By James J. Mangraviti, Jr. 

If you are physician considering a non-clinical or alternative career, I have good news.  There are a wide range of alternative careers for physicians available.  Non-clinical careers for physicians include: 

    1. Administration – There are many alternative careers for physicians, both part-time and full time, in hospital and health system administration.  These include medical director, associate medical director, chief medical officer and even chief executive officer.  Our 2024 speaker on this topic has over 100 other physicians directly or indirectly reporting to him. That shows you the breadth of alternative careers for physicians in administration.
    2.  Advertising –  Advertising can be a fun alternative career for physicians – especially if you like to teach, learn and be creative . Physicians are commonly employed is medical communications and advertising firms as medical directors to help craft campaigns and ensure that they are medically accurate.
    3.  Author – Many physicians become authors, most commonly with non-fiction and health related books.  They have also had some very notable success in fiction, like NY Times best-selling author Tess Gerritsen, MD who taught on our faculty many years.
    4. Aviation Medical Examinations – FAA regulations require pilots to get regular medical examinations so that they are cleared to fly.  Physicians who take a weekend course from the FAA can perform these exams.  There is probably not enough demand for AMEs to be a full-time gig, but they might make a nice part time alternative career for physicians.
    5. Board Member – Physicians often serve on the boards of non-profits, startups and other organizations.
    6. Clinical Research – This field also provides a large number of alternative careers for physicians.  One can work as a principal investigator, co-investigator, project manager, research operations manager, or regulatory manager.  Some of these alternative careers for physicians may not require boards or even a license.
    7. Coach – More and more of our attendees are choosing coaching as an alternative career for physicians.  Coaching is a natural fit for physicians.  Although most physician coaches start their own coaching practice, one of our recent faculty members became employed by a large health system to coach their physicians.
    8. Communications – Medical Communications can be a great alternative career for physicians who are creative and like to write and teach. Medical communications agencies/companies help industry on a variety of tasks including CME material, regulatory filings, package inserts, slide decks, consumer information, and publication planning.  Communications is one of the alternative careers for physicians where boards and even a license may not be required.
    9. Consulting Firms –  Healthcare makes up more than 1/6 of the U.S. economy. Consulting firms employ a significant number of physicians to serve on their healthcare projects.  We have had physician consultants on our faculty from firms such as McKinsey, Deliotte, Booz Allen, and Huron.
    10. Consulting: Solo –  Many physicians serve as consultants.  Sometimes this is full time, other times they do consulting part time.
    11. Contract Research Organization (CRO) –  Working as a medical monitor (safety physician) for a CRO is a great alternative career for physicians.  Working at a contract research organization can also serve as a stepping stone into the pharmaceutical industry.
    12. Disability Insurance –  There are lot of alternative careers for physicians in the disability field and many or most of them these days are work from homeDisability insurance companies and their contractors utilize physicians to help determine whether a person claiming disability meets the definition of disability in the underlying insurance policy.
    13. Educational Administration – Medical schools and other educational institutions employ physicians in part time and full-time administrative roles.  At the time of this writing the Interim President of Harvard Alan Garber is a physician as is the Head of School at Phillips Academy Andover Raynard Kington (who previously served as president of Grinnell College).
    14. Entrepreneur – Many physicians become successful business owners in tech and healthcare startups and even in businesses having nothing to do with medicine.
    15. Federal Government – There are a plethora of alternative careers for physicians in the federal government.  Agencies that employ large number of medical doctors include the CDC, FDA, CMS, and the USPHS.  That said, many agencies that you wouldn’t expect to employ physicians do so.  A few years ago we had a physician attend our conference who worked for the CIA.  I didn’t ask any additional questions about what he did….
    16. Financial Advisor – A good alternative career for physicians who like investing and coaching could be as a financial advisor.  One of our recent speakers is a pediatrician who transitioned to financial advising and now manages multiple billions of dollars worth of wealth.
    17. Health Insurance/Utilization Review –  In terms of alternative careers for physicians, the most common path is reviewing medical charts and opining on medical necessity for health insurers and independent review organizations.  This work is suitable for work from home and the skills involved are easily transferrable from clinical medicine.
    18. Health IT/Medical Informatics – A wide variety of alternative careers for physicians are available in the healthcare IT space. These include working for a provider, payor, vendor, or the government.
    19. Life Insurance – Life insurance companies employ physicians to assist with underwriting, which involves commenting on mortality risk for people applying for life insurance.
    20. Medical Device Companies – Alternative careers for physicians exist with medical device companies. Physicians typically assist with product development, regulatory matters, safety, training, and other areas.
    21. Medical Review Officer – These are the physicians that review drug tests to make sure a positive result was not caused by a prescription medication or the like.
    22. Medical Science Liaison – More and more physicians are serving as medical science liaisons for pharma and device companies.  Medical science liaisons engage with and educate key opinion leaders.  MSL is one of the alternative careers for physicians that does not typically require boards or even a license.
    23. Medical Writer – Medical writer can be a great alternative career for physicians.  Physician medical writers can be employed by a company, or more commonly serve as freelancers.  If you start as a freelancer you can ease into this work and see if you like it. Medical writing is often done from home and you typically would not need board or even a license. 
    24. Pharma – The pharmaceutical industry employes large numbers of physicians. Alternative careers for physicians in industry can involve many functions, but the most common is pharmacovigilance  or drug safety.  This work involves identifying and analyzing adverse medical events during clinical trials and many times this work can be done remotely. 
    25. Physician Advisor – Every hospital that accepts Medicare is required to have a physician advisor. A physician advisor is the point person who interacts with payors and obtains approvals for services.  Physician advisor is one of the alternative careers for physicians where clinicians can utilize readily transferrable skills.
    26. Safety/Quality – Many alternative careers for physicians exist in safety and quality for hospitals and health systems.  Doctors in these roles strive to prevent avoidable injuries to patients.
    27. Startup Advisor – A fun alternative career for physician is serving as a startup advisor. Physician startup advisors are often compensated with equity in the venture. This equity can become quite valuable if the startup succeeds.
    28. Teaching – Alternative careers for physicians in teaching vary widely and can involve medical students, residents, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners and other health professionals.

Conclusion: Alternative Careers for Physicians 

The above are just a partial list of the many alternative careers for physicians.  With such a variety of non-clinical careers available it is important for a physician to choose the best fit for their desires, needs, and interests.  I recommend thorough research including talking to physicians working in the fields that may be of interest.     

James J. Mangraviti, Jr. is the co-founder of SEAK, Inc.’s annual Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference, held each year in Chicago.  SEAK’s Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference features a faculty of dozens of physicians who have experience in non-clinical and alternative careers.  Many of our faculty are SEAK alumni.  SEAK’s Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians conference also includes free 1-1 peer mentoring, the opportunity to interview with employers and recruiters, and a robust networking experience.  Jim can be reached at 508-457-1111 or