Alternative Career Ideas for Burned Out Physicians

alternative careers for physicians

Explore creative career ideas for physicians seeking flexibility, personal fulfillment, a non-clinical job, or simply a better work-life balance.

More doctors are choosing not to follow the typical physician career path. Alternative career paths for physicians could look like a doctor completing residency and moving abroad to practice with an NGO, then coming home to do non-profit consulting. Or a physician inventor leaving the medical practice to patent an idea and then sell it to a global conglomerate. Or a mom MD leaving medicine to start a family and rejoining practice on a part-time basis as a writer and telemedicine consultant.

Whether you are a retiring physician, a physician looking for a second career, a physician wanting to work from home, or simply facing physician burnout and looking for a career alternative, we’re here to help you explore your options.

Why Doctors Are Leaving Medicine

Increasingly, doctors are not happy with their jobs. Blame it on a troubled healthcare system, longer hours with minimal pay increases, heavy documentation, increasing higher education costs, or post-pandemic stress. But the truth is, doctors are citing burnout at the highest rates in history.

Rather than dwell on a troubled system and feel regretful about career choice, it’s time to get empowered, leverage your medical expertise, and harness your skills and passion into a career that fulfills both personally and professionally. A medical degree and medical experience is a valued asset in the private sector, and there are multitudes of alternative career options out there for burned out physicians.

Types of Alternative Jobs for Physicians

Whether you are seeking a non-clinical career transition or just prefer a 9-to-5 medical job, we’ve compiled a list of alternative physician careers for former doctors, retired physicians, or burned out doctors simply wanting a career change.

Medical education jobs for physicians

Teaching can be an impactful outlet for physicians wanting to leverage their medical expertise and inspire the next generation of care providers. Joining the faculty at a university, writing course curriculum, or developing CME programs could all be options for physicians in education. If you are open to research, teaching at a major university could be a compelling path, while community colleges and vocational schools often seek physicians for part-time teaching without research commitments.

Corporate physician jobs and insurance medicine

Corporate medicine jobs include working for pharmaceutical or health insurance companies. Corporate physicians and doctors working for insurance companies trade their lab coats for suits, but they still leverage much of the medical expertise garnered throughout school and private practice. Health insurance physician jobs could entail conducting remote medical chart reviews or helping develop policies and guidelines for patient care. Pharmaceutical physician jobs could support research and product development as well as advise on corporate growth strategy.

Healthcare consultant

Healthcare consulting is needed at the hospital level, for pharmaceutical companies, for physician groups and labs, at government agencies, for medical device companies, and for non-profits. As a healthcare consultant, you might advise on technology integration, mergers, and acquisitions, financial management, research and product development, or healthcare consumption.

Medical writer/editor

Expert health writers and editors are needed for textbook development, test prep materials, peer-review articles, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and healthcare publications like magazines and websites. Medical writing can often be done remotely and on your own schedule, making it a good alternative for those looking for ultimate flexibility.

Finance jobs for doctors

At the intersection of medicine and finance are some interesting roles for numbers-driven physicians. Venture capital funds leverage physicians to advise on the viability of healthcare investments, healthcare non-profits use physicians for fundraising assistance, and biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies seek physician expertise as industry analysts.

Expert witness/medical malpractice expert

Getting sued is every doctor’s worst nightmare, so signing up to be an expert witness can feel like joining the dark side. However, medical experts work both sides of the aisle defending physician decisions as well as supporting patients who may have been mistreated. Knowing you helped defend justice can feel good no matter which side your judgment falls on. If you are open to being cross-examined and sitting through a courtroom trial, signing up as a medical expert could be a lucrative opportunity for supplemental physician income.

Medical startup entrepreneur

Some people with medical degrees are finding physician entrepreneur and startup career paths to be a better way to impact healthcare delivery and ultimately, more patients’ lives. Working on devices and innovative med-tech has the potential to impact many more lives than a physician would be able to touch in a traditional practice. For those non-risk-averse, starting or joining a fledgling life sciences company could be an interesting career transition.

Physician inventor

With hands-on experience, physicians are primed for developing solutions they face at the bedside every day. Take a little creativity, a lot of perseverance, and a bit of risk, and you’ve got the formula for a modern-day physician innovator. From the stethoscope to balloon stents, physicians are at the heart of some of the most groundbreaking medical inventions.

Forensic medical examiner

If you’ve got a thing for true crime, transitioning to a forensic medical profession could be up your alley. Becoming a pathologist, coroner, or medical examiner will likely require a return to school with residency and fellowship training in forensic pathology, but mystery lovers could find this path much more rewarding than traditional clinical medicine.

Online physician jobs

Teaching, writing, and telemedicine are all opportunities for physicians to work remotely from home online. Course development and editing/writing jobs can often be done on your own schedule for companies across the nation. Telemedicine jobs are flexible and can contribute to a part-time supplemental income or provide a full-time salary.

Resources for Physicians Leaving Medicine

The non-clinical careers for physicians conference is an annual conference for physicians looking to switch careers. Sponsored by SEAK (Skills, Education, Achievement, Knowledge), this lawyer-bred organization helps providers get the process of career change moving. While it’s somewhat focused on the intersection of medicine and law, there are also resources for more general non-clinical career pursuits. Site resources include a non-clinical career job board, guides to alternative physician careers, and a blog with articles for physicians interested in exploring other options.

Physicians on Fire is a personal finance website devoted to helping high-income professionals achieve financial independence and the option to retire early. This website includes a wealth of knowledge for physicians on topics from how to work part-time or half-time, best credit cards, investing advice, and more. Check out the Sunday Best series for a digest of the best articles from the past week.

Design Your Creative Medical Career

Trading in your lab coat or scrubs for a suit (or sweats! if you work from home) can be a scary prospect. At Wheel, we believe that clinicians shouldn’t have to settle for the status quo, should follow their passions, and shouldn’t have to trade their personal lives for a rewarding and financially lucrative career. Find out how a job in telemedicine could be the start of your creative medical career outside the hospital or practice walls.