Employed or self-employed dentist, that is the question!

18. August 2022 | Financing, Information for dentists

After completing your dental studies, there is one important choice to be made: would you like to work as an employed dentist or would you prefer to be self-employed? Both options offer advantages and disadvantages, of course, and choosing one path does not mean you will have to follow it for the rest of your career. We tell you what speaks for and against both options and how you can find the right solution for you.

Advantages and disadvantages of being employed

Standard employment offers one important thing: security. With a secure and regular income, you will be able to lead a more carefree and predictable life—also in terms of fixed paid holiday time off. Apart from that, you have the opportunity to focus on a specific field of dentistry and do not have any administrative responsibility (every dental practice has to deal with quite a lot of bureaucracy). In addition, you do not have to take out a financing loan. You are also more likely to achieve a good work-life balance and you are not liable for the dental services you provide.

However, your salary and career opportunities as an employee are a lot more limited. As you are working for someone else, the work you do is less self-determined and you sometimes have to take a back seat when it comes to decision-making, even if you disagree. For example, if you are interested in the latest technologies and methods, but the practice owner is working with highly outdated equipment and does not plan an upgrade in the future, frustration or disagreement can quickly arise.

Advantages and disadvantages of being self-employed

In principle, the advantages and disadvantages of working as an independent dentist exactly mirror those of an employed dentist. Your salary can be a lot higher; but also a lot lower. As your own boss, you are absolutely free to make your own decisions, such as designing your practice based on your ideas. But it is also up to you to put together a good practice team and train your staff.

However, self-employment also requires a great deal of responsibility, time, and financial resources. Raising capital, in particular, is often a challenge, especially at the beginning of a professional career, which makes the financing loan already mentioned an essential prerequisite. In the end, of course, the exact amount required depends on many factors, such as the type of practice, location, size, and number of employees (see article “Starting your dental practice: how much does it cost?).

Planning and calculating skills are indispensable for ensuring a bright future for your practice. You need to assume your role as an employer and thus be able to manage and lead your team. If there is no accounting department, these duties also fall into your field of activity.

Employed or self-employed: how do you find the right solution?

For those starting their careers, it is advisable to initially opt for salaried employment. This way, newcomers learn from experienced dentists how to run a practice, they have no financial risk, and may be able to build a specialty. The decision to become self-employed should in any case be thoroughly considered and financially planned. 

Self-employment is particularly suitable for dentists who value personal responsibility and freedom of choice over security and a good work-life balance. Which type are you? Do you like to take risks or are you quickly rattled as soon as an unforeseen problem arises? Do you value leaving work at the same time every day or is working as a dentist your passion and you do not mind working overtime? Are you good at taking on a subordinate role or do you prefer to make decisions yourself?

Try to get independent advice and opinions from various sources, e.g., banks/credit institutions, tax consultants, business consultants, experienced dentists, or the German Dental Association—this way you are sure to find the option that best suits your ideas and goals.

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