We have been asked numerous times about how we go about negotiating contracts.  How we have been able to land salaries 13-30% higher than the initial offers.  In order to properly address this topic we are going to do a three part series. The reason for this is straight forward.  There is no magic to getting paid more! 

This 3 part series covers the following topics:

  1. Become valuable
  2. Communicating your value
  3. Get paid for your value

Becoming Valuable:

Employers, just like consumers, pay for value.  Or better put, they pay for perceived value.  Right from the start most PTs fail to recognize this. Many believe that they are inherently due some sort of massive compensation package or dollar amount simply for having DPT after their name. This is simply untrue. To get paid like a Top Performer you must BE a Top Performer!

Step 1: Become an Expert Clinician

Without the clinical skills and know-how to add value to the team, no amount of clever words or negotiating tactics will bring home the kind of paycheck you are looking for. Invest in your craft.  I’m sure you are tired of hearing the whole “The most important investment you can make is in your education” thing, but it is completely true. 

Below are a few easy and sure fire ways to rise your skills up a notch or two.

The worst mistake you can make is becoming “All hat and no cattle.”

Become a Board Certified Specialist.  By far this is the best decision Ellen and I ever made.  Not only did it challenge us to grow and develop as clinical thinkers, but it instantly improved our job potentials.  Having OCS after our names is not a magic ticket to any job we want, but since obtaining the certification neither of us has ever applied to a position and not been at least offered an interview.  To put it another way, it doesn’t win you a job outright, but it gets our resumes to the top of the pile

Take recognizable continuing education courses.  Too many times PTs scramble for CEUs and take crap courses that provide little or no benefit to them.  And keeping in mind that the average clinician retains only 10% of what they learn at a weekend course, there is a very small return on your investment here.  We suggest taking courses that are part of a larger clinical reasoning schema.  McKenzie, Maitland, SFMA, etc.  The benefit of these over the random “shoulder course” is that you are taught a framework upon which decisions can be made.  So even if you forget individual treatment techniques, the groundwork for making the best clinical decisions has already been firmly established.

Find Mentorship. The single best decision I made as a new grad was to write into my first contract a rider for mentorship.  I was fortunate enough to take a position with a small clinic where the two owners happened to be the best and most credentialed PTs within 3 hours of our little mountain town, and for the two and a half years I worked there, every week we built in one-on-one treatment/skill-development time.  We also had an open door policy to either discuss difficult cases or even drag one of them into an evaluation room if I needed a second opinion on a patient.  Their insight, and patience, has paid massive dividends in the outcomes of my clients and in my reasoning abilities. 

Keep up with clinical trends.  Yes, this means you have to read the research.  There is no easy way out after graduation.  If you cannot understand, discuss and implement the recent developments in Return To Sport criteria for post-op ACL injuries then you are doing the profession a disservice.  However, there is some truth to the fact that research lags behind what happens in top clinics…in some cases.  This is why it is also important to pay attention to the thought leaders in our field.  Kelly Starrett, Erson Religioso, and Gray Cook are just a few in the ortho realm, and Dustin Jones for those of you in the Home Health or Geriatric field. Even some from the dark side of the chiropractic world including Perry Nickelston and Adreo Spina provide fantastic insight. 

To get paid like a Top Performer you must BE a Top Performer!

Do Not fool yourself into thinking that you are worth the premium price you are getting paid if you cannot deliver premium skills.  Take time to improve and your value will pay returns for the rest of your career.

In the next two posts we will discuss how to communicate what you are worth, and finally, how to get paid for that value.

Pay attention and alway be learning!

Call for comments: What are you doing to improve your clinical skills?  Did we leave anything out?

Written by: Dr. Stephen Stockhausen PT, OCS

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3 Steps to Make More Money - part 1
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3 Steps to Make More Money - part 1
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Part 1 of 3 explaining how we have been able to land salaries 13-30% higher than the initial offers.
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