Beyond clinical medicine: Non-traditional career options residents should know

By Kirstin Bass, MD, PhD | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published April 18, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Some residents may decide they don't want to pursue a path in clinical medicine. Fortunately, your education and training will make you a valuable and desired employee in many different fields.

  • In finding your first job, consider your long-term goals, including financial and personal, as well as professional.

  • Being a doctor will make a lot of demands on your life, so do some soul-searching and strategic planning when choosing your first job.

Planning the future that lies ahead of you after finishing residency is an enormous undertaking. It can set the tone and quality of your life for years to come. Some residents know for certain they will choose the path of a practicing physician. Others may feel more uncertain as their formal training comes to a close.

Fortunately, residency-trained physicians have a broad range of options to choose from, each representing different work environments, responsibilities, and opportunities. Spend time researching the various options, and draw upon the experiences and advice of contacts you have made, or reach out to new sources for career guidance.

Be sure to weigh your goals, needs, and desires in terms of professional achievement, financial compensation, and personal health, and well-being.

Becoming a corporate physician

Corporate medical jobs include working for pharmaceutical or health insurance companies. In these jobs, you will can leverage your medical expertise by:

  • Conducting medical chart reviews

  • Developing policies and guidelines for patient care

  • Supporting research and product development 

Corporate positions typically don't offer much scheduling flexibility, but they do tend to provide career stability.

Medical communications

Working in medical communications through writing, editing, and reviewing provides another way to leverage your medical knowledge and expertise. Jobs in this field range from textbook development to development of test prep material, writing peer-reviewed articles, and writing for magazines and websites.

Medical writers can also get involved in development of new drugs and clinical trials, writing protocols for studies, clinical trial reports, and recommendations for new treatments.

Medical reviewing can be a highly satisfying endeavor as well. You can join medical advisory boards and offer your services as a medical reviewer for peer-reviewed articles, review educational content, and more.

Many medical communications jobs can be done remotely and on your own schedule, making these a good choice if you are looking for flexibility.

A career path in education

Teaching is one option for physicians that will allow you to share your knowledge and expertise with students, other doctors, or members of the public. There are numerous avenues to explore in education, from becoming faculty at a medical school, college, or university, to taking a job developing course curricula, or perhaps developing continuing medical education (CME) programs for clinicians.

A career path in education may allow you to keep a toe in clinical practice, should you want to transition back in the future, and it usually allows you to keep in touch with your clinical colleagues on a regular basis.

Medical advising in the finance world

Physicians can find jobs advising venture capitalists on the viability of healthcare investments. Your medical expertise can also be utilized in jobs with biotech, pharmaceutical, or medical device industries doing industry analysis. These types of jobs are good for people who like—and are good with—numbers and data analysis.


Have you noticed something during your residency that you think could be improved? Do you have an idea for some novel treatment or device? One alternative career to consider might be as a physician entrepreneur, developing solutions to help move healthcare forward.

Even if you don’t want to create your own company or device, working at a medical start-up to help develop innovative solutions to clinical problems may be something to consider.

A career with a medical start-up has the potential to impact and transform more lives than a traditional physician would be able to do in clinical practice alone.

Medical research

If you have any interest in the research side of medicine, transitioning into a career on the “bench” side of the “bench-to-bedside” spectrum may be for you. Medical research is conducted both at academic centers and in the pharmaceutical industry, and jobs can range from performing preclinical experiments (for example, to test drug activity in animal models) to conducting or analyzing clinical trials. 

These are just some of the jobs available to you, with your medical degree and expertise. There are many opportunities to consider besides clinical practice. Your education and training will make you a valuable and desired asset.

What this means for you

The career paths that residents take once their formal training is over are as unique as each individual. Some may choose clinical practice in a specific field, while others follow their inclination for a fellowship, research, drug development, administration, policy setting, or any of the other, myriad possibilities. Consider what each line of work represents to you personally in choosing your first job. 

Read Next: Post-residency transitions: Choosing your next steps
Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter