Associates are DCs who join practices that have already been established by other chiropractors. As with all of your options, there are pros and cons to associating, depending on your own personal situation, goals and expectations. Salary is one concern that is likely top-of-mind for you. Chiropractic Economics conducts annual salary and expense surveys; for state-specific information, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most practices include bonuses and production incentives on top of a base pay level. The best situation to go into as an associate is a busy practice with a waiting list or a busy practice where the doctor wants to work fewer hours. Be aware that doctors may want you to associate so you can build their practice for them.
Associating at another practice can be a good option for new DCs for many reasons:
- You’ll be able to learn the ins and outs of operating a business from a seasoned pro.
- You can move to different geographic locations more easily. Once you’re established within in a community in your own practice, it’s harder to pick up and move.
- You don’t have the expense of running your own practice.
- It’s a great opportunity to learn, observe, and discover your own preferences for when you open your own practice someday, if that’s an option you’re considering.
When you talk to a hiring DC about an associate position, don’t forget that you’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Established DCs usually have a reason for hiring an associate – often because they want to spread the work among more chiropractors, or because they’re ready to expand their practice.
You want to make sure this professional relationship is in the best interests of your career and professional development plan. If you plan to get your start associating but open your own practice in five years, does this particular DC and practice provide the opportunities and experience you need to accomplish that?
When you’re interviewing for an associate position, here are some questions you may want to ask:
- How will you be paid? What is the base salary? You can discuss a percentage, but it should be in addition to a base. How are additional percentages determined? Be sure you understand the determination process.
- How often will you be paid? If you are on a percentage, you should receive a calculation of how the percentage was determined.
- What happens if you are sick? Do you still get your base?
- Who pays your malpractice insurance?
- Do you get any holidays off?
- What are your expected work hours?
- Are you expected/required to stay with the practice a certain length of time (1 year, 3 years, etc.)?
- Are you expected to recruit patients or just work in the office? Your work responsibilities should be explicit and complete.
- Is the non-compete agreement reasonable?
- Is the doctor willing to pay you for continuing education seminars, including travel expenses?
Associating can be a great fit for a young DC. Just make sure you know your career goals, the goals of the hiring DC, and your professional development plans before you commit. Also, remember before you sign an employment contract it's important to have your own attorney review.