Overview of a Divergent Career in Medicine

42% of healthcare professionals are interested in Digital Health*

Let’s take a moment to stop and appreciate how big of a decision it is to pursue a medical degree. Unlike many other degrees that allow you to study while figuring out a career path, a medical degree assumes that you already have chosen to become a doctor.

It is one of the few degrees that after 5-6 years of study, you head straight into a specific job. This can be quite daunting for anyone, especially for young adults choosing their lifelong career. What if you change your mind? Or the training is not what you expected? Or did you find your passion elsewhere?

Asking these difficult questions doesn’t mean that medicine isn’t for you or that you’re not as committed as your peers. It might just mean that you haven’t found your niche yet, and just because you have a medical degree, it doesn’t mean you’re confined to a pre-determined career path.

Luckily, there is no better time to be a health professional. With the introduction of new technologies leading to the creation of new career opportunities, a medical degree is no longer restricted to a pre-determined career path.

“Clinicians and particularly doctors, have always had a range of roles - the dominant of which, at least time-wise and training-wise, is hands-on with the patient. However, the vast majority of clinicians will at some stage in their working lives and potentially for all of it, have roles that incorporate teaching, management, leadership, research, advocacy and politics. You could argue (and I do), that a clinician who is solely in a clinical role (i.e. hands-on patient care) is actually missing out on some of the formal and informal roles that make the clinical professions what they are.” - Dr. Grant Phelps, Director of Rural Workforce Agency Victoria & Associate Professor of Clinical Leadership at Deakin University. 


Why are doctors choosing divergent careers?

There are many reasons why a doctor would choose a divergent career. It could be down to job satisfaction, a troubled healthcare system, longer hours with minimal pay increases, increasing education costs or even a semi-retirement option.

According to our recent research whitepaper 'The Changing Face of Clinical Careers', 77% of health professionals wished to be contacted directly if a non-clinical opportunity in their area of interest arose.

Gone are the days where physicians stay in a medical career that is no longer fulfilling, inevitably leading to burnout. Nowadays, health professionals review all their options rather than suffering in silence. So, what are some of the options currently available?


Types of Divergent Careers for Healthcare Professionals

Whether you are looking to transition into a non-clinical career or would just prefer a 9-to-5 medical job, we've compiled just a few of the many divergent careers available for healthcare professionals. 

Medical education jobs

The concept of continuous professional development is intrinsic to medical and healthcare professionals in both their own learning as well as supporting learning for others. This may be why so many clinical professionals are interested in medical education and coaching. According to our research, medical education and coaching was the single most common area of interest among survey respondents with 33%.

Teaching can be an impactful outlet for physicians wanting to leverage their medical expertise and inspire the next generation of care providers. Joining the faculty at a university, writing course curriculum, or developing programs could all be options for physicians in education.

Corporate Medicine

Jobs in corporate medicine include working for pharmaceutical or health insurance companies. Corporate physicians and doctors working for insurance companies trade their lab coats for suits but still draw on much of the medical expertise they have gained throughout school and private practice.

Health insurance physician jobs may include performing remote medical chart reviews or helping to establish policies and recommendations for patient care. Pharmaceutical physician jobs could support research and product development as well as advise on corporate growth strategy.

Travel to work as a Doctor around the world

The one great thing about medicine is that most of your skills are transferrable throughout the world. While travel itself isn’t a medical career, you may be able to pursue other opportunities around the world or even learn from how medicine is practiced in other countries. Various options include working with organisations such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Red Cross.


Physicians with great financial management skills, an eye for the next great investment and an interest in consulting may enjoy one of the many ways they can provide financial consulting. There are several options for doctors in finance that can prove to be a great move for those looking to make a career shift or supplement their income.
Physicians can work for venture capital companies, encouraging them to invest equity, or become shareholders in young start-up companies in the healthcare space. Independent financial consulting can also be a lucrative career for physicians who have solid skills in financial management.

Expert Witness within medical law

To ensure very high standards in the medical sector, doctors often become expert witnesses/ medical malpractice experts. They are not only there to find fault but often defend physician decisions as well as supporting patients who may have been mistreated. If you find medical law and the ethical aspects of your career particularly interesting, this type of career change may be for you.

Telemedicine / Telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic has by necessity hugely impacted the growth of telemedicine/telehealth which has contributed to a new understanding of the capabilities of the virtual medical practice.

Telemedicine/telehealth represents a sector-wide opportunity, that could help to address preferences for remote medical practice – highlighted in our survey with a massive 42% showing an interest in some form of Digital Health. Telehealth will also go a long way when it comes to the geographic distribution of the health workforce across Australia. More specific skills such as AI/machine learning will be of interest to certain medical specialties, for example, those working in surgery and diagnostic roles.

Not only does telehealth provide access to medical professionals to those who would not otherwise have it, but in certain instances, it is reimbursable by insurers. It also brings flexibility to the medical practitioner, allowing them to see patients wherever they may be. As long as you abide by telehealth laws and licensing compliance, this can be quick and easy to set up.


Medical careers are no longer limited to clinical practice

Everyone has their own reasons for pursuing a divergent career in medicine. This was echoed by Dr. Louise Schaper, CEO Australian Institute of Technology when discussing our recent research. “One of the findings that jumped out for me is the reasons people gave for investigating divergent careers. There are a bunch of positive indicators: ’I’d like some variety, I’m passionate about it, I’m already doing it’, but then there was also the negative side: ‘I’m burnt out, I’m dissatisfied.’ That was really telling. The reason doctors get into medicine can be different from the experience of what it means to work in the practice of medicine.

Trading a traditional medical career for a divergent career in medicine can be a daunting experience. However, we believe that doctors should not have to settle for pre-set medical career paths and instead follow their passion. Taking a chance with a non-clinical medical career can offer financial stability and a good work-life balance.

Please contact us today for a confidential chat if you are interested in pursuing a divergent career in medicine.

For more fascinating insights, check out our Divergent Medical Career research – Download the full whitepaper here.

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