Tired of Medicine? 20 Nonclinical Career Options

Leigh Page


March 14, 2018

In This Article

Educating Others

15. Become a Teacher

Many doctors dream of becoming teachers, and for a lot of them, it's a good fit in many ways. Physicians know how to talk to patients about complicated medical concepts in simple terms, and they have had to speak in front of small groups. However, opportunities are limited to part-time work at colleges, and the pay doesn't match what can be made in clinical care.

Despite the financial drawbacks, doctors have a surprisingly strong interest in teaching. In the 2011 Medscape Physician Compensation Report,[13] physicians who wanted to drop clinical medicine chose teaching as one of their top three alternatives. Indeed, teaching is regarded as a relatively stable refuge from the disruptive modern workplace. Among 14 categories in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index,[14] teachers rank second.

Dr Moawad was satisfied with the move from her utilization review job to working as a college science teacher. After 4 years in the job, "I'm really, really happy," she said. The work draws on her skills dealing with patients. "Doctors are used to talking to people who don't know about the subject matter and have a limited interest in wanting to learn more about it," she said.

She's an adjunct professor at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, teaching two courses on human physiology and global health. The hourly pay is about the same as in clinical practice, but she works just 10-25 hours a week. Only full-time professors get 40 hours, she said, adding that fewer hours are a good fit for physicians raising a family or in semi-retirement. Her work schedule also puts her in sync with her school-aged kids' vacation schedules.

"College teaching is the best teaching opportunity," Dr Moawad said. Teaching high school science pays too little, and medical school also isn't an option, she said. Dr Moawad, who served on the faculty at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, said there aren't any nonclinical teaching jobs for physicians who are not full-time faculty.

Pros: Teaching is a good fit for physicians who are raising families or entering retirement.

Cons: Opportunities are limited to part-time, relatively low-paying positions at colleges.

16. Start an 'Encore Career'

An "encore career" is a job switch made by older doctors, often to answer a personal calling. For example, Dr McLaughlin recalls a plastic surgeon who took up sculpture full-time, and Dr Moawad knows a physician who quit practicing to open an aromatherapy and jewelry shop.

Responses to the 2011 Medscape Physician Compensation Report included "chef" and "musician," which sound like encore careers. Steve Babitsky said one of his clients always wanted to work in the outdoors, so he found a job as a park ranger. "The job only paid $30,000-$40,000 a year, but that's what he really wanted to do," he says.

Michael Alberti, MD, gave up a job as an emergency physician in Scottsdale, Arizona, to become a portrait photographer. Working in a busy emergency department, "I was losing my love of medicine," he says. Then two things happened: He got a digital camera as a gift in 2001, and his wife had a baby 4 years later. "It rocked my world," he says.

Having already mastered Photoshop, he began taking lots of pictures of his new baby, and within 2 years he had opened a portrait studio. By 2009, he had acquired a steady customer base in his affluent hometown, and he cut back on his emergency department shifts. In 2010, he was diagnosed with cancer, and by the next year he had quit medicine altogether.

He isn't making as much money as in clinical medicine, but his wife, also a doctor, makes up for that. "Giving up my old salary was not easy," he says, "but I don't do this to make money. I do this because of the love I have for it."

Pros: This is a chance to pursue a personal passion while heading into retirement.

Cons: Income from these jobs is generally low.


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