MD Without Residency: What Are Your Options?

May 6, 2024


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 5/6/24

Do MDs have to attend a residency to get jobs? Follow along to learn about job options for MD graduates without residency, including what to expect if you choose not to attend a residency, and answers to your FAQs.

Did you know that you don’t need to attend a residency program to obtain a medical degree? Medical residency is an optional program in which MD graduates begin training under a senior physician (with pay) to become independent doctors in their specialty

First MD grads partake in medical school residency match day to find a residency to pursue and gain the skills they need for practicing as a physician. During residency, doctors also begin the process of earning a medical license. 

However, this isn’t your only option as an MD grad. Here we take a look at your options for completing an MD without residency, from which jobs you can apply for to what educational path could be your next move.

Let’s get started!

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Is Residency Required After Medical School?

First, it’s important to understand that residency is not mandatory after medical school. Earning an MD is enough to get you some interesting, lucrative and important jobs! Your next steps are completely up to you.

That said, if you wish to become a doctor, residency is the best way to guarantee that you’ll secure jobs as a physician. Most countries will not allow you to practice medicine independently if you do not have a medical license, which you earn throughout your years in residency. 

The main takeaway here is that there are states where you can practice medicine without residency, however, obtaining your medical license is mandatory for practicing as an independent physician - for which you need to complete a residency program. However, there are tons of jobs in the medical field outside of becoming an independent physician, and some of them may be right for you. 

Job Options for MDs Without Residency or Medical License

Let’s discuss job options for MD without residency. The following list comprises several viable options for MDs who do not wish to attend a residency program. Keep in mind, these aren’t the only options out there! 

We’ve organized our list by the highest paying jobs for MD holders without residency. Although none of these jobs require residency, some may require additional education or certification beyond an MD degree.

1. Medical Research Scientist 

Medical research teams are composed of many scientists with different levels of education and backgrounds. As a medical researcher, you’ll assist NGOs, health specialists, research centres, and governments as they conduct experiments and analyze results to expand our knowledge of medicine and improve public health. 

Average Salary (US): $97,660

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, MD

Responsibilities: Conducting tests, lab work, research 

2. Medical and Health Services Management

If you enjoy leadership roles, you may want to consider pursuing a career in medical and health services management. Health service managers work behind the scenes in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations to oversee everyday operations, partnerships, and professional relationships. 

Average Salary (US):  $161,256

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, MD Optional

Responsibilities: Management, budgeting, development & implementation of policies

3. Physician Assistant (PA)

Physician assistants work alongside physicians to help with everyday responsibilities. Under the direct supervision of a physician, PAs conduct physicals, take patient histories, order/interpret tests, assist in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, counsel patients on preventive health care, and may even assist in minor surgeries. 

PA certification is required. 

Average Salary (US): $119,625

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, MD, PA Certification 

Responsibilities: Assist a physician day-to-day. 

4. Surgical Assistant

Surgical assistants provide immediate assistance to surgeons throughout surgical procedures. As defined by the AST, they “provide aid in exposure, hemostasis, closure, and other intraoperative technical functions that help the surgeon carry out a safe operation with optimal results for the patient.” 

Completion of a surgical assistant program is required. 

Average Salary (US): $130,080

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Surgical Assistant program

Responsibilities: Minor surgical procedures, surgical assistance

5. Post-Secondary Medical Instruction

If you enjoy teaching, medical instruction may be the right career path for you. Medical instructors are postsecondary teachers who conduct classes on medical care and health. You may teach future nurses, surgical assistants or doctors in your courses. 

Average Salary (US): $95,706

Education: MD or PhD

Responsibilities: Creating lesson plans, teaching classes, and conducting assessments

6. Medical Writer/Editor

MD grads who enjoy writing papers may want to consider becoming a medical writer. As a medical writer, it’s your responsibility to smoothly translate complex medical information into readable text. You’ll write documents such as clinical trial reports, medical grants, safety information, manuals, and more.

Average Salary (US): $95,748 with MD

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, MD

Responsibilities: Writing medical texts, translating data, and copywriting

7. Anesthesiologist Assistant (AA)

Anesthesia assistants administer anesthetic gases and medications, monitor patient conditions, and perform additional patient care tasks under the supervision of anesthesiologists. They help care for surgical patients during regional, general, or conscious sedation anesthesia. AA certification is required.

Average Salary (US): $47,340

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, AA Certification

Responsibilities: Assist an Anesthesiologist to care for surgical patients. 

8. Professor - Medical Administration

Medical administration professors teach courses on health and medical administration in post-secondary educational institutions. You’ll develop courses independently, teach, conduct student assessments, and you may research or create publications. Unlike a medical instructor, however, this position requires a PhD

Average Salary (US): $117,160

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, MD, PhD

Responsibilities: Course creation, teaching, assessing work, publishing

9. Ultrasound Technician (Diagnostic Medical Sonography)

If you enjoy working independently, you may want to consider a career in sonography. Ultrasound technicians (or sonographers) help doctors to diagnose their patients using sonographic imaging. They also take care of the sonography equipment, prepare the exam room, and, most importantly, alert doctors of any abnormalities they may find. 

Average Salary (US): $81,350

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Sonography certification

Responsibilities: Take sonographic images, help doctors diagnose patients, assist radiologists

10. Neurodiagnostic Technologists

Neurodiagnostic technologists use digital equipment to record electrical patterns that run throughout the brain and nervous system in order to diagnose abnormalities. Under the supervision of a doctor, they analyze the data gathered to diagnose conditions such as epilepsy, strokes, degenerative brain disease, and more.

Average Salary (US): $61,370

Education: Associate degree, neurodiagnostic technologist certificate program

Responsibilities: Using neurodiagnostic equipment, assisting physicians to diagnose patients

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few other popular jobs that you can get with an MD degree:

  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Pharmaceutical Medical Advisor
  • Personal Trainer
  • Public Health Officer
  • Massage Therapist
  • Medical Translator 
  • Fitness Counselor 
  • Medical Consultant

Whichever career you choose to pursue, ensure it suits your individual interests. One thing that’s interesting about pursuing a job with an MD and no residency is that it may be easier to change things up if you’re unsatisfied with your job. If at first you don’t succeed, try again!

FAQs: MD Without Residency

Below are our answers to some frequently asked questions concerning what you can do with an MD degree without residency.

1. Can You Get An MD Without Residency?

Yes. Residency is not mandatory, it is a specialty training program that you can choose to enter after completing your MD. However, residency is a mandatory step to achieving medical licensure in the US, which will allow you to practice medicine as an independent physician.

2. What Can An MD Do Without Residency?

There are plenty of job options for MD graduates who don’t want to pursue residency. Some popular ones include becoming a surgical assistant, a medical instructor, a medical research assistant, or even a massage therapist. Read on for more!

3. Can You Be A Doctor Without Residency?

If you want to become a practicing physician in the US, you’ll need to complete a residency program. Residency is required (typically at least two years) in order to take your USMLE step exams. You’ll need to complete the USMLE to obtain your medical license and practice medicine in the US and in most other countries.

Final Thoughts

If you want to become a doctor, you’ll need to complete a residency program after your MD. However, you can still work in the medical field if you do not want to attend a residency program after your MD. 

Whichever path you choose, make sure you’re considering all of your interests, the options available to you with your current level of education, and that you’re prioritizing your long term happiness. The world is your oyster.

Good luck!

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