Updated: Jan 15, 2011
I've met many medical students considering the non-clinical path. They're thinking about alternative careers because they don't want to practice medicine. The infamous question that always seems to come up is: "What types of non-clinical jobs can I get if I don't do a residency?" You see, some medical students simply don't want to even try residency. I'm not referring to MD/MBA grads who are set on consulting, finance, etc. I'm referring to the "average" medical student who discovers that clinical medicine simply isn't the "right fit."
The answer to this question really depends on many other factors. The question is not a simple one, since if you're interested in the business/finance side of the world and have an MBA with some real-world work experience, then you may be fine without doing a residency. In fact, many very successful people have gone that direction.
However, if you don't have an MBA and you don't have any real-world work experience, then it may be more difficult (but certainly not impossible) to find some really promising careers that align with your goals and interests. This will largely depend on your geography (and your ability to relocate), your flexibility with work hours, and your willingness to learn new things and to explore your talents and capabilities. If you really feel lost, then a mentor or career coach/counselor may be invaluable.
Ask yourself a few things:
- Are you absolutely certain that you don't enjoy clinical medicine? It may be much more difficult (practically impossible) to go back to a residency later in your life if you simply graduate and enter the working world. Have you explored Preventive Medicine/Public Health? Have you considered part-time clinical work? To get to some of the best non-clinical career opportunities, you may need to start in a clinical career, get some experience, and then transition out of clinical medicine.
- How important is salary? I realize that people don't like to talk about salary, but it's very practical if you have student loans, a family, etc. If you have another source of income or if you're married and your spouse makes plenty for both, then you're in a totally different category when you're looking for work. This is why some people love part-time or even freelance jobs where they can work from home. I hate to also mention that some couples end up getting separated and then one person finds him or herself in dire need for work (but I hope that never happens to you).
- What do you really enjoy? Some love/hate business. Some love/hate writing. At the end of the day, your work/life balance may be the most important thing to you. After all, if you have the opportunity to pursue a clinical career, the main reason driving you away from that must be because you don't enjoy that type of work.
Medical communications (including continuing medical education, promotional education and marketing, etc.): medical writer, medical journalist, grant writer, new business development, medical strategy, CME director, and much more.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Instead, this is meant to give you a glimpse of some alternative career possibilities. It's important to do your research and to learn about the possibilities that may be appropriate for you.
Make sure to read this article: Non-Clinical Medical Opportunities for Physicians and Other Clinicians
If you're interested in finding a mentor, then I hope you'll look here: Find a Non-Clinical Physician Career Coach who can mentor you through the process.