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How Does Locum Tenens Pay and Salary Work for Physicians?

Published on: Nov 15, 2022

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The concept of locum tenens — or temporary healthcare assignments — has been around since 1979, when CompHealth created the industry as a way to send physicians to rural and underserved locations.


Though nearly one in three physicians (31%) has worked locum tenens at some point in their career, and nearly 80% of healthcare providers say they may do so in the future, many still have a lot of questions about how these assignments work.

Regardless of the reason for working locum tenens — whether it’s to control your own schedule, find work between full-time jobs, or navigate personal life transitions — providers all want to know about one thing: the money.

How do physicians use locum tenens to earn more money?

Though many healthcare providers decide to work locum tenens full time, most take temporary assignments between, or in addition to, a permanent job.

Because assignments can be as short as a few days — or even a few shifts — physicians will often work locum tenens in addition to a full-time job to earn extra money on the side. Some locum tenens assignments require travel, while others are available close to home.

Also, because assignments are available all across the country, some providers choose to turn locums assignments into working vacations for themselves or their families.


Here are few examples of how providers make locum tenens part of their financial plans:

  • Johnny Shen, a family practice physician, found he could make more money — and find more flexibility — by working locums right out of residency. Locums allows him to pay off his student loans and still have money left over
  • John Thieszen, a hospitalist, worked as an Air Force physician. He quickly learned he could make more money by working two weekends a month as a locum than he was earning in an entire year of military work
  • Pediatrician Ravi Pujara started working locums to pay off student debt. Then he learned it was also a great way to keep his clinical skills sharp. Now he works in various practice settings across the country. 
  • Dr. Trevor Cabrera, a pediatrician, decided to work locums full time as a way to pay off medical school debt in a fraction of the time it would have taken him working a permanent position

How are locum tenens salary rates determined?

Like any job, there are many variables when it comes to pay rates. To find out how much you could make as a locum, check out CompHealth’s full article on locum tenens pay and salary.