Alternative career choices
While the vast majority of students who study medicine go on to become doctors, at some point at Medical School or in your career as a doctor, you may decide practising clinical medicine isn’t for you.
Luckily a medical degree, together with the right skills and attitude, can open doors to a great number of career opportunities.
Within medicine there are plenty of options beyond working in a hospital specialty or GP practice. And outside of medicine there are a plethora of alternatives to consider.
How do you decide?
It's important to think carefully about why you do not wish to continue in a traditional medical career. This can help you to think about what you may be seeking from an alternative career.
You may wish to start by identifying what you like and dislike about your medical training and clinical placements so far. Think about what you have been good at, and where you have been less effective. The skills you will have developed on your course and subsequent training will be transferable to other career areas.
You may benefit from considering your wider life outside of the course and take into account your broader interests and activities. Take a look at the career planning section and you may also find it helpful to book an appointment with a careers adviser to discuss your thoughts and research alternatives.
What options are open to you?
It is estimated that around two thirds of all graduate-level jobs are open to those from any degree discipline and a medical graduate is likely to be held in high regard by many employers.
It is impossible to provide an exhaustive list of options but we've produced a summary of just some of the alternative careers open to you.
You may also find it useful to think about how far away from medicine in a traditional setting you wish to go. Do you still want to use your medical knowledge or work in a scientific arena or does anything go?
Use this table as a starting point
Alternative Careers for Doctors: The Ultimate List
Options in medicine or clinical practice
Allied health professions
You could retrain in one of the allied health professional roles such as dietitian, physiotherapist or radiographer. Or you may consider working as a physician’s associate.
Treatments that are used alongside conventional medical treatments fall under the complementary medicine heading. The main treatments in the UK are acupuncture, chiropractic, herbalism, homoeopathy and osteopathy.
Cosmetic medicine is the practice of non-surgical and minor surgical procedures that are designed to change the appearance of individuals by their effects on superficial tissues, thereby reversing the signs of ageing.
As a medic in the Army, Navy or RAF your career path mirrors that of a civilian medic. You are able to join the armed forces during your time at Medical School, or on completion of your training.
Forensic and legal medicine
This specialty covers professionals working as forensic medical practitioners, medicolegal advisers and medically-qualified coroners.
Forensic physicians will work with police detainees, forensic pathologists deal with the dead and medico-legal advisers provide support and advice to practitioners.
As a maritime medic you will be part of the healthcare team on board commercial liners. You will be required to support the medical team in managing a range of pathologies from acute emergencies to out-patient clinics.
Nutritional medicine aims to heal the body by having an underlying understanding of the nutrients needed to balance and repair. Jobs exist in health and medical services as well as the food and supplements industries.
Occupational health is the branch of clinical medicine which focuses on health care in the workplace. This area encompasses health and safety, risk assessment and prevention, the management of pathology due to work-related activities and safely returning to work after illness.
This is an option if you are interested in drug discovery, medicines regulation or medical affairs Take a look at the booklet - Careers in Pharmaceutical Medicine.
Private health sector
This is often an option for those experienced or qualified consultants rather than newly qualified doctors.
Public health is the protection and improvement of the health of groups and populations. Public health interventions have the potential to improve the lives of thousands of people
Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector doesn't necessarily mean working voluntarily; there are many paid opportunities. Go to our charity work webpage to find out more.
See our specific information on working and volunteering overseas.
Combining medicine and the law
Adam Harrison, completed his medical training in 2000 and after undertaking specialty training in histopathology and surgery qualified as a GP in Nottingham.
In 2009 as a qualified GP, he acted upon his enduring interest in medical law and ethics and started work as a medico-legal advisor for the MDU. While undertaking this role, he decided to take his legal interests further, commencing legal studies at Nottingham Law School in 2011. He obtained a law degree and qualified as a barrister in 2014.
In this short video Adam explains more about his decision to retrain as a lawyer.
Adam’s career has combined both his interests in medicine and the law in his various roles such as Assistant Medical Director at NHS England, Local Medical Committee (LMC) Vice-Chair and founder of his own medicolegal advisory company. He is currently spending a year working in Australia.
Work related to medicine
As a health economist you will study the functions of healthcare systems and aim to find maximum value for money through cost and clinical effectiveness of healthcare provision.
Is there an economist in the house? - BMJ
Health informatics is about getting fast and accurate information to the right people at the right time. It is very technology-based and may appeal to those with an analytical and inquisitive mind.
Read about bio and health informatics section
Medical communications agencies provide consultancy services to the pharmaceutical industry to help raise awareness of medicines. You might be writing advertising copy, instructions, or putting together patent applications.
Read the science writing and medical writing sections
The medical device industry covers the research, development and manufacture plus the regulation, marketing and selling of all devices; whether it’s a one-time use plaster or a complex surgical robot.
Medical devices are a key element in healthcare and can play a role is diagnosing, preventing and treating a variety of conditions, illness and diseases.
If you have a creative and artistic streak then a career in medical illustration could be right for you.
As a medical illustrator you will interpret and create visual material to help record and disseminate medical, biological and related knowledge to staff and patients.
You may also be interested in clinical photography. You will produce accurate and objective images that truthfully represent illness, injuries and progress of operations and procedures.
Medical illustrator - Prospects
Linked to medical communication, you may use your flair for writing in a journalistic sense. You would often use this as an addition, rather than an alternative, to your career in medicine and while competition is fierce the thrill of seeing your name in print is priceless.
Medical sales reps are a key link between medical and pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals. Your strong medical knowledge could give you an advantage in this role.
Read and watch a video on medical sales reps
Work outside medicine and healthcare
Perhaps you want to leave medicine and healthcare behind. Most graduate jobs are open to applicants from any degree discipline. Prospects
can be a good place to start exploring a range of different roles and sectors.