By James J. Mangraviti, Jr. 

Introduction: How Long Does a Non-Clinical Career Transition Take? 

Physicians considering a transition to a non-clinical or alternative career often wonder how long such a transition will take.  Exactly how long a non-clinical career transition will take depends upon a number of factors, many of which will be within your control and some of which will not be within your control.  These factors are discussed below. 

Non-Clinical Career Transition Take: Variables That Effect How Long It Will Take 

How quickly you decide on the non-clinical jobs you want to focus on.  It is difficult to get to a destination if you don’t know what your destination is!  In order to map out and effectively execute a non-clinical career transition action plan, it is best to first spend time figuring out what you would like to do in your new non-clinical career.  This is a crucial step because you do not want to end up in a career you like even less than your current career practicing medicine.  Once you determine the new non-clinical career(s) you would like to target, you can most efficiently devote time and resources to making your non-clinical career transition.   

There are a lot of potential non-clinical fields out there (Administration, Pharma/Device, Insurance, IT/informatics, Teaching, Consulting, Communications, Marketing, Government, etc.).  SEAK’s annual Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference is a superb tool to vastly speed up the process of figuring out your best non-clinical destination.  The conference exposes attendees to dozens of non-clinical pursuits and allows attendees to network with 30+ faculty members (all physicians) who work non-clinically.  Attendees learn what each job entails and how to break into these fields and get to hear from and interact/network with their peers on the faculty who are working in non-clinical roles. 

How hard you work at your career transition. Researching and landing a non-clinical career can take a lot of time.  Networking requires time.  Building up your resume may take considerable amounts of time.  Even drafting an excellent non-clinical resume will take time.  Posting resumes takes time.  Applying for jobs takes time. Interviewing takes time. 

If you want to maximize your chances for a successful non-clinical career transition, you must find and dedicate sufficient time to the process.  We have seen many a physician’s non-clinical career transition flounder because they did not dedicate the time necessary to pursue the opportunities.   

How much money you need to make short- and long-term. The amount of guaranteed money you need to earn in salary in your first non-clinical position will affect how long your non-clinical career transition will take and how difficult the non-clinical career transition will be.  Although you certainly don’t want to sell yourself short, you should be realistic about how much certain positions will pay at an entry level.  If you are a surgeon or a highly paid specialist who does procedures, you may have to take a significant initial pay cut when taking your first job.  If you are unwilling to do so, your career transition can be much more difficult and take much longer.  Similarly, starting your own business is probably not a good idea if you absolutely need a decent salary for the first couple of years of your transition. 

Your current financial situation and whether you have developed a financial cushion.  If you are considering a non-clinical career transition, it is usually a good idea to start living within your means as soon as possible.  The less debt you carry and the less income you need just to make ends meet, the easier it will be to find a job that will support you and your family from day one.  In addition, if you are able to save some money, you will be able to use this to support your lifestyle during the early part of your career transition where you might have to take a financial hit. 

Your skills and experience including your specialty, certifications or lack thereof, communications skills, personality, industry experience, interests, business experience, and advanced education. The skills and experience levels of physicians vary widely.  Different entry-level non-clinical opportunities will be open to you depending upon the skills and experience you bring to the table.  Variables could include your specialty, clinical experience/certification, communications skills, personality, interests, business experience, leadership experience, industry experience, and advanced education.  The more qualified you are, the quicker your non-clinical career transition will be. 

Economic and industry conditions. Your career transition timeline may be greatly affected by economic conditions.  The easiest and fastest transitions will be in fast-growing fields.  The hardest and slowest transitions will be in shrinking fields or fields experiencing distress.  For example, the great recession of 2008 was not a good time to be looking to switch into the financial industry.  On the other hand, if you were a key opinion leader neurologist specializing in migraine at a time when many new migraine drugs were under development, that would speed your non-clinical career transition to industry. 

Your job-searching skills (such as networking, job hunting, and interviewing).  Your job-searching skills matter.  The better you are at job searching, networking, resume writing, interviewing, and negotiating, the faster and easier your non-clinical career transition will be.   

Conclusion: How Long Does a Non-Clinical Career Transition Take 

How long a physician’s non-clinical career transition will take is subject to a number of variables.  The sooner you decide which non-clinical career to target and the harder you work on your transition, the quicker it will be. 

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