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Healthcare

Don't want to be a medic? Graduate careers outside medicine

If you're not sure that a career practising medicine is what you want, don't panic. You can transfer the skills you've gained through your medical degree to something else.

There’s no shame if, after you’ve done your research, you decide in the end that you want to leave medicine. If you’ve looked into the alternatives thoroughly and feel that a career change is right for you, be confident in your decision and remember that your skills will give you a real chance to succeed.

Your medical education and experience will have given you plenty of opportunities to develop transferable skills including:

  • working in teams
  • time management
  • problem solving
  • decision making
  • working under pressure
  • communication skills
  • analysing data
  • planning.

Investigate alternative options

A good way to start your research is by reading up on alternative careers in sector-specific publications. Your university’s careers service should be well equipped with useful resources on a variety of careers (for example, the TARGETjobs sector guides).

Booking an appointment with a careers adviser will help you to work out what skills you want to use in a job and how you can sell yourself to prospective employers. You can also go to graduate careers fairs to find out what sort of positions graduate employers recruit for.

Making use of your medical knowledge

There are broader sectors and more specialised positions where your medical and scientific background would be advantageous or essential. For some of these positions it’s worth bearing in mind that substantial experience of medical practice could be necessary or that further qualifications or retraining may be required. Research into the individual sectors is a must.

  • Alternative and complementary medicine: To practise any branch of alternative medicine requires specialist training (sometimes to degree level). Your medical knowledge is likely to be useful if an understanding of topics such as physiology or anatomy is part of the training.
  • Civil service, management and medical politics: Government departments have openings in management, administration, research and policy formation for which people with medical backgrounds are sought. Senior management level jobs such as clinical and medical directorships would certainly require a substantial period of experience of work as a medical practitioner. A similar depth of experience would be needed for working in an advisory capacity on medical councils, committees and national bodies.
  • Medical journalism, publishing and informatics: Your degree could be a stepping stone to a career in medical journalism; however, it is a competitive field and some journalistic training would be helpful, as well as the willingness to work your way up from junior positions. Roles in STM (science, technical and medical) publishing are another possibility and a science background is a definite advantage.
  • Medical communications: This can involve writing clinical trial reports, conference papers, marketing literature, reviews and training and advertising materials. 
  • Medical law and medical defence organisations: With the advent of the litigation culture, the need for medically trained lawyers is likely to increase. A law degree will allow you to enter any area of law (before beginning a course you need to decide whether you want to practise as a barrister or a solicitor), but a period of time working in medicine will be necessary for medico-legal work. Medical protection societies and district coroner positions provide work for lawyers with medical backgrounds.
  • Medical research charities: Research posts into specific areas of medicine are funded by medical research charities in a variety of settings, including hospitals, universities and so on. It is also an option to get directly involved in an organisation itself: this could include developing and administering research programmes, fundraising and working to raise public awareness.
  • Medical sales: Usually based in a specific area, medical sales representatives provide a link between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals.

Alternative career options for graduates with medical training

You could also consider using your medical training in the following specialist fields, many of which involve working in locations other than hospitals or GP surgeries.

  • Aviation medicine: This involves assessing the fitness and health of pilots and crew to fly.
  • Dive medicine: Dive doctors need to know how to treat decompression sickness. They are responsible for the health and safety of a dive team and for carrying out medicals.
  • Maritime medicine: Ships' doctors deal with the full range of medical needs on board.
  • Medical relief work: Working in dangerous and difficult environments, medical relief doctors help people during emergencies, for example after natural disasters. 
  • Sport and exercise medicine: Opportunities in this field range from triathlon and marathon medicine to working as a team doctor. Many of these positions are in the private sector.
  • Forensic psychiatry: Forensic psychiatrists are involved in the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of mentally disordered offenders.
  • Clinical forensic medical examiner or forensic pathologist roles: Forensic medical examiners deal with the living, while forensic pathologists examine the dead. Both roles are open to qualified medical practitioners who have gone on to specialise. 
  • Crowd doctors: These are employed to provide medical cover for spectators at public events.
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