Beyond the white coat: Exploring the side gig economy of today's physicians

By Kara Wada, MD Published April 1, 2024
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Cattle rancher. Musician. Ringside sitter. Thoroughbred horse trainer. What do these occupations have to do with medicine? In most cases, absolutely nothing. And that's the point. In a growing trend, practicing doctors are pursuing out-of-the-box side ventures—along with more traditional moonlighting—to augment their income and nurture interests beyond medicine.

MDLinx surveyed 50 physicians currently working a side gig alongside their medical practice. The survey results shed light on why physicians would spend what little free time they have outside the clinic on side work—and how it has changed their perspective on medicine overall.

What's behind the physician side gig trend?

Propelled by changing compensation trends, lower reimbursement rates, high burnout, and pressures caused by the industry-wide exodus from medicine, more physicians are taking side gigs alongside their medical practice. Side gigs provide additional sources of income, a chance to develop new skills for career advancement, and a pathway to explore entrepreneurial avenues—all without leaving medicine. 

"My side gig has given me the freedom to enjoy medicine again."

MDLinx survey respondent

Statistics show almost 40% of US doctors are working side gigs, pulling in an average of $34,000 each year supplementary to their primary income.[1] This may not be surprising, as young physicians enter the workforce already saddled with staggering amounts of student debt. When combined with workplace woes like decreasing reimbursement rates and longer hours without higher pay, it’s no wonder that, for many, side gigs present a feasible solution to ongoing financial pressures.

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Related: Physician compensation 2023: The good, the bad, and the ugly

While some physicians rely on their side gig for a significant portion of their income, most of those surveyed by MDLinx said their side job constitutes, at most, only 10% of their total annual income. Only 2% of survey respondents said their side gig contributes more than 50% to their total income.

So why do they do it? For many physicians, side gigs provide not just supplementary income but also a financial safety net that can enable earlier retirement. These ventures offer monetary freedom and a cushion against uncertain economic fluctuations affecting the healthcare sector.

Related: You’ll need this much money to retire

Beyond financial benefits, they offer invaluable opportunities for career and skill enhancement. Engaging in different professional environments allows physicians to broaden their expertise, network with diverse groups, and stay attuned to industry trends and innovations.

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Many physicians are leveraging their medical knowledge to create healthcare startups, educational platforms, or consultancy firms, contributing significantly to the healthcare ecosystem while also advancing their careers.

Related: Physician side-hustlers! Don't give all your money to Uncle Sam

Traditional types of side gigs for physicians

Let’s take a look at side opportunities that allow physicians to capitalize on their medical knowledge.


Moonlighting is often the first foray many physicians take into working outside of their typical “day” jobs. In years past, this work typically entailed spending nights or weekends in the hospital, but as healthcare has evolved, especially in light of the pandemic, the surge in telehealth provides a convenient, accessible mode of healthcare delivery. 

Physicians can offer telehealth consultation services remotely, providing flexibility in their schedule while catering to patients from different geographical locations. Telemedicine is game-changing, as it extends a physician’s reach and impact, making healthcare easily accessible to underserved or remote communities.

Medical consulting

Physicians possess a wealth of knowledge and experience, making them prime candidates for consulting roles at pharmaceutical or biotech companies, or as expert witnesses in legal cases. 

Related: Lucrative side hustle: Medical expert witness

"Medical consulting allows me to offer my expertise to non-patients interested in current and emerging medications and devices."

MDLinx survey respondent

Consulting also offers a flexible working model, with physicians advising on malpractice cases, new drugs, and medical devices in developmental stages. These positions are also relatively well-paid, with remuneration reflecting a physician’s expertise. However, these roles may demand more time than other side gig opportunities, and may also present a conflict of interest, requiring careful navigation and consideration.

Medical publishing

With a deep understanding of medical terminology and processes, physicians can venture into medical writing and editing. 

This not only allows them to share their knowledge with a broader audience but also establishes them as thought leaders in their fields, fostering a reputation of authority and expertise. 

Writing opportunities abound in academic journals, health magazines, medical blogs, and even in authoring books.


Digital platforms have opened the doors for physicians to engage in coaching, online courses, or social media influencing. They can share their knowledge, guide aspiring medical professionals, or influence health-related behaviors and decisions among the general public.

"My side gig has helped me realize that my talents and opinions are needed in my field."

MDLinx survey respondent

Virtual entrepreneurship provides a unique blend of medicine and business, with the digital space offering endless possibilities for innovation, outreach, and money-making opportunities.

Related: 6 money mistakes to avoid as an early career attending physician

Non-medical opportunities

While many physicians will remain within the medical or educational realms, others opt for opportunities outside of medicine, such as real estate. Real estate investment is an especially viable side gig for physicians seeking financial diversification. 

With a stable and often lucrative return on investment, real estate provides a tangible asset that can appreciate over time, offering financial security and additional income while demanding little to no medical expertise (ie, a welcome “brain break”). 

Some real-estate opportunities, such as owning your own medical building, renting out a vacation home, or investing in a long-term rental property, require more active management. Some physicians elect to invest in real estate syndicates, which is a more passive option. 

Related: Investing 101: 5 steps to build passive income

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Balancing a side gig alongside medical practice

Practicing medicine is inherently time-consuming, and adding a side gig to the equation necessitates meticulous time management. Physicians need to delineate clear boundaries between their primary profession and side venture, prioritizing patient care while allotting dedicated time for their entrepreneurial endeavors. 

Related: From residency to retirement: How compensation changes over a physician’s career

Utilizing digital tools and calendars, delegating tasks, and setting realistic goals are pivotal in managing both roles efficiently without succumbing to burnout. Ironically, though, many physicians find that adding a side gig has helped them recover from burnout. 

There are a few reasons for this—one being that side gigs allow physicians to pursue a passion, as indicated by 25% of MDLinx survey respondents.

Other respondents said their side gig is something that allows them to unwind. “It definitely has impacted work-life balance positively," said one respondent, who started investing in real estate more than 30 years ago—around the same time they started their own medical practice.

"It is a relief from dealing with the public full time."

MDLinx survey respondent

Another respondent, an oncologist who works on the side as a baseball umpire and soccer referee for professional and high school teams, said their side gig taught them how to relax, and that they “enjoy the lack of stress compared to cancer patients—even with parents and spectators and coaches, at times, being less than nice.”

What we heard from HCPs: The impact on work-life balance

  • “It has made me a better doctor.”

  • “No influence, because the rental gig takes minimal effort.”

  • “Many of my patients are farmers and ranchers, so being a cattle rancher myself gives me credibility no other MD in the area has.”

  • “I have less time for recreational activities, unfortunately.”

  • “It has been rewarding—spiritually, though not monetarily—to help patients via information and education.”

  • “It has allowed me to cut back on clinical shifts.”

  • “It has improved my work-life balance because it is completely outside of medicine, and I can visit my rental properties for short vacations.”

  • “It allows me to explore other areas of medicine and gives me a break from my day-to-day job.”

While some HCPs enjoy the ways their side gig allows them to diversify their time, others bemoan further reductions in their free time. “It decreases my quality time spent with family,” said one respondent surveyed by MDLinx. Others echoed this, while still recognizing that the pros far outweigh the cons.

"It has reduced my time with family, but they appreciate the extra income."

MDLinx survey respondent

Potential challenges of having a side gig

Balancing a side gig and medical practice isn't just a matter of time; it’s also about navigating through potential ethical dilemmas and other challenges. Physicians must remain vigilant against conflicts of interest, ensuring their side gigs don’t compromise patient care or violate professional standards. Transparency, integrity, and adherence to the ethical codes of the medical profession are non-negotiable, safeguarding both the physician's reputation and the sanctity of patient trust. 

While most of the physicians surveyed by MDLinx indicated that they don’t experience any challenges in juggling their side gig alongside medical practice, 32% reported they struggle with time management, 8% said their side gig can interfere with their primary work, and 4% said administrative issues—such as sourcing the proper credentials and navigating legal terrain—represented the biggest challenge.

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Many doctors would agree—whatever challenges are presented by taking on side work, the positives almost always outweigh the negatives. 

Case studies: Physician entrepreneurs

Here, we share two case studies of practicing physicians who have a side gig that helps them fulfill both personal and professional goals.

Dr. Phil Boucher, pediatrician and entrepreneur

Pediatrician Phil Boucher, MD, successfully juggles his thriving medical practice and his multifaceted entrepreneurial work. His career, both inside and outside of the exam room, has evolved since he ventured into side work beginning in 2018. 

Initially inspired to provide solutions for his pediatric patient’s parents, he created several well-regarded onlining parenting courses. Not only did he find this endeavor to be a creative outlet, it also helped hone his time-management, marketing, and business skills—skills which opened up additional opportunities for side work in consulting and coaching. One of these ventures—a texting service that connects patients to appointments with a wait list, called Open Spot—was created in direct response to one of his patient’s needs.

"For me, the benefits are the challenge of doing something you haven’t done and exercising parts of your brain that haven’t been used before."

Phil Boucher, MD

Dr. Boucher tells MDLinx that learning how to start and run a business—through teamwork, delegation, and project management—has translated into new ways to serve his patients. 

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Dr. Dana Corriel, internal medicine physician and digital health influencer

Dana Corriel, MD, transformed her career from an internal medicine doctor to a digital health influencer and community builder. She leverages social media to educate the masses on health and wellness through SoMeDocs (aka, Doctors on Social Media), a healthcare innovation hub. 

Dr. Corriel’s journey exemplifies the potential of virtual entrepreneurship for physicians, illuminating the path for many looking to make a significant impact online while exploring novel career trajectories. 

The site provides resources to facilitate connections, promotions, and exposure among physicians, which Dr. Corriel hopes will ultimately lead to greater autonomy for doctors everywhere. She has even introduced a free option for doctors practicing within the US, widening access to a place where doctors can network, collaborate, and grow for the health of their career. 

"It’s been a true adventure for me."

Dana Corriel, MD

SoMeDocs also boasts a digital magazine, which is produced by Dr. Corriel herself, made up of medical content created and circulated by her colleagues. Next, she plans to build a parallel arm of SoMeDocs that helps medical and pre-medical students find housing, in an effort to facilitate connections between a younger generation of doctors.

“The concept of a ‘side gig’ is still so new for many of us, who train for so long to do traditional work," Dr. Corriel tells MDLinx. "Exploring opportunities together is key to innovating our field, and I’m excited to be spearheading a brand new community space toward this goal.”

What we heard from HCPs: Lessons learned from taking on a side gig

  • “Medicine can still be fun with less responsibility for patient lives. I can kill a patient in the operating room, but I cannot hurt anyone by teaching and training other physicians.”

  • “I now have a better understanding of why patients sue, or why doctors get sued, as well as how to best protect oneself.”

  • “It’s given me more patience to deal with the demands of patients.”

  • “I’ve learned there are other ways to make a living—working far less than I do in medicine.”

  • “My side gig has helped me to realize that my talents and opinions are needed in my field.”

Parting thoughts

For physicians considering side gigs, as exemplified by Dr. Corriel, Dr. Boucher, and the physicians surveyed by MDLinx, it is essential they assess their financial goals, career aspirations, and ethical boundaries carefully.

There are so many different opportunities to explore in the world of side gigs, each with their own potential benefits and challenges. Physicians can seek guidance from legal experts and mentors in their chosen field, or review relevant resources like the websites SoMeDocs and Physician Side Gigs

At the end of the day, physician side gigs are not mere financial endeavors; they're extensions of medical professionals’ skills, knowledge, and passion into broader realms. With careful planning, ethical diligence, and a commitment to balance, these ventures not only promise financial rewards but also professional growth, societal contribution, and personal satisfaction. 

What we heard from HCPs: Advice for physicians pursuing a new side gig

  • “Don’t invest too much time in a side venture if it’s not your passion.”

  • “Do something that will give you variety. It will help burnout.”

  • “Do something that relaxes you and that you enjoy. The money is much less important than the fun you will have doing your chosen activity.”

  • “Take the time to investigate and talk to others who are already doing your side gig.”

  • "Not putting all your eggs in one basket is always a good plan, and it can be a welcome distraction."

  • "Make sure the extra time commitment won’t compromise your home life.”

  • “Your side venture is unlikely to become a primary source of income right away, and it may take a fair amount of time to become successful at it.” 

  • “Choose carefully, and it can help you retire early.”

It’s worth pointing out that there might come a time when a side gig starts overshadowing a physician’s primary practice, either financially or in terms of job satisfaction. This crossroad is delicate, and physicians must weigh their passion, commitment, and the impact they wish to have in both arenas before making informed decisions on transitioning or maintaining the dual roles. 

It can be scary to let go of or see our identity as a physician evolve over time. Crafting a healthy balance between professional commitments and personal life, while prioritizing patient care and ethical standards, is crucial to ensure a sustainable and fulfilling dual-career path.

Read Next: Flashback to the 1970s: Was it better to be a doctor then or now?


  1. McKenna J. What You Love or Loathe in Your Side Hustle: Medscape Physician Side Gigs Report 2023. Medscape. October 12, 2023.