Should I get another degree? Four questions To Ask Yourself FIRST

Hi everyone, starting this week and every following week (until we run out of questions), I will be asking my friend Kent McMackin, President of Physician Leaders for Today, a question that I’ve been asked by physicians thinking about transitioning out of clinical medicine.

I know Kent is the best to answer this question, and every question I’ve come upon, because he is unbiased, is not affiliated with a particular pathway or company, isn’t a recruiter, etc and has helped thousands of physicians successfully transition from clinical into non-clinical and executive roles. He carefully assesses each aspect of a physician’s resume to help guide the physician to the right next step. 

Sometimes he may recommend a higher degree.

Sometimes he may recommend against it.

It’s all based on the physician as a whole person. Because these questions are so general, it’s hard to be specific to your situation, so if you’d ever like to reach out to personally ask Kent about what advice he may have for your situation, I have his contact information at the end. (Please don’t spam him :D)

Onto this week’s question:

Would getting additional degrees help me transition?

If so, which degrees do you recommend?

How do I decide?

I literally hear this question ALL THE TIME.

I see it posted on every Facebook group and the advice is all over the place. People who have taken all types of graduate or additional degrees and certifications tout that theirs is the best and you should go enroll asap too.

I’ve seen recommended degrees like the MBA, acupuncture medicine, various types of personal coaching certification, leadership graduate level degrees, etc.

I myself have enrolled in an online certification program Board Certification in Medical Affairs Program (BCMAS), which I have outlined my experience in a previous blog series.

My reasons were basically this: it was online, affordable, and I have no idea if pharmaceutical industry could be something I might even like or want to transition into it one day so I needed to find out more about it.

One thing is very important and clear, I did not take the course because I thought it would help me get a job. No program can guarantee that. No school, recruiter, coach, certification, or anyone can guarantee you will get a job.

Overall, I thought the program was worth it and met my expectations. But those are my own reasons.

Okay, enough about me and let’s hear from the true expert, Kent!

Kent’s response:

It would be unethical to respond to this question without first assessing your career work history, education, and goals for the future.

This is a crucial step in the transition process.  Remember, having an MD or DO degree already makes you “the best” candidate for any administrative/executive position in healthcare; after all, your business is clinical medicine!

I find the challenge many physicians face when transitioning from clinical medicine, is not understanding the need to transform their clinical CV to include the business/financial impact they created while accessing services and products for their patients.

I recommend, before you waste your time and a significant amount of money on a graduate degree that you initially focus on defining the business acumen you already possess within the most valuable clinical experience you have already gained.

If you choose to pay and work with an advisor or consultant who is an expert in transitioning physicians; insure that they have both clinical and operations experience.

Healthcare organizations, to include physicians who own clinical organizations covet physicians for one major purpose;  a physician’s ability to generate revenue. Once a medical school graduate, resident, fellow, or practicing physician decides to transition away from clinical medicine and “generating revenue” to a non-clinical role, where they will not “generate revenue”, their value to the industry significantly declines or is lost in total without intervention.

Prior to making a transition I work with my clients to clearly define their value proposition as a non clinical physician.

How do you do that?

First, by quantitatively connecting the dots between the correlation of how your medical degree and clinical experience added economic value to the healthcare industry and second, by applying that experience to the ripple effect.

The ripple effect simply defined is the process physicians “start” to access the services and products they will need to treat their customer; the patient.

This process clearly defines the economic value proposition each physician generates; and how this proposition will be a major component for you landing a new job.

Prior to selecting a graduate level degree your decision is tied to answering the following questions:

1. What was/is your value proposition and span of control as a clinician (this includes those who only completed medical school or part of a residency program)?

2. What is your new value proposition?

3. How did you utilize the three C’s, communication, cooperation, and collaboration with physician colleagues and healthcare organizations, as a clinician, to provide services and products for your patients (must be clearly defined both quantitative and qualitative)?

4. What are the measurable, independent variables that will get you hired as a physician in an administrative role?

If you don’t understand or can’t answer the above questions, starting a graduate level degree might be a waste of money and time.

If it is your plan/goal to remain in the healthcare industry, your core experience is clinical medicine which gives you an advantage.

A graduate level degree is an offensive weapon that should enhance your clinical experience through a laser focus to improve a healthcare process, service or product.

Remember this is general advice for everyone, if you want to see what Kent would advise based on your own specific situation, you can email him at

Kent can also be found on LinkedIn

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