Why I Chose Consulting After a Ph.D.

I joined L.E.K. two years ago as a Life Sciences Specialist (LSS) in the Los Angeles office, and since then have been promoted to Senior LSS. I am often asked, “Why did you go into consulting after acquiring a Ph.D.?” More brazen people will follow that question up with, “Did you just do it for the money?” I smile and begin to explain that for me and most Ph.D.s in consulting that I know, the pay is not first on the list of reasons for a Ph.D. to go into consulting.

Reason #1: I have been fascinated by the business side of the life sciences industries throughout my adult life.

In graduate school, I was fortunate enough to have an advisor who recognized this and offered me an opportunity to work in a part-time business development role at his company, which was founded based on technologies pioneered in his lab. It was perfect for me. Studying in my advisor’s lab at the university, I had deep technical knowledge of the company’s service offering and enough basic business acumen to assist in finding, negotiating, and managing outside collaborations with external life sciences tools and biopharmaceutical companies. I was happy initially, but eventually, I found that I wanted to contribute much more to the strategic direction of the company. I realized that I could not get the broader business training that I needed performing a small role at a small company. This brings me to reason #2.

Reason #2: I wanted an accelerated path to a management position at a life sciences company.

I needed to build business skills and real world experience that would broadly be recognized as valuable in the life sciences industries. However, I did not want to spend another two years in school and close to $100k earning an MBA. Consulting offers the opportunity to work alongside upper management at a variety of companies, solving their most challenging problems. Not surprisingly, a Ph.D. with a few years of consulting experience is generally recognized as equivalent to a Ph.D. with an MBA.

Reason #3: I wanted to broaden my exposure to different disciplines within life sciences.

Toward the end of my time as a grad student, I began pondering my career after graduating. I only knew that I wanted to continue to work in life sciences, and I wanted to work in this industry rather than academia or government. I asked myself several questions: Would I like to work in basic research or drug discovery? If in drug discovery, would I like to work generating lead compounds or in clinical trials testing leads in humans? In which therapeutic area would I like to work? Would I prefer to focus on developing novel experimental tools agnostic to a particular application or therapeutic area? Unable to focus my answers, I realized that I really wanted broad exposure to a variety of applications, therapeutic areas, and tools and techniques within the life sciences industries. I wanted to learn more about my options through first-hand experience. This was yet another reason to choose consulting as a next step. I thought that even if consulting was not to be my long-term career, my experiences in consulting would help me make an informed decision about different companies, projects, and career specialties that would fit my passions and aspirations. 

Of course, the pay in consulting is better than it would be as a post-doc, but hopefully by sharing my perspective, I’ve convinced you that consulting offers a recent Ph.D. grad much more than a just comfortable salary.

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