What’s The Difference Between Base Salary And Total Compensation

CRNA Salary vs Total Compensation

Money! Money! Money!

It’s easy to just focus on the money when looking at a new job. Trust me I get, especially if you are coming fresh out of anesthesia training and you’re finally going to start making the big bucks. But, even experienced anesthesia clinicians can get distracted by the salary number.

The last time I changed jobs was from a university setting to a private one. I was being offered a 30% increase in annual pay. It’s a hard number to ignore.

However, it’s not always about the salary. 

I know… You hear us always talking about looking at not only salary but benefits, culture of the group, what type of cases are performed, location as well as other details when evaluating a job. But it’s important to also understand salary vs. total compensation package.

The difference between the two is something that leadership and recruiters are always telling me that clinicians don’t understand or don’t take into consideration when looking at an anesthesia job. 

So let’s take a look at them and help you gain a better understanding of the difference between them.

Base Salary vs Total Compensation

Base salary is the annual amount your employer is paying you for one year. Total compensation is your base salary plus the value of the benefits being offered in the package. 

Anesthesia groups always give you your base salary in the offer and sometimes they will include the total compensation package. They give you the total compensation for one of two reasons:

  1. To show how much they are investing in you.
  2. To “compensate” for what might come off as a low annual salary.

Retirement Matching 

This is how much the anesthesia company is contributing to your retirement account. It’s usually represented as a percentage of your base salary. Jobs posted on Bagmask.com have shown a range from 3% up to 15%. Although recently, I saw one posted for CRNAs in New Jersey as a flat dollar amount-$35,000/year! 

So how does this contribute to your total compensation? Using the $35,000 as an example, if you have a base salary of $200,000 and add the $35,000, your total comp is now $235,000 before adding additional benefits.

Side note: Every bit helps, but when your company starts matching around the 8%-10% mark, it’s an impressive offer. That savings start adding up fast and retirement comes a lot quicker.


There are multiple types of insurance that can be included in job offers. Health, Dental, Malpractice, Disability, and Life are the most common offered. The latter three are generally paid in full by the anesthesia group. 

Health insurance for a family costs around $22,000 per year. On average most employers are picking up about $16,000 of the overall cost. For individual plans, anesthesia groups are contributing around $6,000 for a plan that costs about $7,500.

Taking the value of all these different types of insurances, the portion paid by the employer, would then be included in your total compensation number.

CME/CE Money

We all need some form of continuing education credits to maintain our licenses. Posted jobs surveyed on BagMask.com’s job board showed annual amounts from $2,000-$7,500. This is an additional amount that is included in calculating the total compensation package.

Yearly Bonus or Profit Sharing

Bonuses and profit sharing can greatly alter your take home pay at the end of the year. Bonuses are often tied into performance or merit based criteria, and some groups are now offering retention bonuses. 

Profit sharing is the money left over from the expenses of running the anesthesia business that is distributed at a set date or dates in the calendar year. Some groups have a very low base salary, but make it up on the backend through profit sharing. 

Additional Benefits 

There are other add-ons that some companies will offer that also contribute to increasing the total compensation. They can include paying state licenses, annual dues for professional societies, child care assistance, gym memberships and employee assistant programs offering legal or other services. 

Although they might not be a large sum they still add up.

Adding It Up

You can see why groups will tell you what the total compensation package is worth. When you start adding up all these benefits they substantially increase the value of what “you are getting paid.”

It also provides another reference point when comparing multiple job offers. It might justify the difference between choosing one job offering a higher salary versus a lower one. And now that you understand the difference it places you in a great position to make an informed decision and the right choice for your career.

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