5 gigs that will make you want to retire early

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published August 9, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • An increasing number of physicians are deciding to retire early. 

  • Retirement need not be professionally fallow; there are many opportunities for retirees to continue practicing medicine, such as working for the state.

  • Entrepreneurs and book authors can also make the most of retirement after clinical practice.

Lots of docs are hanging up their white coats early. In total, 40% of medical groups noted that a physician retired early or left due to burnout in 2022, according to a poll of 602 physicians conducted by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).[] These numbers represent a trend, rising from 33% in 2021. One contributing factor, noted by the MGMA, may be physicians’ frustration with the EHR,  citing its poor usability. 

Whatever the reason, life—or more specifically, work—doesn’t need to cease once a physician calls it quits on traditional clinical practice.

There are many opportunities for retired physicians to continue doing what they love, or something like it, in a new format. 

Working for state government

One option for retired physicians who may be seeking different avenues of clinical care in retirement is taking a job with the state.

For instance, the State of California offers many opportunities, replete with comprehensive benefits, compiled by the Medical Board of California.[] 

Examples of such work include taking a role in the California Correctional Health Care Services, the California Department of Health Care Services, and the State Athletic Commission, as well as volunteering as a Disaster Healthcare Volunteer. The last involves the provision of disaster relief services during state and national disasters.

Investigative careers

For fans of medical mysteries, a career in medical investigation may be the perfect professional rebirth after retirement. The Medical Board of California, for example, “is supported by the Health Quality Investigation Unit [HQIU] who employ sworn law enforcement investigators to investigate alleged violations of the law, and medical consultants and expert reviewers who review complaints and assist in investigations.”

The HQIU was created in 2014 by Senate Bill 304, which transitioned all investigative staff from the Medical Board of California to the Department of Consumer Affairs. It is responsible for investigations for the Medical Board of California and the boards of related healing arts.

Entrepreneurial endeavors

The AMA offers a match-making tool called the Physician Innovation Network (PIN) that pairs physicians and entrepreneurs to connect the dots between clinicians and innovators.[] PIN allows for feedback on innovators’ solutions and connects physicians with innovators/industry leaders. In addition, participants are able to share their subject matter expertise.

The AMA highlights that such connections between the physician, care team member, business liaison, or entrepreneur can lead to enhancements in public health and foster the delivery of better solutions to the market. They can help  promote the art and science of medicine and assess for healthcare equity principles in proposed healthcare solutions.

Physician chart reviewer

As the name indicates, a chart reviewer reviews patient charts and medical records to make recommendations about medications, treatments, medical interventions, and other treatment plans.[] The exact duties vary based on employer; physician chart reviewers may work with insurance companies, in hospitals, or for an Independent Review Organization (IRO).

The perks of chart review work are that it’s flexible and often required only on an as-needed basis. Remote work options are also available—a perk that allows retired physicians to work from any location they desire.


Maybe you have the next great American novel in you, and retirement is the perfect opportunity to rekindle a lifelong passion. After all, there have been a number of literary superstars with medical degrees.[]

Anton Chekhov, for example, was a qualified Russian doctor who practiced while churning out much-acclaimed short stories and plays. He is quoted as saying, “Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress. When I get fed up with one, I spend the night with the other.”[]

Another literary luminary was the great British raconteur William Somerset Maugham, who a critic once described as a first-rate writer of the second rank. His first novel proved personally transformative; the 1897 Liza of Lambeth recounted his student experience of midwifery work in the slums of Lambeth, which turned him away from a career in medicine and toward a career as a professional writer. 

What this means for you

Retirement can be a time of great professional accomplishments for the physician who is so inclined. Retirement gigs can revolve around investigative efforts, entrepreneurial endeavors, and writing pursuits for the general public, to name a few. Professional organizations like the AMA can provide sources on leads for such retirement gigs. Many physicians have found a professional second life in their golden years—or even earlier. 

Read Next: My decision to retire early came at a cost

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