Resources can help Black doctors negotiate contracts to close the salary gap.
It pays to be a physician. Unfortunately, compensation is determined not by the content of qualifications, but by skin color. As a result, Blacks are the lowest paid physicians in America, and most are unaware of this reality.
In its annual physician compensation publication, Medscape reported that Black physicians earn an average annual salary of about 16%, or $50,000, lower than their similarly trained physician colleagues. This disparity means that Black physicians earn about $1.2M less than their White colleagues over the course of the same 30-year career. It is no surprise that fewer than half (45%) of Black physiciansare happy with their salary and compensation, compared to 63% of White physicians who are satisfied with their salary and compensation.
Addressing the salary disparities Black physicians experience should be more than a mere exercise in academia, statistics, and rhetoric. These doctors are forfeiting tremendous value because they rarely have the tools, time, or training to adequately negotiate their contracts and advocate for the compensation they deserve. But all is not lost.
Here are key strategies I’ve used in my contract negotiations with hospital executives to help Black physicians close the salary gap created by the systemic inequities in compensation.
First, examine the relevant physician salary and compensation insights for your specialty, care setting, experience level, and region. There are plenty of free, reliable salary and compensation resources available, which include Merritt Hawkins, Doximity, Physicians Thrive, and Medscape. Each resource provides projections for physicians by specialty, in addition to meaningful insights if you want to be well prepared for contract negotiations with your employer.
The industry standard for physician compensation data is the annual physician compensation report published by the Medical Group Management Association. While reliable and comprehensive, the report costs thousands of dollars and may be too pricey if you’re simply looking to conduct a one-time salary check.
Once you have reviewed the relevant data, it’s time to set goals for your salary and compensation package. While it’s easy to focus on the six-figure base number, it’s important to take a holistic approach to negotiating your compensation package. I have developed “The 3 Bs” framework for analyzing physician compensation: base, bonus, and bennies, or benefits.
The base salary is commonly referred to as a ‘guarantee’ because as a doctor, you are entitled to that money by virtue of your employment. Typically, unless you violate your contract or the employer’s policies, you will be paid your base salary guarantee.
The physician’s bonus compensation requires you to complete a task or achieve a goal to earn the money. A common example is a signing bonus, which you earn by signing your employment agreement.
Lastly, benefits provide a tremendous amount of value, even though they cannot be deposited into your bank account. The payment of malpractice coverage expense, health benefits, and paid time off (PTO) are just a few common examples of valuable benefits physicians should have in your employment contracts.
Taking these three pillars into consideration, Black doctors can set their salary and compensation goals to be paid what they deserve.
Once you have completed the above steps, it’s time to get your salary raise.
Be mindful that you can renegotiate your contract and salary at any time (a contract may typically be renegotiated after your one-year anniversary). You do not need to wait until your contract is up for expiration to enter renegotiation talks.
The most important strategy you can use when requesting a raise is having a competing offer. Without options, your ability to negotiate a salary raise is futile, and will most likely end with you feeling frustrated, discouraged, and unappreciated.
If you are serious about getting a salary raise, avoid working in silos. There is power in numbers. When you join forces with your colleagues to negotiate your contracts and salaries, you increase your chances of achieving your compensation goals.
You no longer need to be underpaid as a Black physician. There are key resources and strategies available to ensure you’re paid what you’re worth.
Ethan Nkana founded Rocky Mountain Physician Agency to help physicians adequately negotiate their contracts and salaries to maximum value. To date, he’s successfully negotiated more than $3 million in salary raises for his physician clients.