Career & Life Advice

Unhappy in Medicine? Alternative Career Paths for Doctors

Monday, 14 Dec, 2020

Do you feel like you’re at a cross roads in your career and wondering what the alternative career paths for doctors might be? You might be surprised how often I’m contacted by doctors saying “I’m just not sure if I want to be a doctor.” After all those years of study, it can be hard to admit you’re having doubts about your career and it’s easy to assume that you’re the only one in that situation.

Maybe you feel like clinical medicine is not the right fit for you but you’re hesitant to consider stepping out because you’ve invested so much in your career. If you’ve tried to talk to family and friends about your doubts, they’ve probably been shocked and told you that you can’t waste all that training.

Throughout all our medical training there’s an assumption that most people will end up in a clinical role. But the reality is that clinical medicine is just not right for everyone. Coming to this realisation can be difficult (and admitting it is even harder!) but you deserve to have a satisfying career in a role you enjoy and feel comfortable in. There are lots of alternatives and the challenge is to narrow those down and work out which is the best for you.

When thinking about non-clinical career paths, there are broadly two categories: options within medicine and those outside of medicine.

Alternative Career Paths for Doctors Within medicine

There are a number of specialties within medicine that have little or no patient contact, although some, such as radiology and pathology, are still directly relevant to individual patient care. Remaining within medicine means that you will still need to be registered with AHPRA and to comply with requirements for continuing professional development and professional indemnity. Other options include:

• Public Health
• Medical Administration
• Medical Education (may or may not require registration)

Alternative Career Paths for Doctors Outside medicine

Medicine is a very vocationally focussed field of study but our medical training actually provides us with a range of skills which are transferable and highly sought after in other settings. These skills include: teamwork and leadership skills, critical analysis and problem solving, the ability to work under pressure, time management and prioritisation. The following are areas which doctors have commonly moved into:

• Pharmaceutical industry
• Medical Law
• Management consultancy
• Health Informatics and Technology
• Medical Writing
• Medical Research

These are really just a starting point and, to be honest, I don’t love these lists because they can limit your thinking. In reality, doctors move into all sorts of areas: startups, consulting practices, property development and management roles – the list is endless. The right career path for you will depend on a range of factors, including your broad interests and skills and your desired lifestyle and getting objective advice can be invaluable.

I understand how difficult it can be to even start thinking about making a career transition. In my  Career Change Coaching & Planning program, I’ll help you clarify what you really want in your career and narrow down your choices. I’ll give you information about the fields you’re thinking about and a personalised plan for moving forward.

Whether you’re ready for a complete change or just thinking about dipping your toe in the non-clinical water, I can help you work through the logistics of your decision, including registration implications, ongoing education and even really practical things like putting together a non-medical CV and building a LinkedIn profile.

I’d love to talk to you about moving towards a career that’s just the right fit for you.


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