Many practitioners have teaching experience simply due to the format of medical education. We’re responsible for others’ education in varying phases of training including medical student education as residents, resident education as senior residents or attendings, and patient education via health counseling. Of course, finding medical education jobs for physicians can feel quite different and unfamiliar compared to some of the previous roles naturally held by medical professionals.
Physicians who have always enjoyed either clinical or basic science instruction may enjoy positions that employ their teaching talents either part- or full-time. For those that do not want to take clinical appointments at a medical school, positions teaching medically related subjects at community colleges or universities can provide a different work environment and more flexibility.
For those seeking a change in pace from the rigors of patient care, but who still enjoy the intellectual stimulation and teaching aspect of medicine, academics may provide that outlet. Similarly, positions as health educators, either working in a community setting, hospital environment or for a corporate entity, may allow a physician to continue providing health presentations or counseling to patient populations.
▪ Serve as faculty in biological sciences, public health, or other medically-related subjects
▪ Prepare curriculum and grade papers and tests.
▪ Teach students basic science or clinical curriculum
▪ Develop or improve medical curricula
▪ Teach students how the body works
▪ Help individuals to lead healthy lives
▪ Develop health presentations
▪ Community college
▪ Private university
▪ State university
|▪ Medical college|
▪ Public school
▪ Private corporation
Job responsibilities in the field of health education can include positions as medical school faculty, college professors, community health educators, health teachers, and corporate health wellness educators or managers.
Various job responsibilities may include:
- Preparing and updating curriculum
- Lecturing on basic science, public health, or clinical skills material for students
- Delivering health presentations and counseling individuals on health management topics, healthy living, and disease states
- Perform academic research, write abstracts, present findings, and apply for grants
- Review and grade papers, assignments, or exams
- Educate individuals on healthy habits or counsel regarding specific health conditions
Work Environment and Schedule
The work environment of educators is often relatively flexible. Those working in college academics may have classes to teach several days a week, and other academic obligations such as departmental meetings, research, or other commitments throughout the week, but often have some control over their weekly schedule. Some physicians transition to medical school faculty rather easily, either in clinical or the basic science disciplines, depending on their educational background. Most retain some of their clinical responsibilities if they are full time faculty. It may be harder to find a position with no clinical duties in a medical college as a physician, unless it’s a position in administration.
Health professionals that work in health education, such as for a hospital, local school, or other community organization will likely have some office work preparing presentations or coordinating resources, but may also spend time in the community with patient or student populations. Many health professionals find that academia or health education positions provide a great deal of flexibility, which can be an important factor for those with priorities such as raising a family or winding down a career prior to retirement.
Required Skills and Training
Many, but not all of these positions, will prefer or require a degree in public health, such as an MPH. Many physicians, via the nature of their previous positions, will informally have some experience in public and population health and should not have a problem obtaining a position in many areas in the field.
Required skills include:
- Passion for helping students grasp concepts and gain knowledge
- Comfortable lecturing and interacting with student learners
- Communication and critical thinking skills
- Ability to describe complex medical topics in a format appropriate to the learner
- Extensive knowledge of the topics being taught
Residency, Licensure, and Training Requirements
Board certification and licensure are not necessarily required, however clinical experience and an active license (as well as research experience) may help to gain a position at more prestigious universities. A teaching certificate is usually required to teach public grade school, such as high school health.
A degree in a health-related field required, with an advanced degree favorable for working in positions in health departments, hospitals, or universities. Some physicians that pursue teaching also possess another degree, such as a PhD, MBA, or MPH. A terminal degree is typically required for a university professor role. Depending on the position sought, holding a medical degree and clinical or research experience may so be viewed very favorably by a university, community college, medical school, or wherever else a physician is seeking to provide instruction.
Is This a Career for You?
Physicians with a gift for health instruction and an interest in academia, or those who wish to work part time passing on their knowledge as they approach retirement or simply because they wish for a lighter schedule, may enjoy health education. This is not to say that all education positions are relaxed. Those that work full time in academia or medical education can vouch for the busy lives that many lead, but overall health education has a variety of positions with the opportunity to work part time if desired. For those who are truly enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge with others, continually learning and researching, and improving public health through increased health knowledge, a position in health education may be perfect.
Depending on the nature of the employment, some physicians may not want to deal with the tenure process of academics or the potential stress of obtaining research grants. Physicians may also be relegated to either full- or part-time work, which may or may not fit their desired career goals, income, and lifestyle. Physicians will have to realize that, although their scheduled time may be significantly less, they also have to factor in time spent preparing curricula, grading papers and tests, or preparing lectures or presentations. Many still find a career in teaching highly rewarding.