Options For Physicians Who Don't Get Accepted To Residency Programs

DECEMBER 07, 2016
Heidi Moawad, MD

As the number of applicants to residency programs in the United States swells, there are more and more fully educated physicians who cannot get the necessary training required to become licensed physicians or to specialize. Most physicians who can’t get into residency are in this predicament because of some type of disadvantage along the path to residency, such as:
 
1.     Being a graduate of a foreign medical school
2.     Attaining low, but passing, USMLE part 1 and 2 scores
3.     Aiming too high in the match
4.     Taking time off for personal reasons like illness or pregnancy
5.     Having a bad experience with a supervisor during rotations
 
These and a number of other reasons can relegate a doctor to a state of limbo. When doctors cannot become residency trained, job options are severely limited. It is a profoundly difficult situation when a physician has a medical degree and is unable to get training. At an age when you are ready to get started in your career, you may find yourself unable to continue to work on getting the necessary training to remain in your own career, yet unqualified to enter into another field. There are several options for doctors who are not residency trained, and they generally require taking some well planned steps before getting an actual job. Some physicians do continue to work in the medical field, while others completely leave medicine.
 
What are the options for doctors without residency training?
 
Stay in medicine and find another way to get certified 
 
Many doctors who cannot get residency trained find other routes to become certified in ways that allow patient care limited to specific procedures. Some of these certifications may allow you to work under the supervision of a physician, or for a hospital or on your own.
 
Examples of certification options for non-residency trained doctors include aesthetic medicine and genetic testing. Some of these certifications are open to non-doctors, and thus may feel like a ‘downgrade’. However, physicians, who have a high level of education, can have satisfying careers in these medical fields, which provide an opportunity for devoted patient care, financial security and even entrepreneurial success. For a list of certifications available to physicians without residency training visit Jobs for Physicians Without Residency.
 
Stay in medicine outside of patient care
 
Other physicians who cannot attain residency spots decide to continue working in the medical setting, but completely outside of patient care. Examples of career options for doctors without residency include working in the medical-legal field, teaching, or working in the pharmaceutical or insurance industry. Entry into any of these fields requires some planning and action. You can begin by organizing your CV in a way that highlights your qualifications succinctly. Work on a concise cover letter and adapt it for each job that you apply for. Reach out to follow up on applications, and make your job search known to friends and acquaintances in the health care field that can let you know whenever they become aware of job openings. Do not hesitate to volunteer or take unpaid internships in the industry that you want to get in to, as this can help you build experience and important connections so that you can get a paying job. For more information about how to qualify yourself for a non-clinical healthcare job visit nonclinicaldoctors.com or use Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine to guide you in this important transition.
 
Leave medicine completely
 
A few doctors decide to leave medicine entirely and dive completely into another field. This decision is somewhat risky and requires full dedication to learning the ins and outs of a new industry. Some physicians who make this choice become independent entrepreneurs, running a business. Some become full time investors, particularly in the real estate world. And others study a new discipline, such as law or business or education, most often taking jobs in the financial sector. In general, physicians who leave medicine tend to be risk takers who are comfortable with reinventing themselves professionally. Physicians who leave medicine may even need to initially invest a sum of money into another educational path or a business investment.
 
If you are a physician who feels shut out of medicine, your options are limited in comparison to physicians who willingly leave medicine, knowing that they can always ‘fall back on’ working as a traditional doctor. Yet, sometimes it is desperation that brings out the best in people. Your future can be better than you ever imagined, regardless of which of the three paths you ultimately choose. 

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