Alternatives to Medical School

Career Advice

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Career Advice

Have you decided not to apply to medical school this year (or ever)? Are you looking for other job options related to health care that you can get with a bachelor's degree? The following are some career areas you may want to explore. Each category includes information on the types of positions available, positions recent Penn graduates have obtained, and Career Services library resources to help you identify potential employers. Be sure to check the Career Services homepage for information and useful job-hunting links.

Healthcare ConsultingHospitalsInsuranceMedical Communications
Pharmaceutical/BiotechPublic Interest ResearchTeaching
Additional Web Links   

Healthcare Consulting

Healthcare organizations (hospitals, drug companies, and labs) may bring in an outside organization to help them solve problems. Consultants address issues such as marketing plans, internal organization, quality assessment, or finance. The typical research associate or analyst collects data (from database and interviews), then analyzes and presents results or recommendations. A healthcare background and good analytical skills are useful. This is a booming field given the rapid changes in health care today.

Positions taken by recent CAS graduates include:

  • Advisory Board, Research Associate (Health Care)
  • Lewin Group, Research Assistant
  • Health Strategy Group, Research/Marketing Assistant
  • Towers Perrin, Health and Welfare Associate
  • William Mercer, Health Care Consultant

Library Resources:

  • Consultants and Consulting Organizations Directory (Consulting)
  • Directory of Management Consultants (Consulting Section)

Web Resources:

  • Healthcare Consulting career resources on the Career Services website


While most clinical positions require specialized training, various functions are open to those with a liberal arts degree. These include physician relations, communications/public relations, fundraising, personnel, and volunteer services, as well as some business and clerical functions.

Positions taken by recent CAS graduates include:

  • Boston Medical Center, Pre-Medical Intern
  • Cornell Medical School, Publishing Planning Assistant
  • The Floating Hospital, Outreach Coordinator
  • Hackensack Medical Center, Unit Clerk
  • Hospital For Special Surgery, Lab Tech
  • Meadowbrook Women's Clinic, Procedure Area Staff/ Ultrasound Technician
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Session Assistant
  • University of Pennsylvania Health Systems, Publications Assistant

Library Resources:

  • Hospital Phone Book (Medical Section)
  • Job Bank Guide to Health Care Companies (Medical Section)

Web Resources:

Insurance:  Health Maintenance Organizations/Health Insurers

The growth of the health insurance industry offers many opportunities on the "business" side of healthcare. Positions may be in physician relations, customer relations, marketing, strategic planning, or data management.

Positions taken by recent CAS graduates:

  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield of CT, Outreach Coordinator
  • Cigna Corporation, Marketing Specialist
  • Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Management Trainee
  • Modern Psychiatry Associates, Clinical Reviewer
  • Independent Health, Credential Analyst
  • Oxford Health Plans, Business Analyst
  • QualMed Medical, Referral Specialist

Library Resources:

  • Best's Insurance Reports - Life and Health (Insurance Section)
  • Plunkett's Health Care Industry Almanac (Medical Section)

Web Resources:

      Medical Communications and Publishing

      This rapidly expanding area has several components. Some public relations firms offer communication services solely to the health care industry. Their products include press packages, corporate brochures and videos, patient education materials, and special events planning. Other firms provide science information services such as databases, indexing, and abstracting. Also in this category are publishers of medical and scientific textbooks. This is a great area for people with both science and English/communication backgrounds.

      Recent jobs taken by CAS graduates:

      • ABC News, Medical Researcher

      • American Health Consultants, Production Editor

      • BIOSIS (Scientific Abstracts), Abstractor

      • Institute for Scientific Information, Chemical Information Specialist

      • Mercel Dekker, Inc., Assistant to Medical Acquisitions Editor

      Library Resources:

      • Literary Market Place (Communications Section)

      • O'Dwyers Directory of Public Relations Firms (Communications)

      Web Resources:

      Pharmaceutical, Biotech, and Medical Device Companies

      Always a good source of research positions, consider these companies for business jobs as well. Sales is a common entry point. These jobs entail a significant education component, as the sales force is now a primary source of information on drugs and devices for clinicians. Other positions include public relations, technical writing, and business analyst.

      Positions taken by recent CAS graduates include:

      • Absorption Systems, Analytical Chemist

      • Beckman Instruments, Technical Writer

      • Covance Inc., Research Assistant

      • Merck, Customer Account Representative

      • Merck, Professional Sales Representative

      • Merck, Chemist

      • Ortho BioTech, Clinical Research Assistant

      • Pfizer, Salesperson

      • Smith Kline, Clinical Monitoring Assistant

      • UpJohn, Dermatology Salesperson

      Library Resources:

      • CorpTech (Engineering Section)

      • Medical Device Register (Engineering Section)

      • Biotechnology Industry Guide (Engineering Section)

      • Pharmaceutical Industry Guide (Scientific Research Section)

      Web Resources:

      • Pharmacy and pharmaeutical industry career resources on the Career Services website

      Public Interest/Advocacy Groups, Associations and Foundations

      This broad category includes organizations which provide education, services, advocacy or funding in health-related fields. Examples of such organizations include the American Medical Association, the National Minority AIDS Council, or the National Downs Syndrome Society. Positions may be in development (fundraising), publications, public relations or research.

      Positions taken by recent CAS graduates:

      • AIDS Task Force of Philadelphia, HIV Prevention Counselor

      • American Red Cross, Instructor

      • Allegheny Health Right, VISTA Volunteer

      • CHOICE Inc., HIV Coordinator

      • Clinical Epidemiology Network, Grantmaker

      • Philadelphia Geriatric Center, Research Assistant

      • Planned Parenthood, Development Assistant

      • Washington Occupational Health Association, Research Assistant

      Library Resources:

      • Encyclopedia of Associations (General Section)

      • Health Groups in Washington, DC (Medical Section)

      • Foundation Directory (Funding Section)

      • Good Works (Public Interest Section)

      Web Resources:

      • Idealist (nonprofit site)

      • Nonprofit career resources on the Career Services website

      Research: Non-Profit and Government

      Laboratory research positions are the most plentiful job in this category. Universities and teaching hospitals usually have many such positions. If you are seeking alternatives, consider research in health care policy, either in academia or policy "think tanks."

      Positions taken by recent CAS graduates include:

      • Cornell University, Senior Lab Assistant

      • Food and Drug Administration, Research Assistant

      • Harvard Medical School, Research Assistant

      • Institute for Health Policy, Research Assistant

      • Massachusetts General Hospital Research Assistant

      • National Cancer Institute, Fellow

      • New York University School of Medicine, Project Assistant

      • Philadelphia Health Management Corp., Research Assistant

      • Rockefeller University, Research Technician

      • Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Project Coordinator, Philadelphia Infant Mortality Project

      • University of Chicago/Health Care Policy Dept., Research Assistant

      • University of Pennsylvania, Research Assistant

      • Wistar Institute, Research Technician

      Library Resources:

      • Think Tank Directory (Public Interest Section)

      • Federal Yellow Book (Government Section)

      • Research Centers Directory (General Directories)

      Web Resources:

      • Higher education career resources on the Career Services website

      • Policy research/think tank career resources on the Career Services website


      Science teachers are in high demand in many schools.  Non-certified graduates can teach in independent schools, as well as some public schools with alternative certification programs (such as Philadelphia and New York City).  Programs such as Teach for America, Urban Teaching Fellows Program, and Teach Philadelphia provide structured one - two year teaching programs for those without certification.  The Peace Corps and many other programs offer international volunteer teaching assignments.

      Positions taken by recent CAS graduates include:

      • Cathedral High School, Chemistry Teacher

      • DC Math Science Tech, Charter HS  Teacher

      • Hun School of Princeton, Chemistry Teacher

      • Teach for America, Teacher

      Library Resources:

      • Everyone's Guide To Job Searching in Private Schools

      • Private Independent Schools (Bluebook) US & Abroad

      • Teach for America Materials

      • The Peace Corps and More

      Web Resources:

        • Teaching career resources on the Career Services website

          Additional Links

          *Please note, while these are a sampling of our favorite resources for both career exploration and job hunting, inclusion does not represent an endorsement by Career Services.