Entering an Associateship: Tips and FAQs
Two out of three
dental graduates choose to enter an existing practice rather than
start their own. Why?
- It’s less expensive
than starting a new practice.
- It’s transition
- It’s less stressful than running a
Entering an associateship is not an easy
decision. You need to have a thorough understanding of the agreement
that you and the owner dentist enter. These tips and frequently-asked
questions will help you get the most of the experience.
general, what can I expect from an associateship?
A 2004 Survey
by the American Dental Association Survey Center gathered the
following information on common aspects of
- Compensation: On average, full-time
associates were earning a net income of $112,270 per year, $117,130 per
year for specialists (based on national
- Method of compensation: Varied by
contract. Some dentists received an annual salary while others
received a percentage of production or an hourly
- Benefits: Varied by contract. Some common
benefits included health insurance, malpractice insurance, paid
vacation, paid membership dues in organized dentistry and reimbursement
for continuing education.
- Duration: Terms range
from 1 year to 10 years or more. The average term for an
agreement was 1.7 years.
- Legal detail: The vast
majority of contracts contained conditions for contract termination,
payment methods, and a “non-compete”
Other important components
- A formal contract: Every
associateship should involve a formal contract between the prospective
associate and the practitioner. The contract should describe, in
detail, legal elements such as the associate’s obligations,
remuneration and expenses, employer’s property, etc. As the next
section shows, it is vital to understand every aspect of this
- An employment attorney: Graduates
considering an associateship should anticipate and hire an
employment attorney to review the conditions of the associateship
How should I evaluate an associateship
Careful evaluation of the contract is critical. You do
not want to rush into the agreement and later discover that you dislike
or were unaware of the implications of its formal provisions.
Common components you will encounter include employee status; term and
time of contract; remuneration and expenses; obligations of associate;
obligations of employer; termination of agreements; non-competition and
non-solicitation; potential buy-out; probationary period; right of first
refusal; and marketing materials. Be sure you understand each of these
elements. If necessary, consult a legal dictionary. Also, make sure
you have a legal advisor who can guide you through the contract and help
you make a decision that it is in your best interest.
would other graduates who have undergone this procedure
- Consult others with
- Contact dentists in your area to see
associateship contracts they have signed. Use successful contracts as a
model for your own.
- Consult a legal adviser who is
familiar with evaluating dental contracts.
- Learn to
talk figures with people. Don’t be afraid to ask blunt questions
about your salary requirements and preferred methods of
How can I search for an
Are there any other printed
resources on associateships you would
- Download the ADA Infopak on
- Use the ADA Catalog
to order Associateships: A Guide for Owners and Prospective Associates.