Associate Agreements and Dentist Salaries

Contract Negotiation

You got the interview, nailed it, and are in love with the practice. But, something’s wrong. The offer they just handed you isn’t what you were expecting. Do you take it as is, or turn it down because it differs from what you had anticipated? Every job seeker needs a plan for negotiating employment agreements.

Negotiations are a give and take. If you go into a negotiation with an “all or nothing” approach, you will likely be very disappointed and lose out on a great opportunity. The following are items to consider in your contract and salary negotiations. Be sure to consult an attorney with questions and to get expert advice on contracts. Don’t get stuck on base guarantees or percentage points. Look for other ways to build value in your associate agreement.

Compensation rate and base guarantee- Base dentist salaries or minimum guarantees are very common now. If you weren’t offered one, ask for it. You’re not asking for a practice to give you money. Rather you asking the practice to guarantee that there are enough patients and potential production for you to make a minimal income. So if you are going to be paid $500 or 25% of production, the practice is saying there is at least $2,000/day of available production.  Percentages paid vary from coast to coast. Research the market in which you plan to work and live. Consider this: assuming you would produce $50,000 per month, negotiating up from 25% to 26% would increase your annual income by $6,000!

Benefits (CE, health insurance, malpractice)– Here is a way to enhance your agreement: allowances for CE, insurance, practice-paid malpractice, membership dues, and licensing fees. Generally, figures come to $2000-$3000/year for CE and $300-$1000/month for insurance (insurance costs vary greatly depending your need). Malpractice, dues, and licensure costs also vary from state to state.  You could make your agreement thousands of dollars richer by asking for these items. The practice can see value in giving you CE allowances when you come back and offer more services in a more efficient way.

Signing bonus– These are great. From a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, signing bonuses can be a blessing or a curse. Evaluate closely. The bigger the bonus, the more strings that will likely be attached. Some come with multi-year contracts you must fulfill or face paying a stiff financial penalty. Keep in mind some of these bonus offers can be too good to be true. Some bonuses will be paid in pieces. If you weren’t offered a bonus, ask for relocation assistance. Interstate moving could cost a few thousand dollars.

Final thoughts– Rarely will a practice put a contract in front of you and say “take it or leave it.” If the practice values you, there will and should be room for negotiation. The idea of a handshake agreement is exactly that, an idea. Get the agreement in writing, don’t sign the agreement until you both agree to the contents, and start employment after the agreement is signed. And remember, when in doubt consult with your own legal counsel.

~Carl Guthrie, senior recruiter, ETS Dental