When you qualify as a dentist, there are two options: starting your own practice, or working for someone else. It’s an important decision, and one you should start thinking about even when you’re fresh out of dental school.
Let’s be clear: there is no wrong answer. There are clear advantages and disadvantages, no matter what route you decide to take. We’re going to break those down for you, making that decision just that little bit easier.
Starting Your Own Practice
Many young dentists envision themselves as modern entrepreneurs. Working for someone else doesn’t seem as attractive as it used to be. And it’s easy to see why:
You’re in the Driver’s Seat
When you’re the director of the business, you call the shots. If you have an entrepreneurial edge, there is nothing more exciting than carving the future of your business.
When you’re in charge of a dental practice, you have the potential of earning hundreds of thousands more than the average dental salary. This is not guaranteed, of course, but that’s part of the gamble.
And while being a business owner has its perks, there are downsides too:
You’re not only in charge of your own dental work, you also have the responsibility over all of your employees (and patients!). When things go wrong, you’re ultimately the one who needs to fix it.
The ‘Extra’ Work
You will also be doing a lot more than just being a dentist. You will be in charge of the business decisions. You need to put processes in place for everything, including ‘details’ like sorting out holiday cover, equipment care and purchases (like dental handpiece maintenance), and administrative duties. And not to mention the amount of paperwork you’ll have to do.
What About Being an Employee?
The other avenue is the standard option for most dentists: being employed by a dental practice. There are several plus points to working under the umbrella of a practice:
Steady Pay Packet
When you’re an employee, you don’t have to worry about the ups and downs of the entrepreneur. Your pay will be exactly the same month to month, like clockwork. When you have a family or if you like consistency, it’s a great perk about being an employee. And besides, dentists earn a fair amount on average anyway.
Learn from the Practice
Even if you have an ambition to be your own boss eventually, you may not be ready just yet. In that case, working for a practice can be a fantastic learning opportunity for you. Absorb the knowledge from your colleagues and take it with you when you open your own practice.
When you’re a dentist, paperwork is an unfortunate companion, no matter what you do. But as a partner in a practice, that mountain is a whole lot bigger. As an employee, however, you can rest in the knowledge that most of that paperwork is being done by someone else.
Just as with being your own boss, however, there are some downsides too:
Your Salary Stays the Same
When you’re an employee, you do not profit when the company is going through a green patch. And when things are going well, this can be a huge chunk of money. Be prepared to be a little bit jealous when your boss turns up at the practice in a brand new Tesla.
You’re Not the Boss!
When you work as an employee, there’s someone above you. You have some autonomy, of course, but the partners of the practice call the shots.
This isn’t just about your day to day work, but also the long-term vision of the practice. For example, decisions about the general treatment options available, investment in new equipment, and how the practice is run overall.
What Should You Do?
Final question: how did you react to the thought of being ‘just’ an employee? If you recoiled at the thought, perhaps being an entrepreneur is something you should really think about. Just remember, it’s not going to be plain sailing.
But if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge, are worried about the associated risks, or just work better when you only have to focus on your patients, then perhaps being an employed dentist is the best option for you.
Whatever you decide, be honest with yourself. Don’t opt for your own dental practice just because the thought of being your own boss sounds better. And if you go the employee route because you’re underestimating yourself, think hard about whether you’ll regret it.
Ultimately, it’s a decision you’ll have to make. Do what’s best for your individual circumstances.