Locum Tenens Salary Guide by Specialty

Kristen Campbell
Jun. 23, 2020
10-minute read

How much do locum doctors get paid? Well, it depends on your specialization! Whether you’re looking for locum opportunities at home or abroad, part time or full time, there is almost as much variety and flexibility in terms of how much you can earn as there is in the job itself. If you’re looking to compare salary, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some of the locum tenens pay rates for doctors working in all different specialties – both at home and abroad.

Surgical Specializations

As surgical specializations are highly specialized and often retiring in large numbers, locums are always needed to fill in for existing physicians in hospitals, clinics, and in private practice. How much you’ll earn as a general surgery locum tenens salary will depend on where you choose to practice, how many hours you want to work, and the type of surgery you’ll be doing

Many surgical locum tenens positions in Canada will be rural roles – there are plenty of programs to recruit locums based on the need of underserved or remote communities across Canada, and these communities are excellent opportunities for surgical specialties. This is because surgeons in rural areas are often more generalized than surgeons working in city centres.

Because there aren’t many other surgeons or specialists available, surgeons working in these remote communities are called on to perform surgeries over the entire body. This is a great opportunity to broaden your field of work – it’s also a great way to earn additional income, as general surgery locum tenens salary in these remote areas can exceed $2000 per day.

If you’re looking for a more typical position, general surgery locum tenens salary in Canada will be in line with the national average. The annual salary for surgeons in Canada is $452,000, making them one of the higher paid specialist positions, but if you’re looking at locum work to optimize your income, consider taking a position in the United States. Surgeons especially can benefit from differences between the Canadian single-payer model of healthcare, where procedures like a hip replacement earn doctors $652, and the US model, where the same surgery bills for over $4000. Because of these differences, general surgery locum tenens salary across the border can be significantly higher, between $1300 and $1500 per day on average.

Medical Specializations

Medical specializations, like internal medicine, OB/GYN, or anesthesiology, are also increasingly looking for locum physicians to fill gaps left by doctors who are retiring, on-call hours, and overflow patients. These locum roles are an opportunity to expand your practice to other areas of the country, the continent, and the world. Like surgical specializations, there are many highly paid openings for medical specialists in rural areas of Canada, but if you’re interested in crossing the border, medical specialists are increasingly in demand in other countries, like the UK, Australia, and parts of Europe. In Australia, specialists can earn between $1800-$2500 Australian dollars per day, and in the UK they are expected to earn between £50-100 per hour – in England especially, locum doctors are in high demand, owing to doctor shortages in the medical specialties. 

Keep in mind that working abroad can be a culture shock – make sure to prepare ahead of time to make sure you meet Visa requirements, immigration policies, credentialing requirements, and make arrangements for your living and board. Cost of living can vary significantly between countries where you’re considering, so make sure you have a place that is clean, safe, and affordable.

Working in the United States is another popular option for medical specialists, as there are many opportunities there to earn more than you would in Canada, although these daily rates can vary.  For example, locum tenens anesthesiology rates in the US range between $1675 – $1950 per hour, while pediatric locum tenens pay is between $735 – $800 per day. The benefit of working as a locum in a US practice, hospital, or clinic is that you are less impacted by the increased staffing, administrative, and overhead expenses incurred by the clinic compared to Canada. This leaves more pay for you to take home. Similar to working abroad, make sure to check in on Visa requirements, cost of living, and other immigration or tax matters in the area where you’re hoping to live.

Emergency Specializations

Emergency room doctors are some of the most in-demand locum specialties, owing to the long hours, amount of on-call time, and a shortage of ER doctors. This means that locum ER doctor salary is generally higher than the other generalist specializations, and that there are openings for ER doctors all over the world. Since ER doctors are one of the easiest specializations to place, they are often highly recruited by locum agencies worldwide. 

If you’re staying in Canada, the typical locum ER doctor salary is $120-180 per hour. Keep in mind that many of these positions will also offer locum doctors a portion of their fee for service billing for the shift, which can end up making their take-home pay ~30% higher.

In the United States, emergency room locums typically earn between $320-350 per hour, depending on the state. In Australia, locum ER doctor salary is between $100-180 Australian dollars per hour.

The other option for emergency room doctor locums is to check out locum roles in rural or underserved areas. These positions are highly recruited and often highly paid – a locum er doctor salary in Nunavut can exceed $2100 per shift, and often these locum programs come with other incentives, like student loan forgiveness. There are additional benefits to choosing emergency room work in Northern or rural areas as well – you will be able to see parts of the country you might never have considered before, be given greater roles and responsibilities then you would otherwise see from your locum work, and introduce yourself to a wider network of medical professionals in your specialization.

If you want to learn all the ins and outs of locuming check out our Ultimate Locum Guide.

Psychiatric Specializations

Another area where locum doctors are highly recruited is in the field of psychiatry. This is because psychiatric specialists are retiring in large numbers, leaving plenty of openings in large hospitals or clinics for locums who would like to fill in.

While psychiatrist salaries are on the lower end of doctors in Canada at $236,000, locum positions can be higher paid, with some roles offering a psychiatry locum tenens salary between $140-250 per hour. Like the other specializations, remote work is available for locums at a significantly higher rate. There are also many longer term locum positions available in psychiatry, owing to the patient focused nature of the role, and the time needed to develop and build relationships with your patients. 

Psychiatry is another area where it might benefit you to work across the border or abroad. Like in Canada, US psychiatrists are retiring in large numbers, leaving plenty of opportunities available for locums to earn more. Psychiatry locum tenens salary in the US ranges between $900-1200 per day – just make sure to make Visa, immigration, and living arrangements ahead of time, as these are likely to be longer term roles. 

If you’re a psychiatrist thinking of going abroad, there are plenty of options for you as well – roles in Australia, England, and across Europe all offer interesting options to expand your practice. Psychiatry locum tenens salary in England is £30-80 per hour. Due to lower than average salary rates, locum doctors in England are always needed, and there can be great locum opportunities right in London. These opportunities also give you the chance to explore the city with your housing costs covered, so you can really enjoy the time you have to spend overseas. 


Wherever you choose to specialize, there are locum roles that are a perfect match for your job description. Whether you want to stay in Canada, work abroad, or cross the border into the US, choosing a locum position is a great way to find balance, earn more money, and add some variety into your medical career. Enjoy the job hunt!

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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Kristen Campbell
Kristen Campbell is a content writer with experience writing for technology, real estate, healthcare, and higher education. She holds a BA from McMaster University and a B-Comm. from the University of Calgary, and is passionate about creating content that’s both educational and engaging.
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