How to become a Career Coach as a Doctor

A comprehensive guide on how to get into career coaching as a doctor.

how to become a career coach

Becoming a career coach is an increasingly popular avenue for doctors — it’s an interesting and satisfying way of using well-honed communication skills to help others, with some familiarity in using a consultation setting to assist someone else in dealing with the issues in their life. Some coaches specialise in helping medical professionals in particular, whereas others choose to have a more diverse clientele list.

As a doctor-turned-career-coach you will have a unique insight into the obstacles and barriers which can hamper your former colleagues from realising their full potential, and helping them recognise how to become more confident and happy in their working lives can provide you with an incredibly fulfilling career opportunity.

Here we explore career coaching by doctors, where to begin if you’re interested in this career, and give you all of our expert tips on being a successful coach.

What is career coaching?

how to become a career coach

Career coaches essentially ask the right questions, rather than providing the answers, when working with their clients on their journeys. They are a sounding board for ideas, values, and thoughts about the ‘roads not taken’, whilst encouraging honesty and self-awareness around all areas of life which could be impacted upon by work. As a general rule, coaches work with a functional situation in the present which can be explored and moved forwards, and not with past issues which require counselling (thorough examination and resolution) before progress can be made.

“For me, the role of coaching in medicine is to create the time and space needed for doctors to explore their values, motivations and thought processes”

Dr Laura Blackburn, Gastroenterologist and Founder of Transition Solutions

Why do doctors make good career coaches?

  • Knowledge of the system: Medical training in the UK, and the employment of doctors within the NHS, is a bit of a mystery to most people who work outside of it. The requirement for doctors to move around the country for years working in exhausting & highly pressured environments isn’t a business model which is generally understood. Even discussing the difference between Core and Specialty Trainees with other healthcare professionals can often get complicated! As someone who has personally experienced the system, you will have an inherent understanding of certain terms and processes (such as the requirements for GMC revalidation, and the implications this could have on an individual’s career journey).

  • Identification of transferable skills: Many doctors are so used to seeing others every day with the same skills, or even many who they view as ‘better’ than them, that they feel their actions at work are commonplace without anything exceptional to offer. As a career coach you will be able to explore this — asking specifically whether they have undertaken certain duties, and pointing out that even ‘simple’ tasks as a doctor tend to demonstrate a wealth of abilities which can translate well to a number of other roles.
  • Client connection: By ‘speaking the language’ of UK medical training and NHS employment, you’re likely to be able to connect properly with your healthcare clients. As you’re a doctor who has taken a different path yourself, chances are they’ll feel able to open up to you about the difficulties and obstacles in their working life, which will enable you to provide them with excellent tailored help and advice.
  • Diverse clientele: You don’t have to coach doctors! Career coaches are a valuable resource to people from all walks of life and in every employment journey, and many of the methods used in exploring and understanding a client’s situation can be broadly applied. Your medical school training will have helped you establish your own methodology for undertaking research, which will be useful if there are times where you need to thoroughly understand the usual progression within another career path.
  • Interested in people: Doctors are inherently curious and like to find out about people and their lives. To succeed at career coaching you’ll need to be open-minded about clients’ values & opinions without passing judgment, and be patient when helping them to articulate feelings they may not entirely understand themselves. Hopefully this will feel very familiar, as this was a large part of your old day job!

Practicalities of career coaching as a doctor

Types of coaching sessions

Coaching can take many forms, which keeps the working day interesting and varied. In this rapidly-evolving age of technology, it is now common practice to offer both in-person and Skype sessions to clients. This has the added bonus of breaking down national and international barriers relatively easily without worrying too much about anyone’s location, and being able to choose the best times for you to work. In the coaching sessions themselves, you would usually start by finding out some basic information about your client using a range of tools, and later refer to essential components of their personality & values to guide their progress.

What issues do career coaches help with?

how to become a career coach
  • Accepting/declining a promotion
  • Role change (including specialty decisions)
  • Taking a career break
  • Deciding whether to go back into education
  • Moving to a new location or country
  • Preparing to re-start work after a break
  • Re-evaluating work after a big life event
  • Changing careers completely


This depends on the type of coaching involved, the experience of the coach, and the amount of sessions block-booked at one time. Coaches in the UK tend to charge £50—£400 per hour, with many offering a free starter session via phone or Skype. 

Career progression

If you have an entrepreneurial streak, consider setting up your business with the scope to employ other coaches and staff down the line (in anticipation of your client base expanding). Depending on your personal strengths and interests, you may want to explore opportunities related to becoming a speaker or teacher on the subject, or even write a book like Dr Lis Paice OBE (physician, former Dean of Postgraduate Medical Education for London, & Winner of the NHS National Leadership Award as Mentor of the Year 2010). For more on a developing a career as a doctor entrepreneur, check out our career guide.

Freelance services

Consider approaching NHS Deaneries and other large companies who focus on their employees’ health & wellbeing — many organisations employ independent career coaches to provide sessions for staff on their behalf, which can be useful both as a secondary income stream and as word-of-mouth advertising for your business. You could also offer to run workshops or careers sessions for small groups of employees, to encourage staff development and empowerment.

I am passionate about helping people identify and commit to a clear purpose in all they do

Dr Tim Ojo, FRCPsych, Senior Founding Fellow of the FMLM & Director of Eko Consulting Ltd.
how to become a career coach

How do doctors become career coaches?

Experience it for yourself

If you’ve heard enough and you’re sure that you want to help people realise their own career goals — great! If you’d like to do a bit more research first, then having some career guidance of your own could help in a couple of ways:

  • by helping you explore and establish your own goals, and
  • potentially turn your gut feeling into new-found confidence that working as a coach is for you. 

Most Deaneries provide a limited number of free sessions for their staff (try searching their website or asking your Trust’s Postgraduate Education team). Some doctor-led companies offer free or reduced rate introductory sessions — check out Transition Solutions and Other Options for Doctors.

Test your skills

If you’re unsure whether you will feel comfortable providing advice to your peers (or perhaps people who would have been your senior colleagues), see whether you can sign up as a mentor within your NHS Trust. Some hospitals have started assigning SHOs as ‘buddies’ to F1 doctors as a general supportive ear and sounding board, which can be a great place to test your skills — who doesn’t have questions about their next career move during Foundation Training?! Alternatively you could suggest designing some small group career teaching sessions, or presenting a talk on options for future specialty pathways or Out Of Program Experiences (OOPEs) to your colleagues.

how to become a career coach

Go for it!

how to become a career coach

If you’d like to start working as an independent or self-employed career coach, start by undertaking some market research (identifying the demographics of your potential clients) and building/branding your website in response to this information. Have a browse through the GOV.UK website’s self-employment section — you don’t necessarily need to set up a limited company for your business straight away, but it might be an idea to get some financial advice on the matter from an accountant so you’re prepared. If it’s your first experience of being self-employed, make sure you understand your responsibilities when submitting tax returns by certain deadlines, trading appropriately, and using premises for business purposes.

Consider a postgraduate qualification

There are various options to further your own development in career coaching depending on what you’d like to focus on. If you’d like to undertake a Masters or Postgraduate Diploma, you might like to consider these courses provided by Warwick University (options for full- or part-time, in person or distance learning) and Birkbeck University (2 years part-time, in person learning only). There’s currently no ‘gold standard’ in terms of qualifications or accreditation — although this can be somewhat frustrating in that there is no nationally-agreed level for you to aspire to, it does mean you can research different organisations and decide for yourself who is ensuring that appropriate guidelines and procedures are being adhered to. There are a few bodies who are well-recognised in terms of providing regulation in this field:

how to become a career coach

Where can I find out more about career coaching by doctors?

Medic Footprints resources

As always, you can find much of what you need right here! Get started by reading this excellent article with Dr Laura Blackburn about her journey into career coaching and how she founded her own coaching company, Transition Solutions. Our premium members can listen to both Laura and Dr Tim Ojo talk in detail about their diverse and exciting careers on this Coaching for Doctors Webinar. Also check out this question & answer session following a Medic Footprints networking event featuring 6 different career coaches!

The Faculty of Medical Leadership & Management (FMLM)

The FMLM are strong advocates of career coaching & mentoring for doctors, and have a wealth of interesting articles available to peruse on their website. They offer a free mentor/mentee programme to their members, which encompasses both career coaching and leadership training, and have developed The Coaching Network to support and assist doctors and healthcare professionals to progress and expand their scope of practice. 

Social media & events

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn — all of these platforms and more are invaluable sources of information, support, and rapid contact with like-minded individuals! For example, the Career Coach Forum on LinkedIn has over 7,000 practicing members who can connect and converse with each other (be mindful that there are strict rules around the promotion of advertising materials), and Facebook groups for medics interested in coaching can be very helpful. The Coaching Tools Company regularly lists details of national or international teaching events related to coaching, particularly those with a psychological or psychodynamic focus. 

Career coaching is a great way to diversify your own medical journey, either as a part-time role to supplement your clinical work or as your main focus. It’s an extremely fulfilling way of discovering new skills and techniques whilst helping those who work in the NHS (and beyond) to realise their full potential, and to assist them in developing their careers in ways they may not have thought possible before.

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Fiona Dogan

Dr. Fiona Dogan is both a GMC-registered doctor and Medico-Legal Services Manager for an NHS Trust, and is currently undertaking the Capsticks Diploma in Clinical Risk and Claims Management. She has always enjoyed writing, and regularly seeks ways to combine her creativity with her medical knowledge. Her published articles include 'Physicians & Magicians: A Magical Education in Life, Death, Power, Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts’ (BMJ Medical Humanities, 2015).