Starting Your Job Search: Figuring Out What You Really Want

Koushik Shaw, MD


May 03, 2019

In This Article

Location: The Path Less Taken, or Strength in Numbers?

Stay off the beaten track. Picking a popular place where everyone else wants to go probably means accepting less income and agreeing to work requirements you may not like.

Basic choices of locations. The general categories are a large city, suburb, small city, or rural area. New physicians overwhelmingly prefer major metropolitan areas. In the Merritt Hawkins survey, only 7% of new physicians expressed an interest in practicing in an area with a population of 50,000 or less, and only 3% said they'd practice in a town with fewer than 25,000 people.[1]

Tips on Narrowing Down Your Location

Consider small cities. There's one major reason to consider smaller cities and rural areas: These jobs are so hard to fill, you are more likely to earn more and garner other incentives, such as signing bonuses, loan assistance, 4-day workweeks, and shorter call schedules.

Job hunters often focus on salary numbers, but bonuses and benefits have financial value too.

"Job hunters often focus on salary numbers, but bonuses and benefits have financial value too," says Morgan. "If an offer you love includes a productivity component, will you have help—in terms of marketing and staff support—to meet your goals? If you're unsure how to accurately compare offers, get help from someone with business or accounting acumen."

Think about how you'd fit in. If you and your spouse grew up in a big city, one or both of you might feel lonely and isolated in a small town. So consider these locations with caution. You might limit your search to small cities that have lively local arts centers, a college nearby, or easy access to a large urban area.

Research income levels. Income levels for physicians differ by location. In some areas, they may be driven up by highly competitive health systems or group practices. Colleagues who graduated before you may know of hot markets, or you can consult websites that show geographic variations in income.

Other factors to consider. A simple Internet search can help you find places that have low crime rates, good schools, cultural attractions, and outdoor activities, as well as your preferred cost of living and traffic conditions. You can also look for cities with the best restaurants and theaters, and most walkable streets—or even where people share your political views.

Look for places on the basis of healthcare issues. On the Internet, you can also find lists of places with the highest patient satisfaction, most extensive health insurance coverage, or most employer-based coverage. You might also look for cities where people feel less stressed, are more inclined to exercise, or are less likely to be obese.

Narrow Down Your Options

You need to have a good idea of what you want before you start interviewing. To winnow down choices, establish priorities and focus on the jobs at the top of your list.

According to Hertz, "Doc, know thyself. How risk-averse are you? Very? Then join a group or hospital-owned practice. Want to control everything? Then solo practice is for you. If you prefer a practice setting with shared responsibility, join a group or hospital-owned practice."

Money isn't as important as the right fit. You might make all the money you dreamed of, but if you have a 50- to 60-hour workweek and have to deal with burnout, it's not worth it.


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