Market Forces

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Syracuse-RMToday’s emergency medicine job market can be divided into four zones. Know your target regions, tailor your goals and set yourself up for success.

Today’s emergency medicine job market can be divided into four zones. Know your target regions, tailor your goals and set yourself up for success.


Autumn…crisp air…apple cider…the rustling of CVs. If the search for emergency medicine jobs has a season, it’s Fall. It’s that time of the year when casual inquiries and job perusals kick into high gear and the job search becomes serious.

While for some medical specialties that means looking at the map and evaluating which regions have available jobs, emergency medicine is really an employee’s market. With a few geographic exceptions, opportunities abound for employees.

Job hunters still need to be cognizant of regional trends and peculiarities during their search. And as the popularity of certain jobs and certain areas increases, employees’ options decrease. We can divide job opportunities in emergency medicine into four categories.


1. Hot Spots

Portland W
Portland, Oregon

The smallest of the four are the “hot spots.” As discussed in a prior article, these are the locations where positions typically are not available, and if they are, applicants should not anticipate many options. If your city of choice for next summer is Seattle, Denver, Charleston, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, or Portland, Oregon, keep in mind the employers that may have openings in these locations are not so much recruiting as selecting.

2. Competitive


Chicago W
Chicago, Illinois

A somewhat larger group includes popular spots with a competitive supply/demand scale for emergency medicine. This group includes most of the large metropolitan locations, including Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., Dallas, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Atlanta. It also includes trendy cities, such as Savannah, San Antonio and Austin. In these locations, jobs may not be quite as rare as in “the hot spots,” but when positions are available, there actually may be more applicants than positions. 

3. The Big Middle

Syracuse, New York

Opportunities typically are readily available in the very, very large third group— mostly medium to larger towns as well as bedroom communities of some of the cities in the second group. This group encompasses virtually every location that doesn’t fit in the other three categories. These are locations where the EM physician shortage is extremely evident. Sign-on bonuses are commonplace, loan repayment may be a possibility, and there is often room to negotiate.

4. Wanted: EM Physician

Livonia W
Livonia, Indiana

The final group are the rural locations and small, out-of-the way towns where you are more likely to find “WANTED: EM Physician” posters in the Post Office rather than pictures of the FBI’s most-wanted list. And while employers in these locations will probably want to offer you every incentive at their disposal, there may be only one or two hospitals in town, limiting your options to one or two group models.

Regional Trends
In addition to these four basic market groups, there are a few regional trends worth noting. Although smaller groups and hospital employee positions aren’t as commonplace as in the past, you’ll find such models more common in the New England states, Indiana and New York City than in other locations. The Northeast also seems to have many opportunities with extensive benefits while positions in the Southwest often are independent contractor roles.

Unfortunately, cost-of-living and compensation do not go hand-in-hand, but rather follow a supply-demand model. Compensation in the Northeast and West Coast average the lowest while rates in the Midwest and South Central average the highest. The Mid-Atlantic states, Southeast and Northwest typically fall somewhere in the middle. Compensation traditionally is not as high in most academic positions; therefore, in locations with a concentration of academic settings, such as New York City rates tend to be lower.

Free-standing emergency department openings are surging with more than 400 facilities nationwide. This setting is especially popular in Texas, but it’s also strong in the Southwest and rapidly growing in many states nationwide.

The Bottom Line
Whether you’re gunning for a competitive job in San Francisco or you want to be courted by a small town hospital with a signing bonus in hand, it’s important to know the market and weigh your options. You are fortunate enough to have an in-demand profession, so settle in and enjoy the search.

Rachel Klockow
is with Premier Physician Services and has been a physician recruiter for 25 years.

Photos by (in order) Shawn Stilwell, IceNineJon, C.C. Chapman, Cindy Cornett Seigle.

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