Signing Bonuses for Physicians, Non-physician Providers

Should You Expect a Signing Bonus with Your Job Offer?

A stack of hundred dollar bills under a stethoscope
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A signing bonus is a lump sum of money paid upon accepting a job offer. Signing bonuses are used as an added incentive, especially when competition for talent is very high, as it is for physicians and other non-physician advanced providers.

"In today's physician recruiting market, most physicians expect, and receive, a signing bonus of some sort," states Jim Stone, president of The Medicus Firm, a national physician search agency.

In fact, the volume of these signing bonuses has increased over the years and now are often are combined with "relocation bonuses" for an even greater incentive to lure top clinicians to a particular hospital or medical group.

Over the past few years, physician signing bonuses have grown and are hovering above $20,000, according to Mr. Stone. For the first half of 2015, the average signing bonus was $21,595.

Additionally, non-physician providers (such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and CRNAs) are now commanding signing bonuses too. In 2014, half of all non-physician providers placed via the firm received a signing bonus, compared to only 11 percent in 2013. The average signing bonus for non-physician providers more than doubled, from $3,000 in 2013 to $7,500 in 2014. 

Should you expect a signing bonus?

"More than 70 percent of the providers we placed received a signing bonus so far in 2015," states Stone, "so, you are more likely to get one than not, as a physician or advanced provider."

However, it's still not a good plan to assume that you will definitely receive a signing bonus. The more competitive the specialty is, the more likely you will receive a bonus, and the higher it will be. Primary care and psychiatry are "hot" physician searches right now, (as of mid-2015), according to Mr. Stone.

Also, smaller communities may be more likely to offer a larger bonus because they are competing with major metro areas.

Make sure to ask the physician recruiter if you are interested in a signing bonus. Let him, or her, know that you have student debt to pay off or whatever your need is, if possible. 

Additionally, areas that are smaller or more rural, or designated shortage areas will be more likely to offer a signing bonus too.

Don't take it personally if you are not offered a signing bonus. Often, these types of bonuses are budgeted in advance. Sometimes they aren't offered until or unless you ask for one. If you do ask, be sure to do so in a respectful way that doesn't come across as sounding greedy, or entitled. If possible, explain why you feel you need the up-front money, if you think it is a valid reason that would help state your case to your prospective employer.  

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