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American Association for Physician Leadership
American Association for Physician Leadership

Teaching and Nonclinical Physician Careers

by Sylvie Stacy, MD, MPH

November 14, 2022


A doctorate degree of any type is a suitable background for many higher education teaching positions.

The U.S. higher education system is diverse. There are public and private institutions, ranging from small to large, in urban, suburban, and rural locations. Some are secular, and some have a religious affiliation. Each has an individual mission to disseminate knowledge.

As our understanding of the human body and how it interacts with the world deepens, the need for knowledgeable individuals to teach the next cohorts of scientists and health care professionals continues to expand.


A doctorate degree of any type is a suitable background for many higher education teaching positions. Extensive training in biology and medical science makes physicians particularly suited for teaching at medical schools, schools of public health, and health sciences schools. Programs in nursing, physician assisting, and pharmacy also rely on physicians to teach complex subjects related to medicine.


  • College

  • Public or private university


Similar Job Titles

  • Adjunct Faculty

  • Assistant, Associate, or full Professor

  • Instructor

  • Lecturer

University teaching faculty are responsible for fostering the knowledge and skills necessary for students’ success in both their degree programs and professional practice. This primarily involves planning and delivering course content to students through lectures, small group sessions, labs, and online.

Teaching faculty develop and review assignments and assessments to evaluate student knowledge. They provide feedback and support through holding office hours or answering questions asynchronously via online learning platforms. They work with teaching assistants and instructors to coordinate learning activities for courses.

In addition to teaching courses, teaching faculty dedicate a portion of their time to departmental-level duties and mentoring individual students. They may participate in recruiting activities, advise students, supervise student projects, and establish community partnerships for experiential learning opportunities.

Tenure-track faculty have more responsibility for service to the institution than instructors who are not vying for tenure. They may also be expected to participate in research or other scholarly activities.

Example Responsibilities

  • Teach courses in one or more subject areas

  • Work collaboratively with faculty to ensure consistency and alignment between courses

  • Evaluate, grade, and give feedback to students

  • Seek and secure opportunities for grants, collaborative projects, and interprofessional activities


Medical school faculty generally are required to hold a doctorate. Depending on the discipline, a medical degree may be required or preferred over a PhD. Faculty in other types of higher education, such as ancillary health programs, may instead hold the degree awarded by the program, a master’s degree, or other credential.

Academic appointments without clinical responsibilities rarely require an active medical license.

Faculty candidates are expected to have demonstrated interest in teaching and often are asked to share a pedagogical statement or teaching philosophy.


Teaching faculty rank and salary depend on qualifications and experience. Universities have established parameters on the necessary criteria for appointment to each academic rank within their faculty system.

Salary for academic teaching positions does not compete with that of clinical faculty. Nonetheless, several nonmonetary advantages can make a teaching career attractive. “University professor” was rated as one of the ten least stressful jobs by a 2018 CareerCast study. Teaching faculty have considerable flexibility in their day-to-day schedules and often receive generous time off in alignment with the school’s academic calendar.

Excerpted from 50 Nonclinical Careers for Physicians: Fulfilling, Meaningful, and Lucrative Alternatives to Direct Patient Care by Sylvie Stacy, MD, MPH.

Sylvie Stacy, MD, MPH

Sylvie Stacy, MD, MPH, is a board-certified preventive medicine physician in Birmingham, Alabama. She is the author of 50 Nonclinical Careers for Physicians: Fulfilling, Meaningful, and Lucrative Alternatives to Direct Patient Care published by the American Association for Physician Leadership.

For over 45 years.

The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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