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How much locum tenens physicians get paid in other countries

Picture of a woman in Sydney

Working as a locum tenens physician in other countries offers a unique and enriching experience beyond financial compensation. While physician pay in other countries may not be as lucrative as in the United States, the opportunity to live and practice in beautiful places, immerse oneself in diverse cultural settings, and gain invaluable international experience often outweighs the monetary aspect.

Discover more about the cost of living, benefits, and life as a locum tenens physician in some of the most frequently chosen countries for international assignments.

Note: Compensation rates may vary depending on specialty. For the most up-to-date international compensation rates, call us at 800.760.3174.

Australia

Compensation is 65% of U.S. locum physician pay.

Australia is a prime destination for individuals seeking new clinical experiences amidst stunning landscapes and a vibrant culture.

The cost of living in Australia is high, ranking 12th highest in the world (compared to the U.S. at 21st). While the pay range can vary by location, on average, locum physicians earn 65% of what doctors earn domestically. However, like other international locum tenens assignments, housing, rental car, and transportation to Australia are typically covered in the contract, offsetting some extra expenses. Locum providers also receive four to six weeks of PTO and avoid much of the billing paperwork required in the U.S.

For family medicine physician Dr. Mike Spertus, part of the appeal of practicing medicine in Australia is the country’s universal healthcare system.

“Healthcare is basically guaranteed, and the system is so much more streamlined because of that,” explains Dr. Spertus. “You don’t have call time or overtime. You’re not staying late to catch up on billing or case notes. And you get four weeks of vacation right off the bat. All of that makes it feel a bit like a working vacation.”

“International locum tenens is often a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Definitely give it a go,” he encourages. “Try to make it work for you because it’s a really great experience. And you get help from your agency for it, too. However, know that it is not a place to go and get rich; the pay is absolutely horrible. I probably made 35-40% of what I make in the U.S. But my wife would love it if we immigrated and lived there permanently because it’s just such a beautiful place. We just loved being there — wonderful people, beautiful country, easy people to work with.”

Canada

Compensation is just under 90% of U.S. locum physician pay.

Canada is another compelling destination for adventure seekers, with its breathtaking natural beauty and wealth of outdoor recreational activities.

The cost of living in Canada is typically the same or lower than in the U.S., and locums pay is just under 90% of what doctors earn in the U.S. Additionally, locums contracts include housing and transportation, which can translate to greater take-home pay. Locum physicians also have four to six weeks of paid time off and usually spend more time with patients than in a typical U.S. setting.

Given the reduced administrative burden, Canada’s universal healthcare system is another motivating factor for many physicians.

“I was struck by how happy the doctors are there,” says Dr. Suneel Dhand in an interview with KevinMD.com. “They are far from burnout and have a great work/life balance.”

Guam

Compensation is 70% of U.S. locum physician pay.

Guam is an alluring island destination for U.S. citizens, who can easily live and work in the territory. Neither citizens nor permanent residents require work visas for employment in Guam, and the accepted local currency is the U.S. dollar.

While physician pay in Guam is approximately 30% lower than what doctors in the U.S. make, the cost of living is, on average, 24.5% higher than in the U.S. However, your housing, car, and malpractice are all covered by GMS, helping to offset the difference in pay.

Hospitalist Dr. Gabrielle Johnson enjoys international locum tenens assignments. She says the setting and experience are the best rewards for her.

“Internationally, you may pay more for the experience, and that’s your pay. You may not get paid as much, but you’re in an amazing location,” says Dr. Johnson. “Guam is beautiful; the beaches are amazing. The condo I’m renting is directly over the ocean. I get to look at the sunset every day. Most times I’d rush to get home by 6:30 p.m. just to watch the sunset. It’s so beautiful.”

New Zealand

Compensation is 34% of U.S. locum physician pay.

For Dr. Dalilah Restrepo, an infectious disease specialist, the beauty, environmental diversity, safety, and friendliness of New Zealand made the country her perfect locum tenens fit.

“I’m two hours away from the ski fields, mountains, hiking, Wellington, and the wine region. So, in two hours, I can really be in a very, very diverse area,” says Dr. Restrepo. “You’re surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever see. It will truly blow your mind. It is a beautiful country with an incredibly diverse landscape.”

The cost of living in New Zealand is, on average, 10% lower than in the U.S. However, New Zealand has among the lowest physician pay relative to the U.S., with doctors earning about 34% of domestic U.S. pay. Although the pay is lower than what you’d earn in the U.S., Global Medical Staffing covers the cost of housing, rental car, and malpractice, thereby cutting down on the bigger expenses.

Despite the adjusted pay, locum tenens physicians who feel drawn to New Zealand say the quality of life and experience more than make up for the lower pay.

“It’s definitely a pay cut. That’s just what it is. But it’s worth it,” says Dr. Restrepo. “You can travel, go out to dinner, there’s room for recreation, entertainment, all of that. You don’t have to skim on your lifestyle, even though it’s less when you compare it to U.S. dollars.”

Dr. Mark Peterson, a family medicine physician, says of New Zealand, “It is not a place to go and get rich. I probably made 35-40 % of what I make in the U.S. However, my wife would love it if we immigrated and lived there permanently because it’s such a beautiful place. We just loved being there — wonderful people, beautiful country, easy people to work with.”

Puerto Rico

Compensation is 90% of U.S. locum physician pay.

Like Guam, for U.S. citizens living and working in Puerto Rico is like working in another state. You don’t even need a passport. The island’s ease, natural beauty, and rich cultural diversity make Puerto Rico an attractive destination for locum tenens physicians.

Locum tenens pay is comparable to that of the U.S., and the cost of living is, on average, 10% lower in Puerto Rico. In particular, rent can be as much as half the cost of accommodations on the mainland.

Puerto Rico offers a quality of life similar to the U.S., with the added benefit of year-round warmth and sunshine, world-class beaches, and a vast array of outdoor and aquatic activities.

The healthcare system is of high quality, but conditions vary across the island. Puerto Rico may fit the bill for physicians interested in island living and the chance to apply their skills in medically underserved areas. 

Saipan

Compensation is 60% of U.S. locum physician pay.

Saipan boasts a low cost of living, attractive tax benefits, and a relatively low crime rate that is compelling to many locum tenens physicians. While physician pay is just under 60% of that in the U.S., physicians who’ve worked in Saipan say the benefits largely outweigh the lower pay. Additionally, GMS covers the cost of housing and rental car, plus, we take care of malpractice and licensing.

A U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific, this island destination is home to some of the best diving spots in the world, stunning beaches, breathtaking scenery, and more.

Locum tenens physicians will find working in Saipan enjoyable and rewarding, where they can make a meaningful impact in a unique island setting.

Hospitalist Dr. Colleen Haynes said she has never felt more appreciated by the patients she saw in Saipan. “The patients were lovely. I’ve never been told thank you so often as I was in Saipan. I also felt that they were very generous and kind people.”

Virgin Islands/Caribbean

Compensation is 80% of U.S. locum physician pay.

Working as a locum tenens in the Caribbean presents an opportunity to experience each island’s diverse and unique cultures while providing medical care in stunning tropical settings. Each island boasts its distinct charm, from Dominica’s lush rainforests to Jamaica’s vibrant culture and the Cayman Island’s tranquil beaches.

“They’re beautiful islands. Most of the Caribbean islands are really pretty, the water is stunning, there’s not really much pollution, and the weather, of course, is the same year-round,” says emergency medicine physician Dr. Alan Hogdon. “The island culture is nice. It’s a slower pace of living.”

These destinations need locums because they have very small populations from which to recruit healthcare professionals. Many communities lack sufficient access to healthcare, so locums offer a necessary lifeline, ensuring that these underserved populations receive essential medical services.

Locums assignments vary from island to island and range from as short as one week to as long as one year, and the locum physicians working in the Caribbean make just over 80% of domestic U.S. physician pay. The cost of living on the islands is typically higher than in the U.S. However, airfare, housing and transportation, cell phone costs, licensing, registration, and visas are generally covered while on assignment.

Want to dig deeper? Here’s your introduction to international locum tenens

Interested in international locums?

Locum tenens physicians play a vital role in ensuring that essential medical services are provided where they are needed most. International locums assignments are as varied as the providers themselves, and the experience of working abroad as a locum tenens physician remains an invaluable and unforgettable journey.

Updated 6/13/24