Tips on Transitioning to a Non-Clinical Job

APRIL 19, 2017
Heidi Moawad, MD

When doctors want to transition into non-clinical work, the transition often involves a process that takes months, rather than simply responding to an advertised job, getting the job and resigning from clinical work within a week or so. Depending on expectations, it can be stressful and unproductive when doctors take certain steps of the process out of order. While there are always exceptions, and some physicians are indeed lucky and land dream jobs without any preparation, often, there is preparation involved in getting a non-clinical job.  
The first step in preparing for a non-clinical job lies in deciding whether that is really the right long-term move for you. Sure, many doctors have thoughts like, “How did he land that awesome job?” when learning that another physician makes a living in work outside of patient care. But thinking those thoughts for a few seconds does not mean that you really want to make the change. Would you really be happy giving up your day-to-day clinical work to do something else? If not, entertaining some wishful thinking occasionally does not mean that leaving clinical work is truly right for you. 
If you really want to leave your clinical practice and move into a non-clinical job, it is important for you to do some background research. Just about every medical student knows what a cardiologist does and what an ob/gyn does and so forth. You owe it to yourself to understand what “other” work really is all about. There are a number of resources online, such as and others, that all provide different perspectives and insight into what a non-clinical job involves and how to get there. Once you feel that you have a strong sense of what is out there, you can select the specific type of non-clinical job that is right for you. 
Now that you have an idea of exactly what type of job you want, you can hone in on specific jobs and find out what the requirements are for the position you want to hold. Non-clinical physician jobs are not usually labeled “non-clinical job for doctor.” They are usually labeled more specifically by industry such as, “medical director” or “medical writer.” But most job listings have clear requirements and job responsibilities, which helps even further in clarifying whether a position is the right fit for you. 
Once you decide on the right job or industry for yourself, you can assess whether your skills and experience fit the required qualifications. If you want the position badly enough, there is no reason that your lack of qualification should disqualify you forever. You can become qualified. After all, some years ago you weren't qualified to be a physician in patient care, and you are qualified now. This proves that you have what it takes to become qualified for just about any job you want. 
As with many things in life, you can go about this process in a leisurely way, waiting until the perfect job pops up so that you can apply, or you can focus your energy and time on proactively seeking out jobs to apply for. Your own time frame depends on how much yon want to leave clinical practice vs. how much you are drawn to another career aspiration. Either way, it makes sense to set a timeline. This timeline means that you must decide whether you will jump right in and fill out applications yourself, whether you will invest some time and attention into networking, or whether you want to get formal guidance from a recruiter or a career coach.
Once you get a job offer, then some detailed facts will start to pour in. Travel expectations, salary, work hours, benefits, training. These details are important and you don't need to accept the job if it is not what you expected. The more research you do in advance, the less likely you are to face surprises that can make you feel like you wasted your time in a job search. However, as with every job, there are pros and cons and you will know when you get that job offer that feels right for you and that synchs with your personal and professional goals.

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