Working with patients is arguably the most important part of a physician’s job. For certain doctors, interacting with those seeking medical care is invigorating. But what if the clinical side of medicine isn’t as appealing to you? Are you out of luck? Not in the slightest.
There are quite a number of nonclinical physician jobs out there. Whether you’re already in the field or are just starting your career in medicine, you have options. You’re not alone in seeking a position outside the confines of a clinic or hospital, either.
Why some MDs are choosing nonclinical physician jobs
Some physicians know pretty early on that they don’t want to go the traditional practice route. That was the case for Dr. Sylvie Stacy, Preventive Medicine Physician and founder of an online community dedicated to helping medical professionals create fulfilling careers.
“I really enjoy the science of medicine, but didn't feel that seeing and treating patients all day was a good fit for me,” Dr. Stacy explains. “I often felt like treating individual patients wasn't putting a dent in the larger health problems that the population faces.”
"I really enjoy the science of medicine, but didn't feel that seeing and treating patients all day was a good fit for me."
Some physicians become interested in nonclinical work later in their careers. It could be for any number of reasons. Dr. Stacy says she found herself meeting a lot of doctors who were seeking an alternative to traditional practice or simply a way to bolster their income, which is part of what motivated her to start her website.
The good news is there are a lot of options. Physicians don’t have to limit themselves to clinical practice if that isn’t where their interests lie.
10 types of nonclinical physician jobs you should know about
This is hardly an exhaustive list of all the nonclinical physician jobs out there, but it’s a good start. How do you know which options might be a fit? “Think about what aspects of your medical training and career have excited you,” Dr. Stacy suggests.
1. Executive leadership
It’s likely physicians will start to fill more health systems leadership roles in the future, because some research has indicated physician-led hospitals perform better. A doctor’s unique training is a huge asset in executive positions like Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Chief Integration Officer (CIO). These roles are great options for individuals who want to make changes at an institutional level, but bear in mind you may need training beyond medical school.
"Most leadership positions within health care systems, such as CMO, require extensive clinical experience."
“Most leadership positions within health care systems, such as CMO, require extensive clinical experience,” Dr. Stacy says.
2. Physician coaching
Some MDs find it more rewarding to help fellow physicians become better at their jobs. A lot of coaches focus on improving workplace communication and patient satisfaction, but that just scratches the surface of the services you could provide. Physician coaches specialize in preventing burnout, improving time management, career transitions, and more.
3. Health insurance
Some doctors enjoy clinical work, but find themselves wanting to play a more active role in keeping health care affordable. “Working in managed care administration may provide you an avenue for improving health care payment models,” Dr. Stacy says. She also adds it’s an equally good fit for doctors who value medical practice that is evidence-based.
4. Pharmaceutical and medical device industries
Perhaps you feel most at home when conducting research. Or it could be you find you thrive most when working on a pharmacy and therapeutics (P&T) committee. While centered on medicine, these interests clearly lend themselves to a behind-the-scenes role.
"A job in drug development or drug safety within the pharmaceutical industry could be a fit."
“A job in drug development or drug safety within the pharmaceutical industry could be a fit,” Dr. Stacy offers.
Patient education is often a crucial part of a physician’s job. But if teaching is your true passion, you might consider making it your full-time gig. Teaching college courses that are related to medicine—think biological sciences—is one option. You could even be a medical school faculty member and have a hand in educating the next generation of physicians.
6. Medical writing and communications
You don’t have to launch your own medical blog to find writing opportunities. Medical communications companies need great writers who can convey information to a variety of audiences. Freelance writing is another option, a good one for physicians who want to maintain an additional full-time job.
Dr. Stacy also mentions writing is one arena that can provide you work-from-home opportunities. For some physicians, this is incredibly appealing.
7. Physician recruiting
Doctors are already in demand. The growing physician shortage in the US means health systems are only going to ramp up their hiring efforts in the future. Our need for primary care physicians is especially strong.
"Primary care doctors are the foundation of our doctor workforce."
“Primary care doctors are the foundation of our doctor workforce,” Dr. G Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University, writes in an article.
This presents a great opportunity for physician recruiters, individuals who match doctors to employment opportunities. MDs make good recruiters since they have a deep understanding of the candidates they’ll encounter.
One of the best things about going into consulting is there are so many avenues. Are you business-savvy? Have a knack for managing finances? There are opportunities for every area of expertise. Consulting firms often offer full-time employment and independent contractor roles, so think about which option would be the best fit for you.
9. Public health
If you’d like to solve health problems on a larger scale, consider a career in public health. Your specific role will depend on your interests. There are opportunities for research, education, and more that all fall under the broader umbrella of public health. Dr. Stacy also mentions physicians who enjoy working on a wide variety of projects may be particularly well suited to become health officers at a department of public health.
It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that some medical schools allow you to earn a master’s in public health (MPH) along with your medical degree. Students in the St. George’s University MD/MPH program, for example, develop the skills they’ll need to lead organizations and apply their medical knowledge to both the community and individual patient levels.
Despite how far medicine has come, there’s still room for improvement. That’s great news if you have an entrepreneurial mindset. You could turn an idea for a medical device or service into a business.
"The long-term rewards can be huge."
“It takes a lot more up-front legwork to start your own business than simply applying for and accepting a position with an existing company,” Dr. Stacy acknowledges. “The long-term rewards can be huge, though.”
Find your fit in medicine
Not every MD is meant to work in a hospital or clinic. With so many nonclinical physician jobs available, that’s not a problem. Even if you intend on starting in a clinical role, it’s nice to know you have options should you have a change of heart in the future.
That said, you still need to attend medical school to become a doctor—even if you don’t plan to regularly work with patients. That means you need to apply to programs and gain acceptance first. Find out what you’ll need to do to prepare by reading our article, “A Sneak Peek at the Medical School Application Process.”
Find out if medical school is right for you.Learn More