Description: Consultants help companies or other clients solve their business problems by providing support around a range of strategic and/or operational issues. Consultants are expected to be experts on their assigned projects or cases and are expected to know how to ask good questions, collect data, and compile information into meaningful advice. Corporations, governments, and nonprofit institutions all use consultants. Some tasks performed by consultants include conducting detailed industry analyses or devising key strategic initiatives for their clients. A graduate of a biomedical program, if pursuing a career in consulting, generally does so as an employee of a general management consulting firm, as an employee of a life sciences-specific boutique firm, or as a government contractor. Entry-level consultants, including PhD graduates, tend to be hired by larger firms initially. This is likely due to the fact that large firms have the most resources available for training new hires. It is not uncommon for consultants to later move to smaller firms. Often cited attractions are highly motivated colleagues, variety of projects, turnaround on results, and value of the work from a business perspective. The expanding knowledge base is perceived to be valuable as well with respect to career differentiation. Consulting can involve a tremendous amount of traveling, which can be enjoyable or not depending on circumstances.
Advantages of an advanced degree: An advanced degree (PhD or MD) is an advantageous route for any position in a consulting firm. What’s key, however, is how well one can think on their feet when given a project and the analytical approach brought to the table to solve the problem. It is extraordinarily important to be effective in communicating the framework and solution to your clients. Critical thinking and communication are all the skills one obtained during graduate training. A postdoctoral experience is not necessarily advantageous.
Key competencies: Essential skills include: ability to work effectively in a team and communicate clearly with professionals of different backgrounds. Good consultants also must have excellent analytical and problem solving skills, time management skills; and leadership skills.
On-campus student organizations: Penn Biotech Group (PBG) Health Care Consulting; Penn Graduate Consulting Group (PGCG)
First steps: Even though a consulting career does not require additional training prior to landing a job, there are things one can do to boost the chance of gaining the first position. These include seeking out consulting internship opportunities, getting involved in activities that demonstrate leadership and organization skills, attending information session, and networking with professionals in this field to learn more about the jobs.
BGS alumni are employed by a variety of consulting companies. Examples include: McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Schireson Associates.
- Resources on Consulting for PhDs and Post-Docs | Penn Career Services
- Vijaysree Venkatraman, The Science Careers guide to consulting careers for Ph.D. scientists | Science Careers
- Carly Loeb, Careers After the PhD: A Primer on Consulting | BenchFly
- S. Donaldson, Transitioning from PhD to consulting | University College London
- What Do Consultants DO, Exactly? | Hello PhD podcast
- Consulting | Johns Hopkins Biomedical Careers Initiative