Transitioning to a Non-Clinical Career

Thinking About Change

There may be many reasons why you think about moving to a non-clinical career path. Some that have been mentioned to PedJobs staff are:

  • feeling that clinical work is not the right "fit" for you
  • deciding that a passion should take precedence in your life, due to time constraints
  • changing abilities, due to physical or medical restrictions
  • wanting to spend more time with young families
  • needing to be a caregiver for a parent or spouse
  • wanting to downshift towards retirement, without completely leaving the workforce
  • other personal reasons.

What Types of Work Are There?

There are a number of issues to think about as you make a transition. First, you may say "I've been focused so long on clinical work, I don't even know what else there is to do." The possibilities are only limited by your own requirements. Here is a alphabetical list of types of work physicians and nurses have done when they made a career shift. This list is hardly exhaustive! Be aware that many of these positions will not pay at the same level as your clinical position.

  • Administration
  • Consulting
  • Communications
  • Education—teaching, curriculum development
  • Entrepreneur
  • Financial Advisor
  • Government—Federal, state, or local
  • Health or Medical Information Specialist
  • Illustrator--medical
  • Informatics
  • Insurance—health, disability, long-term care, life
  • Inventor--medical devices, IT
  • Media
  • Occupational Health
  • Pharma—development, marketing, sales, regulatory, safety
  • Recruiter
  • Writing

What Can I Do?

So, how do you figure out what to do?

Visit Career Changes Resources on PedJobs. There are readings that may spark your interest and resources for your transition.

Then, examine your own interests, skills, and talents. Many will be transferable. What are you good at? If you jump at writing the journal article for your group, maybe writing and editing is the area for you. If you always figure out a better way to do something, maybe inventor is a path. Ask your family and friends what they think you are great at, besides medicine. Their answers may surprise you.

If you are at a loss, there are plenty of career aptitude tests available. Your local community college may be a wealth of information for residents. You may take a test, like the Strong Inventory, for a small fee or even free. The career office may have counselors that can help. Community colleges are also a good source for those who want to start their own business. SBDC (Small Business Development Center) offices are available all over the US. You may want to engage a career counselor, but be certain that the person has experience working with physicians and understands your education.

Other Considerations

Some new career paths may require more education, like an MPH or MBA, or a certificate, like a CFP. Carefully weigh the necessity of that before you embark on it. Further education takes more time, more money, and may not be required.

It is also important to be aware of the possible consequences of letting your medical license lapse. This can result in great difficulty in the future if you decide to return to clinical practice as it is often harder to get a medical license back once it has expired. You therefore may wish to consider ways to keep your license active while also pursuing a non-clinical career.

Different abilities—the way we look at what we used to call disabilities—may require you to make adaptations to the way you work. Explore your state resources. Many states have counseling, evaluation, provide assistive devices, retraining, and help for the job search or starting your own business.

You are not too old—at any age—to make a transition. People stay at a job today for only 2 to 3 years, on average. You will have to weigh the cost—in both time and money—to make a particular change. Also, now is one of the best times to go into business for yourself. The SCORE program has volunteer counselors who are experienced in business. You should have some idea of what you would like to do before you meet with them, however.

Any change will require research and a willingness to talk to others. Networking helps tremendously. Do not be afraid to ask family, friends, and co-workers if they know someone you can speak with about a particular topic. Explore online networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and others to find people in your particular area of interest. For pediatricians alone, there are thousands on LinkedIn.

It is not likely that you will find a ready-made job on an online job board. Explore a meta-search engine like Indeed or SimplyHired (PedJobs streams our jobs to them) by entering key words and seeing what types of jobs appear. Do not limit this search by geography; you are just exploring the field, not where the job may be. Be wary of job sites that advertise jobs for "seniors." Many have the same jobs posted on other job boards and the companies are not especially friendly to "seniors." Companies may post a job just because the posting is free or low-cost.

There are other things to think about too. Is this financially viable for you, right now? You may want to plan for it. Does your family buy in? Examine whether you might like this new job even less than you like your current clinical work. These issues may be worth exploring with a counselor.

You may end up creating your job. Think about what the needs of an employer are—the "pain"—and how you could eliminate the pain, as an employee or in your own business. Keep in mind that your new career is an adventure and will bring rewards to you in ways you cannot picture right now!


These resources have not been investigated by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP takes no responsibility for these resources.

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