After four years of college, four years of medical school, and several years in residency, imagining what your future will look like post-training can be a difficult thing for a physician to do.
You can’t start thinking about life after residency when your residency ends. You have to start thinking about it and planning for it while you’re still in training.
To help you make a smooth transition from resident to licensed, practicing physician, here are seven tips to plan for your future after residency.
1. Think About Where You Want to Work
You know what type of medicine you want to practice, but you’ll also need to decide where you want to practice it.
Workplace settings for physicians run the gamut, including:
Community health clinics
Urgent care centers
Narrowing down the type of workplace you want to practice in can make it easier to focus your job search to meet that criteria.
2. Think About Where You Want to Live
In addition to the workplace setting, you’ll want to think about where, geographically, you want that workplace to be.
For some physicians, it’s important to stay close to home to be near family and friends. Others welcome the opportunity to move to a different city, a new state, or even a foreign country.
Some specialties are in greater demand in certain locations, so many residents allow their specialty to help steer them into moving to (or remaining in) a region where job opportunities are plentiful.
3. Think About What Type of Lifestyle You Want
Is your goal to make as much money as possible? To travel the world? To start a family and raise children early on in your career?
There are a wide variety of job opportunities for physicians, including locum tenens positions that allow you to work part-time or for short periods of a few months. If you’re unsure about which workplace setting to choose, working various types of locum tenens positions can help you determine which workplace is the best fit for you.
4. Make a Plan to Repay Medical School Loans
Residents with medical school debt or student loan debt should make paying off their loans a top priority. One way to pay off that debt is to work in a rural state that offers a loan repayment program.
Many rural states have a high demand for physicians and encourage physicians to work in their state by offering to pay off a large portion of their student loans. For example, the Montana Rural Physician Incentive Program offers physicians up to $150,000 in loan repayment assistance.
5. Start Preparing for Retirement Early
It’s never too soon to start planning for retirement. Even as a resident you can start researching investment options, deciding which type of retirement accounts you want to open, and protecting yourself with policies such as life insurance and disability insurance. .
When you land your first job after residency, you’ll have to sign an employment contract, and you should hire a physician contract lawyer to review your employment contract before you sign on the dotted line. This is the best way to ensure that the terms of your new employment opportunity meet both your short-term and long-term goals, including how much you will earn and what retirement benefits will be made available to you.
6. Build Your Network
Building a robust network of physicians, colleagues, and fellow residents can help you land your first position as well as benefit you later in your career. Attend networking events whenever possible and take the time to forge strong relationships with other physicians — you never know who many know of a great opportunity. .
7. Explore All of Your Options
As a resident, it’s best to keep an open mind and keep your options open. Between financial goals, lifestyle preferences, and the type of work you intend to do, your priorities may change over time and over the course of your residency.
Finding the perfect job or the perfect place to live and practice can take time, so be open-minded about any and all opportunities that come your way.
It’s never too early to plan for your future after residency. Most residents start applying to jobs about four to six months before the end of their residency, but many start conducting research, preparing their CV, and formulating long-term plans as much as two years before their residency ends.
Whether you’re a first year or a fourth year resident just starting to think about the future, the time to put a plan in place is now.