'I've Had It With Medicine!' 16 Options for Second Careers

Leigh Page

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July 10, 2014

In This Article

11. Get a Job in the Pharma Sector

Physicians can easily develop a side income by speaking about a drug to colleagues on behalf of a pharmaceutical company, but full-time work in pharma is more difficult to obtain. Although a few physicians work on the marketing side, most are involved in research and development. Even here, the field is hard to break into, in part owing to a complex set of rules and regulations not found anywhere else in medicine.

Experts on pharma trends point to somewhat greater demand for full-time physicians in prescription-heavy specialties, such as oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, and psychiatry. It also helps to have experience with drug trials or to have worked for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a few years. FDA pay is quite low, but the experience can be a springboard to a career at a drug-maker, where salaries start at $130,000 and top out at about $500,000 plus bonuses.

Another way to share in the storied wealth of the pharma industry is to start an independent company that contracts with drug companies. For example, former plastic surgeon Mike McLaughlin, MD, cofounded Peloton Advantage, a New Jersey-based medical communications company that works with pharma, biotech, and medical device companies.

Dr. McLaughlin also runs a side company, Physicians Renaissance Network, which provides information for physicians seeking a career change. "I quit clinical care all at once," he recalls. "I wouldn't recommend doing that, because it's important to test the waters to make sure it's a good fit."

Pluses: Being a physician can help open some doors, and successful employees can match their old clinical income.

Minuses: Landing a position often takes a lot of networking.

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