Careers beyond medicine


After five or six years at university, thousands of pounds in student loan debt and a perpetual cycle of exams, you’ll hopefully have left medical school with a unique set of life-preserving skills. While Foundation Year jobs may hone skills in form filling rather than complex diagnosis, trainees do eventually get to practise ‘real’ medicine, rising through the ranks to specialise in their chosen field. While most aspire to life as a consultant, some seek to follow paths as consultants of the management variety, or indeed as members of a host of other professions, including law or banking.

A medical degree can open far more doors than just those to the entrance of a hospital. As trainee supply-demand imbalances continue (there were 293 more applicants than places for Foundation Programmes commencing August 2014)1, the profession seems undecided on whether completing a vocational degree such as medicine should end with the promise of a secured job upon qualification.

In the wake of Modernising Medical Careers, the European Working Time Directive and continuing professional reforms, the voices of those disillusioned with the profession have grown increasingly loud3. Whilst some may insist that trainees owe society a debt (estimates vary, but it costs over £250,000 to train a doctor through to full registration)4, others argue that the degradation of doctors’ professional autonomy may count as reason enough for doctors to seek alternative means to earn a living.

As a result, while growing numbers of graduate entry courses have attracted individuals that have pursued different career paths before starting medicine, the reverse is also becoming increasingly popular – despite the eclectic world of medicine often leaving medics with little knowledge of what ‘normal people’ actually do. For those wishing to keep their options open, this article provides an introduction to some alternative career options.