9 Great Non-Clinical Physician Jobs
Whether you’re a fresh-faced healthcare professional exploring your options or a medical veteran eager for change, you’re one of the countless physicians who may be interested in a non-clinical job. From education to consulting, here are just a handful of the most rewarding non-clinical physician careers that might just be precisely what you’re looking for.
What Motivates Physicians to Leave Clinical Settings?
Despite popular belief, not everyone who completes medical school or even an accredited residency program goes on to pursue a clinical career. There are various reasons why a physician might choose to go down a different path.
For some ambitious individuals, an MD or a DO combined with another degree (such as a JD, MPH, or a Ph.D.) is a stepping stone toward a career in clinical research or medical law. Other individuals may opt to leave the field of healthcare altogether after finding an unexpected and unrelated calling. Then there are those who continue to have an interest in medicine and healthcare but are perhaps experiencing burnout on clinical work after years of practicing medicine.
Oftentimes, physicians may be at a stage in life where the high demands of their clinical jobs push them to positions with more autonomy and fewer time constraints. Even early-career physicians may look for ways out of clinical work after realizing that interfacing with patients on a daily basis is not bringing the kind of fulfillment that they expected.
Whatever the reason, there is often a combination of professional and personal aspects that influence the decision to leave clinical medicine. There are even some who are perfectly content in their clinical job, but due to exposure to a great non-clinical opportunity from a colleague or a mentor, choose to pivot.
Is Switching Careers the Right Move for You?
If any of these cases apply to you, you’re certainly not alone. According to a recent AMA study, one out of every five physicians plans to leave medicine within the next two years. Additionally, you’re not out of luck with your MD or DO degree.
There are plenty of options that exist for non-clinical work for physicians, with varying degrees of proximity to direct patient care. Some doctors may even continue their clinical work, part-time or full-time, and choose to perform non-clinical jobs as side gigs, a way to boost their flexibility, or a strategy to keep things new and interesting.
Before you turn in your resignation notice and go full throttle into one of these alternative career paths, an important first step is to try and improve your current job. It’s important to address whether or not there are non-clinical aspects at work that aren’t working for you.
- Is the schedule too hectic?
- Is the work environment toxic?
- Are there changes you can make to improve your current position or find a similar opportunity that offers a better work-life balance?
- Would going from full-time to part-time give you some room to breathe?
Sometimes, the simple solution might be the best, and a few tweaks here and there may be all you need to feel happier and able to sustain your current career. If that turns out to not be the case, we’ve gathered some great non-clinical physician jobs for your consideration.
9 Top Non-Clinical Jobs for Physicians
This option may seem like a bit of a cop-out since you’re still treating patients and taking a clinical role—just remotely. But telemedicine may provide the combination of autonomy and flexibility that allows you to continue practicing clinical medicine if you so choose. With the rapidly changing healthcare landscape and post-pandemic, the demand for telemedicine visits is increasing.
Not only does telemedicine allow healthcare access to patients who live in remote locations, not to mention convenience for everyone involved, but it also provides the physician with increased flexibility and time saved from commuting. With telemedicine, a missed visit doesn’t mean time wasted at the clinic, it can be more easily filled with another patient slot or spent more wisely on other tasks.
It is important to note that licensing requirements as well as reimbursement rates will vary from state to state. This is a wonderful opportunity for licensed physicians to supplement their main line of clinical work or replace it altogether, particularly those docs in the fields of radiology or psychiatry.
If practicing medicine is not your cup of tea, you can still put your training and extensive knowledge to good use by teaching the next generation of medical professionals. You can become a professor at a medical school, and get involved in research as a faculty member.
Alternatively, for those who prefer to not be subject to public scrutiny or struggle with public speaking, you have opportunities to work more behind the scenes. For example, you can help develop curricula for a medical school or USMLE test prep course or even get involved in continuing medical education curricula. Aside from more traditional teaching roles, you can also offer personalized tutoring for medical students and residents taking USMLE, or specialty boards, depending on your level of training. Maybe even write a blog post or two.
The category of “corporate jobs” varies widely and commonly includes working for a health insurance, pharmaceutical/biotech, or EMR company. Some positions in these fields require or strongly favor physicians who have at least a few years of clinical experience under their belts.
Physicians provide value in these positions as advisors and experts. For example, a physician working as a medical director at an insurance company may bring a perspective on how to deliver effective and affordable healthcare.
The health insurance industry is one of the biggest industries in the US, and opportunities abound for physicians in many different roles, including underwriting, consulting on appeals, or participating in quality management or improvement.
In pharmacy or biotech, physicians may be in charge of managing trials or producing medical educational materials regarding a product or device’s mechanism of action. They may be in charge of representing the products in medical conferences and meetings.
Over the past few years, there has been a rise in the prominence of physician coaching. Essentially, a physician coach mentors a physician in need through a situation in their personal or professional life. This can include episodes of burnout, navigating a malpractice lawsuit, or running a practice. Additionally, coaches often help physicians optimize aspects of their careers to achieve better work-life balance, stay healthy, and reach maximum earning potential.
Physicians who have had more experience under their belts may have an advantage over the greener ones right out of residency in this role, as people tend to value those who have “been through it before.” Interestingly, a 2019 JAMA study studying 88 physicians who received professional coaching showed that coaching significantly reduced emotional exhaustion and overall symptoms of burnout. This can be particularly lucrative and rewarding if you have the right personality for it.
5. Medical Writing
Medical writing constitutes another incredibly diverse field that is ever-growing in demand due to the increase in research, new healthcare products, trending topics in medicine—the list goes on. The scope of medical writing includes many different possibilities, ranging from writing for a medical blog to working on textbook development or medical education for physicians. You may even find yourself marketing new research and medical products to a target audience.
There is also a wide availability of job structures, with many medical writers working freelance or working for pharmaceutical companies. Aside from deadlines, the ability to work remotely and at one’s own pace offers physicians a flexible option for a side job or career.
6. Reviewing Medical Charts
The job description “reviewing medical charts” can, again, refer to a wide range of different roles, generally involving remote work reviewing patient charts to achieve many different ends. For example, insurance companies will hire physicians to review charts and orders for certain healthcare services to help determine whether or not they are medically necessary.
A physician could also work for a worker’s compensation company as a third party to review medical records and determine whether or not a request for compensation makes medical sense. Physicians may also be in charge of using their license to provide oversight for non-physician healthcare practitioners by way of chart and documentation review.
7. Entrepreneurship or Inventorship
Using your particular set of medical skills and clinical experience may provide you with a perspective that most entrepreneurs and inventors don’t have. Oftentimes as a physician, you get to see firsthand the deficiencies and blind spots in the medical system as well as in available medical products. A particular experience may inspire you to develop your own solution to approach weaknesses in the healthcare system, whether that be a new medical device, an idea for an app that improves patient care, or a new method to teach skills to trainees.
Becoming an entrepreneur may require acquiring a new set of skills, as business training in the medical field can be sparse at best. You may also need to research the market, learn how to network effectively at meetups and conferences, and become more comfortable with calculated risk-taking. This is particularly true for the medical devices field, which is lucrative and ever-changing with new developments in medical technology.
However, this path has the potential to be very rewarding in the long term. Being your own boss also has its own perks! Take it from Dr. Adam Rosh, who founded Rosh Review in 2012. Listen to his conversation on the Doctor’s Crossing podcast about his journey as an emergency medicine physician turned medical education entrepreneur:
8. Social Media Influencer
From those who earnestly share their journey in medicine to those who share relatable struggles from a comical perspective, plenty of physicians have found great success in the social media realm. In fact, many clinicians who started social media as a side gig are finding themselves making enough money as “healthcare influencers” to be able to start pulling away from clinical medicine.
Consider educational influencers such as White Coat Investor or KevinMD. These professionals mix entrepreneurship, education, and marketing in order to shape the medical industry, reach a wide audience, and entertain physicians and non-physicians alike while providing valuable insight.
Of course, the world of social media marketing and monetization can be unsteady, unpredictable, and even saturated. However, it certainly can provide a healthy side gig opportunity if you’re able to capture an audience with your truth, experience, or good sense of humor.
Whether you choose to go into hospital administration or move up the ranks in an academic faculty setting, you may be able to titrate the perfect amount of clinical time with people and systems management. There is evidence that shows physician-managed hospitals often correlate with a higher hospital ranking.
Succeeding in administration and leadership often requires that the individual shifts focus from one-on-one patient care to the organization as a whole. Coming from a medical background, as a physician does, provides insight and a human aspect into how to best manage physicians and other healthcare workers in a hospital or academic setting.
Occupying leadership roles in hospitals also allow physicians a voice and platform to advocate for policies that lead to better patient care. Additionally, it can help to bridge the gap between administrators who have never taken care of a patient and physicians who have never had to make hard decisions for the organization.
Opportunities for non-clinical jobs for those who have completed an MD/DO degree can vary widely, and seem to be in no short supply as many healthcare-related industries continue to grow. This list of non-clinical physician jobs is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully gives an idea of how many options exist out there, and how there may be a job that fits your life better than a purely clinical practice.
After undergoing rigorous training and a somewhat set path, it may feel foreign and difficult to transition to an “unconventional” field, but many physicians have successfully made the change.
If you have decided that clinical medicine is no longer the right fit for you, know that there are other possibilities available and you are not stuck. It is inevitable that people grow and change while progressing through their careers. Physicians are especially well-positioned to bring their unique skills and training into different disciplines that may better accommodate their personal and professional needs.
While all of these opportunities can be lucrative and fulfilling, please note that most require a professional degree, such as an MD or DO as well as years of clinical experience. This post is meant to provide a sample plate for the buffet of jobs out there for doctors, so please do your own research prior to quitting your day job.
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