Pursuing medical education and training isn’t easy – it’s a vigorous process that often pushes students to their limits. However, the wide range of courses will leave you with extensive experience and transferable skills, including those in communication, planning, analysis, time management, problem-solving, the ability to work in teams and even make decisions while working under pressure and ambiguity.
But just because you’ve graduated with a medical degree doesn’t mean that you have to stay on the well-trodden path to become a GP! There are other avenues to explore your options.
After all, you have a unique skill set that blends knowledge of the hard sciences and soft skills well, and while it may look like an odd mix, it actually forms a good foundation for you to succeed, no matter the path you take!
FIRST, get to know your options
Take a deep breath and do your research. There are a few ways to find out the available career options, but the easiest (and most solid) way to begin is to read up on possible careers in specific industry publications, like HealthCare Asia. Your campus careers service centre should be able to provide you with a number of resources. If you need further clarification, you can reach out to career coaches, as well.
Run your ideas by your campus career coach and figure out what skills you want to use in employment, your career goals, what you want out of it, as well as how you can present yourself to potential employers. You can also visit careers fairs (both virtual and physical) and take a look at the available positions.
THEN, use your know-how
If you spent little to no time practising medicine (a fresh graduate): There are certain positions where medical backgrounds are valued, such as that of pharmaceutical sales, research and development (R&D) and even alternative medicine.
In sales, you’ll find yourself reaching out to, and linking, professionals in healthcare with the products they need.
On the other hand, R&D will give you a platform to develop and run research programmes for either pharmaceutical companies (such as Pfizer), or medical research charities (like the Singapore Cancer Society). There, you’ll focus on improving current medicines, discovering new medicines, or supervising clinical trials – all on top of raising public awareness for medications, from vaccinations to over-the-counter products.
Alternative medicine, also known as complementary medicine, includes practices like naturopathy and chiropractic medicine. Other well-known areas of alternative medicine that have been practised for centuries worldwide include Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture. Although most practices rely on natural medicine like herbal remedies (and in the case of acupuncture, needles), a solid understanding of biology (like getting to know meridian lines) and the human body is needed.
Alternative medicine practitioners must know which herbs are best used for treatment of various illnesses, and how they affect the body. For instance, a popular method of detoxing the body is to take measured amounts of ginseng. However, practitioners must measure the amount of ginseng a person can take daily and for how long, as taking too much can induce nose bleeds. As such, it calls for specialist training, and your medical knowledge can give you a leg up.
If you spent some time practising medicine (3 to 5 years): One of the areas your background in science and working knowledge of medicine can open the door to is the publishing industry. However, take note that the field of medical journalism and informatics is very competitive, so while some training in journalism may help, you’ll first need to convince employers that you’re the best option out of other (similarly or better qualified) candidates, and then work your way up from the bottom.
If you think stiff competition isn’t for you, you can consider medical communications instead, where you’ll be tasked with writing conference papers, training materials and clinical trial reports.
If you spent considerable time practising medicine (5 years and more): Your experience will help you enter medical politics in government positions or senior managerial roles, such as medical administration, management and policy formation. More experience will be needed if you decide to gun for clinical and medical directorships, medical committees, councils or national bodies and positions as coroners, though.
Practising medicine for a time is also needed if you wish to go into medical law, otherwise known as medico-legal work. It’s a good area to join as demand for medically-trained lawyers is on the rise. However, you’ll also need a law degree in order to practise.
Other options to consider
The aforementioned fields aren’t the only options open to you – there are others you can think about:
Areas with no specialisation
- Crowd doctors (provide medical care at public events like concerts and expos)
- Maritime medicine (provide medical care aboard cruises to passengers and crew members). You’ll have to travel with the cruises, though
- Medical relief (like Doctors Without Borders). However, take note that you’ll have to travel to remote and/or dangerous areas
- Sports medicine
- Private practice
- Dive medicine (specialise in treating decompression sickness and conduct medicals on dive teams to ensure health and safety before giving clearance to dive)
- Aviation medicine (specialise in conducting medicals on pilots and crew members to ensure health and safety before giving clearance to fly)
- Forensic psychiatry (treat mental disorders in offenders of the law, and rehabilitate them)
- Forensic pathology (similar to forensic medical examining – examine bodies of sudden and unexpected deaths and determine cause of death)
- Forensic medical examining (similar to forensic pathology – specialise in investigating sudden and unexpected deaths by looking into the deceased’s medical history)
Although this list is long, it’s by no means complete, and there are many other routes you can explore with your medical degree. But no matter the option you choose to pursue, make sure that it aligns with your career goals and values, for that will help you find your raison d’être!