One of the most important things to consider as you launch your doctor career is what sorts of practice types and physician business arrangements suit you. As a physician, there are several different paths you can take, but most physicians end up practicing in one of five typical business arrangements:

  • Solo Practice
  • Partnership or Shareholder
  • Academic
  • Employed Position for MSG/SSG
  • Locum Tenens

Though most physicians will settle into a specific arrangement for the majority of their careers, some will work under different business arrangements as their doctor careers advance.

No matter your specialty, you’ll likely have a chance to pick between most of these arrangements. However, you should have a good idea of your preferences before you begin your job search and interview process, as most employers will not let you choose which arrangement you’d like.

Let’s explore the most common options…

Solo Practice

A solo practice is one set up by an independent physician, though they can also be supported by a hospital. While solo practices are ideal for physicians who value autonomy, they’re becoming less and less common, as current trends are moving towards larger groups. With healthcare reform, a solo practice is difficult to start, and even established solo practices are difficult to maintain.

Partnership or Shareholder

Partnerships or shareholder practices are medical practices owned by several physicians. In order to become part of a partnership, most physicians have to work for a group for 1-5 years, after which they may be voted in as a partner. In order to be considered a legal partner, a physician must “buy in” to the partnership with a fee, which varies greatly. Partnerships are a good option for physicians who value autonomy in their doctor career but still want the support of a group. However, this model is also negatively impacted by the current healthcare climate.


Teaching positions within medical schools can be a good fit for physicians with excellent grades and notable academic careers. Though compensation for academic physicians tends to be less, they’re rewarded with the chance to teach and give back to the next generation of physicians. In addition, academic doctor careers are generally very secure and stable. However, securing an academic position is tough and competitive, as these positions are harder to come by than standard medical practice positions.
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Employed Position for MSG/SSG

Employed positions for multi-specialty or single-specialty groups are increasingly favorable doctor careers in today’s healthcare climate. Though physicians generally have less autonomy, they have the support of other specialists and may not have to focus as much on paperwork and other non-clinical tasks. Usually, employed physicians have a guaranteed salary in addition to a production bonus.

Locum Tenens

Locum tenens physicians are “substitute” physicians that work in a wide range of practices. They work for a locum tenens group that sends them on assignment to different hospitals and groups. Locum tenens physicians have the ability to choose their own hours and which days they’d like to work, though they usually can’t decide where they’d like to practice. A locum tenens doctor career can be a good fit for physicians who like travel and new challenges.

Considering Your Choices

In order to determine what type of physician business arrangement is right for you, you’ll need to ask yourself a lot of questions and take a thorough assessment of your personality and lifestyle needs. Visit the Market Trends and Trials section of the Adventures in Medicine Resource Library for some great tips! Be sure to look at “Choosing the Practice Setting That Best Fits Your Needs.”

What physician business arrangements appeal to you the most? Why?    

Doctor Career: Sponsors

Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Providence Health & Services supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Providence Health & Services is making practice purposeful.