7 percent—from an average $49,374 in 2001 to $50,687 in 2002. In general, pay and pay hikes were highest in the Northeast, where average salaries rose 5.6 percent, to $54,333. Pay was up 3.3 percent in the West (to $49,559) and 1.1 percent in the Midwest (to $51,397). Those in the Southeast posted the smallest gain, only 0.5 percent (to $47,460).

Specialists such as cardiologists and orthopedists offered more generous salary and benefits packages to their office managers—a total of $73,437 for the former and $71,117 for the latter. Office managers for family physicians—with an average $42,870 in salary and $9,556 in benefits—were at the low end of the scale.


Most clinical and clerical staffers didn't fare as well. Salaries increased slightly or not at all from 2001 to 2002, and some positions lost ground. Radiology technicians made out best: Their average salary jumped 8.8 percent, from $34,801 in 2001 to $37,862 in 2002. But the average pay for RNs declined, from $38,655 to $38,189. PAHCOM's survey also showed slight dips in average pay for bookkeepers, secretaries, and data entry clerks.

The PAHCOM figures indicate that more medical practices are consolidating job titles in order to save on salaries, says Landers. However, despite declining reimbursements, rising overhead, and higher malpractice premiums, there's no evidence of wholesale pay cuts in medical offices, he says.

Landers would like to see higher salaries for certain positions, especially receptionists, who earned an average of just $22,408 in 2002. "It's such a stressful job and has a high burnout rate," he says, "but it's nonetheless one of the lowest-paying positions. The doctors who have good receptionists are lucky and should reward these employees accordingly."

Salaries tell only half the compensation story, though. Most potential employees are also looking for medical insurance and paid holidays, and it certainly doesn't hurt to offer a pension plan, an annual bonus, and other perks.

In its 2002 salary and benefits report for clinical and clerical staff, PAHCOM found that:

• Medical office employees get an average of seven paid holidays, 13 vacation days, and six sick days a year. Office managers do a bit better on the last two measures: They average 16 paid vacation days and eight sick days a year.

• Nine out of 10 practices provide medical insurance for their employees, but only one in five offers medical benefits for family members.

• Three out of four practices offer pension plans. The most popular of these is a 401(k) (48 percent), followed by profit sharing (19 percent), simple IRA (10 percent), SEP IRA (7 percent), percentage of salary (5 percent), and defined benefit plans (2 percent).

• Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of practices give employees annual bonuses. Some bonuses (29 percent) are a set amount, such as two weeks' salary; some (21 percent) are performance-based. Other determining factors include length of employment (19 percent), physician discretion (14 percent), and the practice's profits (14 percent).

• Just over half (52 percent) of practices provide life insurance benefits for employees; 45 percent pay employee tuition; and 40 percent offer disability insurance.

By pegging your salary schedule and benefits package to competitive rates, you send the message that you value staff and are willing to pay what the job is worth, says Judy Capko, a consultant with The Sage Group in Newbury Park, CA. You might need to sweeten a salary offer, though, if you practice in an area where the competition for skilled medical staff is keen or there's a scarcity of qualified candidates.

It's also a good idea to let employees know why there's a range in salaries for the same job title. "Jobs with identical titles are not necessarily equal," says Capko. "We need to educate staffers and applicants that pay is based on a formula that recognizes the level of responsibility, as well as the skills and experience required to perform the job."


Staff salaries by region, 2002

PositionNational averageNortheastSoutheastMidwestWest
Office manager$50,687$54,333$47,460$51,397$49,559
Nurse supervisor40,97243,11640,74242,05137,979
Radiology tech37,86244,56735,92731,65839,297
Lab tech32,98938,49031,65135,61926,196
Financial supervisor41,03043,61639,71141,76839,024
Assistant office manager34,66534,54832,32437,01834,770
Collections clerk27,67532,25524,95625,65227,836
Billing clerk26,75227,63425,63626,91026,830
Insurance clerk25,41427,43824,55625,70523,956
Appointment secretary/receptionist23,85128,43121,76821,56623,639
Data entry clerk23,48826,37420,74321,68225,153
Filing clerk18,43117,64718,00417,98220,091


What office managers earn, by specialty, 2002

 Average salaryAverage benefitsTotal
Family practice42,8709,55652,426
General surgery48,74911,00159,750
Internal medicine45,8719,79355,664




Gail Weiss. How do your staff salaries stack up?. Medical Economics 2003;7:32.