Brain science PhD to econ/litigation consulting?
I'm starting to think about job transitions, and just wanted to get people's advice on my (rather radical?) idea..
My short story:
I have a degree in econ (mostly doing micro, stats, econometrics, etc; @ good international uni -- best in country -- well regarded in europe/world), MA/PhD in neurosciences & psych (@ top-top US Uni), worked in neuroscience research for 3 years (in pretty top research place abroad) now I'm an assistant professor back in the US for 1+ year (@ pretty good top 25 US school) [sorry for the ranking crap, I'm just trying to remain "anonymous" and yet give you some info of where I'm at..]
After 10 years in academia, however, I am starting to wonder about jobs in the 'real world,' and econ/litigation consulting really caught my interest (particularly in quant teams; e.g. the "Survey research, design & analysis" practice area at NERA, and such [anyone heard of EconOne? seemed a less heard name but interesting place]).
My question is: would such a switch be credible/doable?
On the pro side, I do have an econ BSc and in the past 10 years I've pretty much been doing experimental research, time-series and other types of data analyses to 'answer questions' with numbers (and I have a fairly technical peer-reviewed publication on time-series analysis and teaching on computational methods for analysis to show for that). On the not-so-pro side, how on earth is a brain scientist going to be of interest to econ consulting firms?
Any thoughts from current econ/litigation consulting people (and any other helpful soul) would be really appreciated!
Can you program? If so, languages?
if you know C/Java/Python you have options. if just Matlab/SAS/R, fewer options. less than that, not many options out side of MBB at the best.
Matlab, Stata (though rusty by now..), VB, SPSS & Unix (tcsh/sh). what do you think?
Yeah, I think it's definitely possible. I work in economic consulting now. You might want to see about doing contract work for some firm first. It's worth applying around. Analysis Group in particular has a big healthcare practice that may be of interest.
Are you sure this isn't some sort of mid career/life crisis kind of thing? You have put a shit ton of time, effort and sweat into becoming, what at least sounds like, very well respected in this field. Are you really so interested in the transition that you're willing to give up all that to program for a bigger paycheck? I only ask because we hired a guy with a background similar to yours a few years ago (before I was here) and it was a disaster because the guy regretted the move. Think long and hard.
Happypantsmcgee, Hayek (ah, VonHayek, if that's the reference, was a great inspiration to me; in fact he even wrote a great book about cognitive psychology) thank you for the feedback.
And yes, I am thinking very very hard about it - and yes, my time so far has been great, but deep inside the desire to be out of academia has always been there.
Do you have any sense of whether a smaller firm rather than the usual big ones people name might be more/less willing to get into an unorthodox profile such as mine? Also, is Associate automatically the right entry point given a PhD?
more thinking, more reading..
I don't think your background is all that unorthodox. One of my managers (i'm an analyst) started working at my firm after working as a professor for a few years (he had a finance phd, though). If anything the bigger firms might be more receptive, but it's tough to tell.
My guess is that you would come in as an associate (although each firm has different titles for post phd/mba hires) though maybe a manager or whatever the next rung on the ladder is.
I think the hardest part for you will be taking a job that is way below your capabilities but necessary only because you don't have any experience. It's also why employers will have a hard time figuring out where you belong. You clearly can't start at an entry level position but you also may not know enough to place in a decent position. Maybe you can find some kind of bridge profession that better leverages your expertise as a neuroscientist but is also a real world job that will teach you more practical skills.
My firm often interviews people with non-traditional advanced degrees. The hardest thing for you is going to be communicating your interest in working in economics. You might not be asked explicitly why they should hire you over an econ/statistics PhD, but you should do your best to tell a great story that mitigates any concerns they may have of that type.
MCube, that is indeed a radical idea, but not impossible. You will be going up against Ph.Ds in econ, business-related fields, and stats. My advice is for you to try to position yourself as comparable to one of those specific groups when you submit your application--e.g., if your time series paper could conceivably have been a stats or metrics Ph.D. thesis, then you have good chances. The specific titles at these firms vary in name (Consultant, SA, etc.), but generally you would be interviewing for a post-Ph.D. entry level position which typically means you'll be presenting a paper as part of the interview process. Many people interview with stats/metrics-related papers on some random subject that has nothing to do with litigation/econ/business (e.g., the effect of parents' divorce on children's educational success, etc.). Also, in your circumstances, i would try to play up the survey experience--this is a relatively infrequent yet valuable skill among lit consultants, so it can definitely help. Feel free to PM me if you would like further info/advice or my personal thoughts on which of the big firms are likely to be more receptive to an applicant with your background.
That's quite a change you were thinking about. Wonder what happened to you in the end?
If you are still looking for input, my immediate thought is that you can get a PhD or at least a Master in a related field first, be it Econ or Finance. Try to speed the process up. I've seen Econ PhD in a top school finished in 3 years. It's doable if you don't need the last couple years to go for the academic job market. Stick it out then you can enter a firm as an Economist, where I suspect you will be much happier than an Associate.
Or like other comment suggested, pursue econ consulting firms that are big on health care. (Perhaps get an MPH beforehand... Sorry more suggestion to go back to academia, at least for a while.)
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