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Non-Clinical Career Options for Physicians

(Explore popular options, pros & cons and how to find non-clinical jobs)

Non-clinical positions can be done as both side gigs as well as permanent positions. As physician burnout increases, physicians are increasingly seeking options to utilize their medical expertise in ways that don't include the some of the challenges that come with direct patient care. There are different seasons within a physician career, and many physicians find that non-clinical options allow them more predictable schedules, a less stressful work environment, and ways to earn a significant amount of money without having to acquire a completely new skill set.  

This page explores some popular nonclinical career options, as well as goes over pros and cons of nonclinical jobs, how to get these positions, and what a typical day and typical salary might look like. Before you jump to a nonclinical job assuming that the grass is greener on the other side, be sure to do your research and make sure you that you understand what you'll be doing and whether or not you'll find it satisfying. Many options could be first tried as a side gig, and then transition into a full time or part time position.

This page goes over some popular nonclinical options that physicians in our communities often talk about. The bold and italicized quick links below will take you to separate, dedicated pages for these options. Explore insurance medicine, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences career opportunities below.

Before transitioning out of clinical medicine, also check out our what to consider before leaving clinical medicine page.

Quick Links

Insurance Medicine

Insurance Medicine

What is insurance medicine, and where do physicians fit in?

This is typically working within life, disability, and health insurance companies.  There are several roles you can take on as a physician/medical director:

  • Analyze medically complex applicant medical records to answer questions submitted by underwriters for insurability risk.  They’ll ask you to assess morbidity and mortality risks for the life and disability products.

  • Assist with life and disability claims

  • Read and interpret EKGs and stress tests (you don’t actually do the exams)

  • Administrative roles

  • Analytical research

  • Trainer for non-physician insurance underwriters

  • Product development and marketing (no insurance sales)

What skills do you need?

  • Breadth of knowledge of various disease states across systems (most are within internal medicine subspecialties)

  • The ability to interpret EKGs for life insurance applications

  • They will often train you on life expectancy estimation and risk assessment

  • Often require a certification in Insurance medicine (Diplomate in Insurance Medicine) - there is a Board which does oral and written examinations.

  • Often need to have been practicing medicine (residency trained, board certified, at least 5 years of clinical experience generally desired)

What kinds of opportunities exist?

  • Limited openings for full time positions, which usually require the Diplomate

  • Occasional or contractual part time opportunities for practicing clinicians


How do you find these positions?

  • Word of mouth and networking

  • Industry conference

  • Executive search/recruiting or LinkedIn

What salary can you expect to make?

  • Contingent on experience, but could be between $175,000-$300,000

Pharma and Life Sciences

Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences

Many of the top pharmaceutical and life sciences companies in the world are based out of the United States, which offers a lot of opportunities for physicians to get involved. Physician roles within these companies can include research and development roles, marketing or educational roles, regulatory roles, and executive roles.  

What specialties can engage in pharmaceutical opportunities, and where are these jobs located?

Jobs are open to all specialties, but certainly easier to find for some specialties than others, as the fields that tend to have more research or drug development will likely need more physician input.  These include oncology, neurology, cardiology, infectious disease, pulmonary, and rheumatology, but every company may be different depending on where their focus is.  A lot of these companies are based out of the Northeast (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland), as well as other tech or life science heavy places such as California, North Carolina, Washington, Texas, and Illinois, but you don’t necessarily need to live in one of these states as several roles could be performed remotely or have offices outside of the headquarters.

What kinds of roles exist, and what do they entail?

On the research and development side, physicians can be involved in both clinical and nonclinical research, and also aid in medical affairs and regulatory roles.  There is also the commercial side, with marketing, sales, and patient support.  Some titles you may see physicians holding are director, associate director, chief medical officer, clinical scientist, vice president or senior vice president, or medical science liaison.  


Depending on where your focus is, your job can vary a lot within these companies.  You may be asked to review the design of a study, help to create a timeline or budget on projects, explain the projects or disease states to non-medical members of the team, do literature or chart reviews and help summarize the results for publications, grants, or manuscripts, submit approvals for protocols or help adjust protocols based on feedback from regulatory agencies, or present at society meetings or industry meetings.  Some positions may involve travel (medical science liaison, for example).  

Here, we do a deep dive into roles within the pharmaceutical industry for physicians seeking nonclinical options.

What kinds of opportunities exist, and what salary can you expect to make?

  • These tend to be full time positions, but there are opportunities to serve as a consultant or in a 1099 or part time capacity.

  • Salary will depend and may be contingent on experience, but we hear of many jobs between $150,000-300,000.  There are outliers, of course, and as you gain more experience and promotions, salaries can go up quite a bit.

How do you find these positions?

  • Word of mouth and networking

  • Industry conference

  • Executive search/recruiting or LinkedIn, Internet job boards

Finding these jobs, like most jobs, will require some internet searching and/or networking, and if you’ve been a physician for a while, likely some restructuring of your CV/resume.  You can begin just by searching common job boards such as Indeed or LinkedIn, but it also helps to be more proactive.  Network with people who have those jobs, set job alerts with the various job sites, and search the internet for companies in your desired area of interest or that produce drugs that you are familiar with.  This will bring up the company sites, which often list job openings.  Alternatively, you can use LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, or conferences to network with people at these companies and let them know you’re looking for a position - you never know what will come up!

What are some things I can do to make myself a more attractive candidate?

Learn more about pharma so that they understand that you can hit the ground running.  These days, competition for nonclinical jobs is increasing. There are some great courses out there that can teach you the basics of drug development (for example, Coursera has a course on drug development by UCSD that is really great and can teach you the lingo, as well as show on your resume that you've taken an interest in getting to know the space.  

Unlike your CV for physician job, which just listed your training and publications/presentations, these CVs will have aspects like a professional summary where you pitch yourself in a few lines, emphasizing your experience, objectives, and strengths.  You will also outline what you did at each position, highlighting relevant aspects of those jobs that may make you more attractive to your prospective employer.  Instead of listing every publication or presentation, you’ll want to highlight ones that are relevant or particularly impressive. Most jobs will also ask for references, so you should think about who you’d like to ask ahead of time.  

What does the interview process look like?

​If you are selected for an interview, try and learn as much about the job as possible ahead of time - look up the terms that you don’t know, look up what products the company produces, any relevant press releases, research that’s in development, etc.  You want to make it clear that you are actually interested in these positions, and you’re not just doing this as an escape from clinical medicine.  The companies want people that will stick around, so they want to ensure that you have a real interest in the field and will actually enjoy the work.  At this stage in your career, you’ve been through lots of interviews, so just think about the common ones such as why do you want this job at this particular company, what relevant strengths do you have, what makes you unique, what are your weaknesses, etc.  Show them you’ve done your research by coming prepared with questions.  Look on LinkedIn to see if you have mutual connections with your interviewers, and if you have friends that work at a company, don’t forget to mention them.  If it’s been a while since you interviewed, think about what your responses to questions you anticipate being asked are, and get a friend to mock interview you so you can listen to how you sound, practice what you’re saying, and get some feedback from them as well.

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