Tired of Medicine? 20 Nonclinical Career Options

Leigh Page


March 14, 2018

In This Article

Finding Other Industries

9. Enter Retail or Manufacturing

Some physicians enter businesses that have little or nothing to do with healthcare and do quite well, thanks in part to skills and temperament learned in practice. In business, "you need to be a smart, hardworking person who can stay focused," Babitsky says. "Those are things that physicians do quite well."

Babitsky recalls a doctor who opened a bagel shop near him on Cape Cod. It was a shrewd move, because there were still no bagel shops in the area. The doctor worked hard and the business flourished. It wasn't a sure thing, because many restaurants and other retail businesses fail, especially when the economy sags.

Physicians even get involved in manufacturing. Daniel E. Kohn, MD, an emergency physician in Baltimore, switched from work as an emergency physician to running a manufacturing company full-time.

Like many physicians, he had for many years been investing in real estate, buying old buildings and rehabbing them, when in 1997 he came across a dilapidated factory.

The factory housed a shirt company that was about to go out of business. Dr Kohn decided to buy the company, called Aetna Shirt, and bring it out of bankruptcy. "It was kind of a fire sale," he says. "The price was reasonable, and there was a book of business already there."

As an emergency physician, Dr Kohn had experience bringing back patients from near death, but rescuing a whole manufacturing concern proved to be a greater challenge. "I didn't understand how relentless the financial needs of this kind of enterprise can be," he says, "but I was determined to make it work."

He left the emergency department and introduced a new product he knew intimately: white lab coats. "I never found a decent lab coat," he said. He set about producing a sturdier product that could also be custom-tailored to create a more fashionable look. The lab coat business, called On Call Medical Coats, now makes up 70%-80% of sales.

After 17 years in business, Dr Kohn still hasn't recovered his full investment, but the company is firmly in the black. To find customers, he used to go to 20 medical meetings a year, but he cut back that schedule as business improved. "It's still a work in progress," he says. "I want to continue to grow this company."

Pros: A successful business can provide a great deal of satisfaction and financial rewards.

Cons: You'll have to work hard, and failure is a very real probability.

10. Join a Pharmaceutical Company

Physicians can easily develop a second income speaking to colleagues about a medication for a pharmaceutical company. Landing a full-time job at one of these companies, however, is very difficult without prior experience in pharma, such as working on a clinical drug trial.

Some physicians work on the marketing side, but most are involved in research and development. Demand tends to be higher for physicians in prescription-heavy specialties, such as oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, and psychiatry.

In addition to experience with drug trials, recruiters are also interested in applicants who have worked for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a few years. FDA pay is comparatively low, but the experience can be a springboard to a career at a drug-maker, where salaries start at $130,000 and top out at about $500,000 plus bonuses.

Another way to share the wealth of pharma industry is to start an independent agency that contracts with drug companies. Former plastic surgeon Mike McLaughlin, MD, cofounded Peloton Advantage, a New Jersey-based medical communications company that works with pharma, biotech, and medical device companies.

Dr McLaughlin also runs a side company, Physician Renaissance Network, which provides information for physicians seeking a career change. "I quit clinical care all at once," he recalls. "I wouldn't recommend doing that, because it's important to test the waters to make sure it's a good fit."

Pros: Being a physician can help open some doors, and successful employees can match their old clinical income.

Cons: Landing a position often takes a lot of networking and effort.


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