Locum v Permanent Doctor - A Comparison

By , Melinda McCarthy published on 06/11/2023 Ochre Recruitment, locum doctor, Permanent Jobs,

Doctors are the backbone of our healthcare system. They spend countless hours providing quality healthcare to communities, often taking on high stress levels. However, as a doctor, you can choose the work that best fits you. Two common choices are becoming a locum doctor or a permanent one. Both roles come with different opportunities for work-life balance, travel, career goals, personality, and the possibility of a dual role.

Which is Right for You?

 A Locum Doctor is a physician who works temporarily in a hospital or clinic for a specified period. Their primary roles and responsibilities include filling in for absent doctors, helping out during busy periods, and covering for vacations.

A Permanent Doctor is a physician often hired directly by a hospital or clinic permanently. They typically have ongoing responsibilities, including treating patients, attending meetings, and managing staff.

Difference Between Both Job Types

Duration and Commitment

One of the most significant differences between Locum and Permanent doctors is the duration and commitment required. Locum doctors work short-term, whereas Permanent doctors are expected to stay with a hospital or clinic for the long term.

This means that a Locum doctor may work in several places, allowing them to gain experience across different environments. On the other hand, Permanent doctors have a deeper understanding of the systems and processes of their workplace, which they are required to help maintain and improve. They generally have a greater say and influence over working conditions and facility improvements.

 Flexibility in Choosing Assignments

Another advantage of being a Locum doctor is the flexibility to choose assignments. Locum doctors can work in different locations and choose when they want to work, giving them more control over their schedules. Being a Permanent doctor usually means working in the exact location and having fewer options for choosing assignments.

Compensation and Benefits

The compensation and benefits offered to Locum and Permanent doctors can also differ. Pay rates for Locum doctors are generally higher due to the need for short-term cover. However, Permanent doctors often have more comprehensive benefits packages, including sign-on bonus, health care, paid vacation, and retirement plans.

Job Security

While Permanent positions offer more job security and stability, there may be a trade-off between variability and excitement. Permanent doctors can expect a more stable work environment, whereas Locum doctors may need to move around more frequently, testing their adaptability and ability to hit the ground running.

Scope of Practice

The scope of practice is broader for Locum doctors. They have the opportunity to work in different clinical settings and to see various medical cases. On the other hand, Permanent doctors can build long-term relationships with patients and colleagues in the same facility.

Work-Life Balance

One of the most significant lifestyle implications of being a locum doctor is flexibility and control over your schedule. You can choose when and where you work, allowing you to balance family responsibilities. On the other hand, permanent doctors have a consistent schedule that meets the needs of their patients, making it easier to plan around their work schedules. Becoming a locum doctor may be the best choice if you prioritise flexibility.

Travel and Relocation

If you enjoy travelling and experiencing new locations, becoming a locum doctor may be the perfect fit. Locum doctors have the chance to work and understand different medical environments, learn from diverse cases, and broaden their knowledge. Permanent doctors, however, enjoy stability in location and the opportunity to build relationships with their patients.

Career Goals and Determining Work Type

Both locum and permanent doctors have the opportunity for growth and advancement in their respective roles. Locum doctors are exposed to different medical cases and can thus diversify their medical expertise. On the other hand, permanent doctors can specialise in an area of medicine and be an authority on a particular subject. They can also depend on a deep network to help them grow their careers.

Networking Opportunities

Locum doctors build a vast network of contacts, whereas permanent doctors tend to develop a deeper network of relationships. Depending on the level and type of interaction you prefer, you may find one type of work more favourable than the other.

Personality and Matching with Employment Type

To determine the type of doctor you want to be, it's essential to evaluate personal preferences. Becoming a locum doctor may be the right choice if you have an affinity for rapid adaptation and exposure to different situations. On the other hand, if you're a fan of consistency, prefer a routine environment, and enjoy predictable patient care, becoming a permanent doctor could be a better fit.

The Dual Role Possibility

Some doctors take a dual role, working as locums and permanent doctors. Dual-role doctors enjoy multiple benefits, including a flexible schedule and diverse medical cases' exposure, making them better-rounded doctors. However, this option can be challenging, as managing both roles may result in work overload.


Overall, both Locum and Permanent opportunities have their respective advantages and challenges. Your choice will depend on your career goals, circumstances, and personality.

If you are a flexible, adaptable professional who enjoys change and variety, Locum may be the path for you. If you value stability, enjoy working in a team, and are passionate about a particular field, Permanent doctors may provide the best fit for you. Regardless of your chosen path, Ochre Recruitment is here to help you find the perfect role to meet your career and personal goals.

Peruse a selection of some of our current medical jobs across Australia and New Zealand. If you don't find what you are looking for, shoot us an email at [email protected] and tell us where you want to go. 

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