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Should a doctorate in natural sciences join the consulting industry – who gave it a try?

business situation Case Interview consultation consulting consulting job enter consulting internship MBB natural sciences phd recruiting
Recent activity on Jan 31, 2017
8 Answers
14.5 k Views
Anonymous B asked on Jan 31, 2017

I am in my last year of my PhD and regarding to my future career, the consulting industry left a massive impression on me. I would consider myself more as a generalist instead of an “real” scientist, which I really noticed during my doctorate. My question is now: Is there anybody out there, who joined as a graduated natural scientist, in the end of their twenties, a consulting company? I feel kind of frustrated, by imagine that I would entry the industry on the same level as a master graduate, who are also commonly in their mid-twenties. And even if I would entry the company on a higher level, the expectations are much higher and as a PhD I do not provide the expected skills/knowledge (economical/business part). At the moment I regret that I decided to start a PhD. Even by completing my doctorate abroad, where I increased my skills in a new language almost perfectly, I have the feeling that I didn’t developed myself enough... Does someone have similar thoughts or has already experience he/she would like to share? I would highly appreciate that!


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Best answer
replied on May 23, 2017
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Focus on the most common industries in the following priority (sorted by probability of geting a case): 1-retail and CPG; 2-airlines; 3-Telecom; 4-banking; 5-natural resources; 6-tech

There are several sources of info to develop business sense:

1) Cases - you simply solve 50-70 cases and get a broad knowledge of different industries, common pitfalls and questions. The key here - find good partners who already had case interviews with MBB companies

2) Company reports, equity reports, IB roadshow docs - usually have a good overview of company and industries.

3) HBS cases - quite useful, but not sure if lot's of them available publically. Probably worth buying

4) Books - one good book about airlines with numbers and industry analysis can give you all needed industry knowledge

5) News, Industry blogs

For each industry, you should understand:

  • Revenue streams
  • Cost structure
  • Margins
  • Key performance indicators
  • Key revenue drivers
  • Industry trends

I strongly recommend practice drawing structures for each industry - profitability, value chain, etc

Then I will switch to getting functional knowledge: Marketing, supply chain, finance

Good Luck

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Content Creator
replied on Jan 31, 2017
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

it is definitely possible to join a consulting company with a PhD in natural science in late twenties, in particular with a background in life science. There are some differences in the way the PhD is perceived as for your entry level according to the country, but normally you will join at a higher level then a master student. For BCG, in particular, while in some countries you would join as a Senior Associate (pre-MBA position), in others you would join as a consultant (post-MBA position). They may indeed have higher expectations compared to a master graduate, and for sure the first months will be pretty challenging; however, they would also take into account the fact that you are coming from a PhD and not from a consulting or strategy background in your initial assessment.

You may see your PhD as a liability now, however for sure it will differentiate you from other candidates, and other consultants if you join a company. In that sense, your difference from the “traditional” background may actually become something that may help you to stand out, both during the interview process and as a consultant.



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Originally answered question:

Getting a consulting job with science PhD

Anonymous replied on May 23, 2017


I am not sure how far along you are with process. Consulting firms usually have 3-4 stages. You start by applying, attaching CV and Cover Letter (sometimes) then filling in questions about why consulting, what you know about the industry etc. If you know people working in industry you can ask them about day to day, projects they worked on etc. The more you know, the easier it is to pass that stage. Each application on average takes 3-4 hours.

Next stage is Situational Judgement Test, which is mostly logical on what you would do in certain work situations. You don't really need to prepare, it's mostly common sense.

After you get an interview invitation, could be a webcam, phone or face to face with a HR representative. You can prepare for these by practising with a friend or a coach.

Finally if you pass, you have an invitation to Assessment Centre - here you will have a case study, group presentation, sometimes in-tray exercise and interview.

Hopefully this gives you a bit more info and advice. I can help with any of the stages I mentioned as well as give you insight into best approach to application. Let me know if you need help or have any other questions!

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Nabil (Bill) replied on Jan 31, 2017
Manager, ex-Capgemini, currently preparing for MBB and Tier 2 consulting interviews. Coaching on demand.

The consulting industry is well-known for hiring people from all walks of life and all majors. The only requirement is "having a good head on your shoulders" (in addition, of course, to knowing how to crack a case - but on this point, the resources are quite abundant).

So, study the case interview format, do a couple of case cracking sessions, prepare your resumé and cover letter and go for it.

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replied on May 23, 2017
Ex-Bain consultant, got offers from McK, BCG, Bain. Now a Product Manager at a startup

Hi Dean!

Answering to the B part of your question - you do have a chance of entering consulting if you can demonstrate that what you've been doing is the best thing you could be doing in your industry. In other words, you need to have a demonstrated track record of excellence - good uni, first class degree (that helps), and a job that's top job in the publishing industry. Ideally, you would also like to demonstrate some interest in business. As a more radical option, you can consider MBA at a top school.

In addition to Vlad's helpful answer, I would suggest you keep track of Financial Times - it's quite entertaining to read and if touches on many industries. It can then inspire you to read up further on chosen topics.

Good luck!


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Originally answered question:

Science PhD candidate for consulting jobs

Anonymous replied on Mar 07, 2016

Congratulations on your graduation! I have close friends who recently got their biochem PhDs, and I know it's a tough program, so you should be very proud!

Your first step should be to reach out to recruiting at your local office for the firms you are interested in. (For example, if you live in Boston, reach out to BCG Boston, McK Boston, etc.). It's ok if you are not actually interested in working in Boston (for example)--you just need to find someone in the recruiting structure, and your local office is a good place to start. You can find their contact information online. Ask what the process is like, and they will walk you through what you need to do to get in the system ( application) and what typical timing is.

After you've figured out logistics, it will be time to prep for case interviews! Check back here once you figure out what recruiting needs you to do and we can all help you prep!

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Vlad gave the best answer


McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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