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Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians
 
Should I Go Back to School? [Part Two], by William S. Frank

Before you register for a specific program, find out if the institution provides job placement, and if so what percentage of their grads are hired in what time frame? Can they prove it?

Then take the most important step. Ask to speak with three of their recent grads. Talk with the past-students about the job market. How easy was it for them to find work with their newly-minted credentials? How much help did the school's placement office provide? How many job offers did they receive, and what salary range were they in? How happy are they in their new career?

This inquiry will give you a reality check and help you decide whether or not to go forward. Not taking another degree may be the best decision you ever make.

Suppose you do want to go forward. Then the degree must fit you, your natural abilities, and your long-term goals. You may want to become a physician executive because you think you'd like to run things. Your Birkman assessment will show you whether or not that is a good idea.

What kind of master's degree should you get? This quote from the American College of Physician Executives is right on target:

We recommend that you get the degree that is most convenient for your schedule and your pocketbook. Since you already have a prestigious terminal degree (the MD or DO), we have not found it is necessary for physician executives to go to one of the top ten schools or get a particular set of letters. Employers just want to see that you have received management education. Any of the letters (MPH, MHA, MMM, MBA, etc.) seem acceptable.

How do I get my first part-time or full-time management job?
Stories abound about the power of networking. Everyone knows someone who got a job because they knew someone who led to it. Most can even tell you how it happened to them once or twice. It may have happened as far back as high school. With all the past evidence of the process working, we still often attribute the job-hunting success to luck and hate trying to make it happen again by talking to people about what we want. But it must be done. Go to meetings, tell people what you are doing and what you want to do without an air of desperation--that scares people off. Talk to your neighbor over the back fence, priest, rabbi, etc. Talk to medical school classmates who live where you would like to live.

Everything we've said about advanced degrees also applies to further medical training, such as residencies or fellowships in new specialties. An Ob/Gyn tired of his practice after 20 years and pursued a residency in clinical pathology. Mid-way through the residency he became depressed, resigned from surgical pathology, but continued with clinical pathology. He said he wanted "a life of the mind," such as one finds in teaching, but his wife didn't like the prospect of a college professor's pay. I can't help thinking this crisis could have been avoided if he had researched the job market before beginning his residency.

An ophthalmologist ended his private practice because of back surgeries. During his recovery, he attended law school and received a J.D. Being a people-person, he found practicing law too isolating and had to transition into a third career. You can avoid these kinds of side trips by avoiding any education that does not significantly add to your happiness and your marketability.

Remember, even if you complete an advanced degree with straight As, you will still be faced with a daunting question. Namely, how can I find a job? Rather than returning to school, it might make more sense to tackle the job market now, while you're younger and less financially burdened.

We tend to think more is better. But too many degrees behind your name can make you look unfocused, like you aren't really sure what you're trying to do. Multiple degrees can give you the appearance of riding your horse in all directions.

Academia values more degrees, but business values more real-world experience. Asking a school if you need their diploma is like asking the barber if you need a haircut.

Another degree can actually diminish your marketability.

Then there's the lost opportunity cost. Let's assume you decline the schooling option and take a $150,000 job instead. In two years you will have earned $300,000.

Now let's assume you begin a full-time two year master's program that costs $25,000. Your total investment in the degree will be $325,000 [the $300,000 lost wages, plus the price of the degree]. How long will it take to earn that back in your new job? Five to ten years, or more?

See Part One of this article. Return to index of articles

 

"The circumstances of your life have uniquely qualified you
to make a contribution. And if you don't make that contribution,
nobody else can make it." —Harold S. Kushner

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