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medicine to consultancy

#1 medicine to consultancy
02/06/2011 05:33



I hope someone out there is able to offer me some advice....

I'm currently working as a doctor, however, want to make the transition to Management Consultancy.

I have 5 years post-graduate experience working as a clinician, and since day one of working as a doctor I have wanted to leave medicine and do something else...However, I've never really known HOW to make the transition to a new career - after all I have been on a one-way treadmill most of my life!

Leaving medicine is obviously a big decision, and it's not something I have decided overnight - in the last 5 years I have never once looked forward to going into work, and have spent most of the time researching different career paths.

I even moved country - from the UK (London) to Australia (now living in Sydney) to see whether it's the NHS that I don't like working for (rubbish working conditions etc. etc.) or whether it's really medicine I don't's medicine. Mainly the clinical aspect of medicine...

I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of medicine, when you are faced with a patient with symptoms, you don't know what's going on, you have to decide on what investigations to do, to gather your research, interpret the data and come up with an appropiate management plan....much like consultancy (in very simplistic terms!). I feel the aspects of my job that I do like, along with my skills and experience and my interest in buisiness and how businesses work, I would be much better suited to consultancy, and with such a strong background in health I would probably start out in the healthcare sector with a view to experiencing other areas eventually.

However, even though I have many skills, am dedicated, self-motivated, and intelligent, having done a degree in medicine, I am extremely worried I won't be able to get into consultancy and finding it very difficult on how to go about this - especially as I don'y know any management consultants and although I have friends who work in different areas (mostly finance) they can't really offer me advice on how to make a career change.

I know it is very tough to break into the Big 4 firms, but if I leave medicine I want to leave and work for a good company, that's reputable, has good prospects and career progression options for me. I have paid to have my resume re-written, so that it is less 'medical' and mor 'buisiness/corporate'-focused, but I struggle when it comes to cover letter. I know you essentially only get one shot at applying to the big firms and don't want to ruin my chances, so I'm trying to gather as much information as I can before I do anything.

I have been offered a job to work in market research for a small healthcare consultancy firm (the first job I applied for and the interview I went for - they were selling their company to me and telling me why I should work for THEM! - very strange!).

Although this isn't really what I want to do I don't know whether it's best to make the transition out of medicine and get some skills in market research, working with clients, project management etc. and learn some different skills and then apply for one of the big 4 firms like PWC, Delloitt, BCG etc, or whether I should just apply for the bigger firms.

Any ideas on what would be the best way to go about getting into consultancy? Or just any general advice whether I actually have a chance of getting into consultancy? It seems to get into the bigger firms they all either want people with a background of consultancy experience OR you have to enter at graduate level on a graduate scheme, so I'm not quiet sure where I would fit in, or how I could get the 'consultancy experience' that all the firms seem to want in the job descriptions. Any advice at all would be really greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time reading this and giving some words of wisdom, if you can!

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#2 RE: medicine to consultancy
02/06/2011 12:01

fred to olivia_a (#1)

Given your background - i.e not mc your best route in would be via a life sciences / healthcare division of a big 4 or technical consultancy (acn, cap, csc etc) who have large contracts in the healthcare industry. These type of companies will typically have engagements where understanding process in clinical terms is key and so is being able to communicate with sceptical clinicians that there offering /improved process will work - who better than a clinician to do this not a typical mc or technical bod.

Therefore starter for 10 i'd look at would be (i'm sure others can add):

CSC, ACN, Delloitte, EY, AO, pwc etc

I noticed a few months back one of the MBB firms were looking for mc / clinicians on this site with clinical experience

Then there's the modallity / pacs providers of GE, Carestream etc etc who would always look for clinical leads.

Once in these companies you'll learn the methodologies / tools etc and move out of healthcare into other sectors if you wanted.

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#3 RE: medicine to consultancy
02/06/2011 16:46

Tony Restell ( to fred (#2)

Thanks for flagging the MBB roles Fred - in fact we've had McKinsey advertising for roles in this area, looking for experienced clinicians and the like, over the last weeks. Here's one of the roles by way of example - - looks like they are doing lots of work reforming European healthcare systems and so need people with backgrounds that allow them to relate to the medical profession and the challenges being faced...

Tony Restell

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#4 RE: medicine to consultancy
06/06/2011 16:36

Happy to Tony Restell ( (#3)

Hi Olivia,

The simple answer is that you can get into consultancy with your background.

The more complicated answer is that there are many types of consultancy, some will be much easier to get into than others and, depending on where your interest really lies, some might be not at all what you are looking for.

You need to approach this in a very structured fashion, with plans and fall-backs in place. Given that you have five years clinical experience (and presumably a post-grad exam?), adding more clinical experience will not help you. Therefore, if you are genuinely going to leave, you should do so asap.

I think you should consider a few questions in more detail:

1) What type of consulting? "Strategy houses", Big 4, Niche etc

2) What type of client? The NHS, private companies, big pharma vs biotech vs start-ups, healthcare services, a range of all the above?

3) Location - are you going to stay in Sydney or are you moving to the UK? Being in the UK would be easier for sure. For example BCG had an information evening in London a few weeks ago for doctors looking to move to consultancy. Anywhere else? The US?

4) Other options - what else would you like to do? Which easier steps might make a move to your ideal role more feasible with a year or two of non-medical experience? The market research firm doesn't sound ideal, but there may be other options that you can do more quickly that will improve your CV. Is business school a possibility? If not, why not?

If I was in your shoes I would do the following

1) Identify the companies I am interested in and find out as much about them as I can

2) Find doctors that work for them - eg on LinkedIn - and approach them for advice, preferably using an email such as

3) Ensure my CV and cover letter are as good as they can be and then apply

4) Work out what I am going to do if that doesn't work out. Consider the pharma industry, healthcare service providers, other types of consultancy, business school etc

5) Find doctors that work in other areas or that have gone to business school, and talk to them

6) Keep repeating until you have an offer that is either ideal, or at least something that you can see as a better option than staying in medicine

7) Go from there

8) Expect the whole process to take months, if not years, and make sure you don't derail your current career while you are doing this.

Certainly I would look seriously at the McKinsey positions advertised on this site, with the proviso that you are prepared to work as a management consultant to the NHS. Even if you end up hating it you will have plenty of options subsequently.

Not sure how much help that is. Your questions are very open so it is difficult to answer in a specific fashion. For what it's worth, many people have made this move and they aren't that hard to find. If you have more specific questions, post away.

Good luck

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#5 RE: medicine to consultancy
09/06/2011 09:30

olivia_a to Happy (#4)

Thank you so much for the advice.

I have actually paid to have my CV written professionally as it is essentially a good investment if it is going to help me get a job in MC.

I have already done a great amount of research and know for sure that i want to start off doing Strategy Consulting, and have read a lot about BCG/PWC/Delloitte/McKinsey which are really the main ones I would like to work for. I know that I will have to start off working in the healthcare sector, but essentially I want to move as far away from healthcare and actually get into the financial sector if I can.

I have already considered doing an MBA - but given how expensive it is to do one at a decent business school, I want to at least try and get into consulting without doing one if i can! Otherwise that is my back up plan if I don't succeed.

With regards to location, I am very flexible, I am happy to stay in Sydney or move back to London, but since I am in Sydney at the moment, I thought I would start off applying here to see what opportunities arise.

If only BCG had an information for doctors in Sydney! That would have been ideal!

I am really looking for a doctor in a similar position to myself to see what it is exactly that I need to do to get into these big firms. I just hope my cover letter is good enough! I did not think of looking on LinkedIn - so thank you for that!

I know the process is going to take a while and I am prepared for that if it means I get my ideal job in the end.

It just appears so daunting when you read the websites for the big firms and their employees all seem to come from business-related backgrounds from Stanford/Harvard etc.

The only thing I am struggling with is finding the smaller niche consultancies, I only really know about the big ones, and any smaller firms I do find seem to want experienced consultants.

However, I shall persevere and hopefully I will reach my goal eventually.

Thanks again for the advice.

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#6 RE: medicine to consultancy
10/06/2011 15:51

Happy to olivia_a (#5)

Hi Olivia,

So strategy consulting it is. That makes sense. However I would be wary about mentioning McKinsey and BCG in the same sentence as PWC and Deloitte in this context.

McKinsey and BCG are generally considered to be two of the most prestigious pure play strategy houses. There are a number more that you presumably have heard of.

Deloitte and PWC may offer strategy consulting services, I don't actually know, but could not be described as strategy consulting firms - PWC is an accounting firm - and, I think most people would agree, do not carry the same prestige as McKinsey and BCG in this field.

Therefore, I would find it difficult to understand how your top 4 has come about. If you want to work for McKinsey and BCG, I can't really see why Deloitte and PWC would be 3 and 4, and above Bain, Booz, LEK, Monitor etc

That was point 1, and I guess is a roundabout way of saying that you may have done a "great amount of research", but you should probably do more.

Point Number 2: If you are waiting to apply to business school only if you get rejected, then you could lose a ton of time. You should be doing all of this concurrently, and have it planned out so that if Plan A fails, plan B is already well advanced and you slide seamlessly from A to B. If you assume that job application to offer takes perhaps six months, and business school application to starting on campus takes 6-9 months, then you are throwing valuable time down the pan by waiting. You should have as many irons in the fire as possible.

Point number 3: Be more creative in finding people to speak to. if you really can't find any doctors in consulting, then all that suggests to me is that you are either being a bit half-hearted, or that your research skills are not up to par. Both are not traits favoured in consulting firms. It would be fairly basic to ring 5 business schools, say you are a medic thinking of applying with a view to going into consulting, and would like to speak to doctors that are current students going into consulting, or alumni that work in consulting. Easy

Hope that helps

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#7 RE: medicine to consultancy
11/06/2011 11:13

EarlyDoors to Happy (#6)


Best of luck with the move. It isn't an easy one and many leave after a short period.

Having clinician / consultants in a team look great and help sell health jobs. However, it can be a very different thing when it comes to delivery.

In particular, You have five years clinical experience, so that means you are going to be used as a standard healthcare consultant rather than a senior fly in expert. That means you will be peered against people who are likely to be "better" consultants than you and you need to learn these skills very quickly.

A number of the clinicians to consultants I have worked with have found this very frustrating. As the person running these projects, I was also often disappointed with their outputs and this could lead to difficult conversations.

Don't get me wrong. Consulting is great fun and there is significant opportunity in the healthcare sector. You just have to get your head around the fact that you are going to be seen as a relatively junior person and in the early days you will be expected to be doing a variety of things that you may think is beneath you.

If you can get over that and develop the necessary consulting skills quickly, you can then quickly start to shape a strong career.

Hope that doesn't sound harsh. I have also worked with some excellent clinician come consultants. It is just a hard transition for many.

Best of luck with your decision.

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