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A Physician’s Career Can Take Many Paths

Jackson Physician Search
July 3, 2019

Through the year 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects physician employment to increase by 13%, with rural and underserved population centers even higher. In years past, those who chose a career as a physician expected that upon graduating and completing a residency that they would end up in a hospital or private practice setting.  While this is still the case for many physicians, and often depends on the chosen specialty, today’s healthcare industry is a wide-open environment where medical professionals have a variety of career paths to choose from.  Here is a look at several ways that physicians are adapting their career to fit their lifestyle.

Earning Board Certification

For physicians that want to pave their way into exclusive opportunities, becoming board certified is a natural first step.  Earning board certification requires a physician to undertake intensive training in their chosen specialty and passing a certification exam.  Physicians can choose multiple specialties based upon their ultimate career goals. For more information, visit the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Join Academia

For physicians who prefer the academic side of medicine, choosing to devote your career to training the next generation of physicians is always an option. As the demand for physicians grow, there will always be opportunities for qualified individuals to teach the practice of medicine.  Becoming an academic physician does not require you to focus only on teaching, research, and specialized clinical opportunities are also potential tracts.

Becoming an Administrator

As the approach to healthcare is becoming more team-based, physicians are naturally taking on more of a leadership role. Leading clinical care teams provide physicians with the opportunity to exercise a number of skills that can ultimately translate into larger and more involved leadership positions within the organization. Physicians that are interested in higher level leadership positions should focus on developing their communication skills, conflict resolution, financial and operations planning, and furthering their overall business skills.  The American Association for Physician Leadership is a great place to learn more about the transition from physician to executive.

Starting or Joining a Private Practice

Although the current trend in the healthcare industry is that the majority of physicians are choosing to be hospital employed, that doesn’t discount the availability of private practice opportunities. As of 2018, almost 46% of physicians worked independently with an ownership stake in private practice. Many young doctors choose to establish themselves in a hospital setting before “taking the plunge” into a private practice setting.

Practicing in Non-traditional Settings

There are many other settings where physicians can gain experience or may choose as a career option based on their own preferences and lifestyle choices.  For example, working as a physician for a state or federal corrections system might not be the first practice setting that comes to mind as a career path but is one that provides a variety of experiences conducive to becoming a well-rounded physician.


Some physicians, after working in a hospital or traditional clinical environment, begin to gravitate towards non-clinical settings after reaching a certain point in their career.  This might mean utilizing your skills and experience as a medical director for an insurance company or for a pharmaceutical manufacturer. Others jump into politics or public service to play a role in shaping the legislative future of healthcare. For those considering a role like that in the future should prepare themselves throughout their career by continuing their education in areas like communications, public policy, and business-related courses.

Your hard-earned medical degree has provided you with a passport to pursue many different avenues as your career progresses.  The key is to find the path that is going to lead you into a future that is not only financially secure but also personally fulfilling.  Whether it is the patient-facing aspect of providing quality healthcare or choosing to pursue other avenues or settings, the key is that you have choices and opportunity.

If you are currently open to pursuing a career change or just want to explore the possibilities, contact a Jackson Physician Search recruitment specialist today and start your search.


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