How to get into consulting from PHD

Hi guys,

I know PHDs are usually supposed to go into academia, but a previous thread (which I deleted because I realized it was too specific and might reveal my identity to the school, lol) convinced me that the school I could go to for the PHD program has just a much higher prestige factor than the economic consulting firm I would go to instead.

Therefore my question now is that if I know after my five years doing research, I want to recruit for MBB or other consulting opportunities. How should I build my resume during this time? Any specific way you would recommend I network? And any other advice you think would be useful.

More info: operations phd inside the business school, the research will be drawn from companies coming to my professor to solve a problem. Basically academic consulting.


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Comments (107)

Nov 7, 2013 - 2:32am

PhD Accounting - any consulting opportunities? (Originally Posted: 08/04/2010)

Currently, I'm a graduate student in accounting and was wondering if there are any consulting opportunities for Ph.D.s in Accounting. Which companies should I look into? What type of jobs should I look into? Which firms offer internships for doctoral students?

The main reason why I took up a Ph.D. is to have the opportunity to teach at a later date in a tenure track position. But my plan is to enter the job market immediately after the 2nd series of comprehensive exams and finish my thesis on a part-time basis. Thus, i'm looking to start a private sector job.

It is not about the title that you have, it is about how much money that you have.
Best Response
Mar 3, 2011 - 12:08am

I posted this in a previous thread and am just copying and pasting since it's mostly relevant to you... To the above poster, McK hires more PhD's than BCG. The percent by class might be the same, but McK has about twice as many consultants. Their recruiting for PhDs is also more extensive than BCG. Both hire many, many more PhDs than Bain. If you have further questions, just ask. I went through recruiting last fall, so it's fresh on my mind.

From a previous post of mine...
The hardest part for you will be getting an interview. None of my interviews occurred on campus so you won't have to go to the local target school. There were definitely people from non-targets at the same time I interviewed. You should however, inquire about going to recruitment events at the target school only so that you can learn more about the firms and make connections. Connections with the company will help you get an interview. Connections with other students will help you prepare for interviews. Leverage alumni contacts, both from grad and undergrad, to help you get an interview.

Since you're early in your track, here is my advice:
- Take a couple econ, finance, management courses as they interest you and fit in your schedule. It'll show that you have interest in business.
- Apply to McKinsey's Insight and BCG's Bridge to BCG summer programs. They are short 3-4 day intro-to-consulting programs for PhD/MD/JD students. They are great for making connections. If you are invited, they will give you a first round interview. Even if you are not invited, it puts you on their radar.
- If your program allows you, apply for an internship. I've heard from other PhD students that did well in interviews but did not get offered an internship, that they were asked to skip the first round interview and proceed straight to the final round.

MBB does not hire PhD's because they have a specific background, but rather because they are good with numbers and models. That being said, they also need PhD's to have other strong skills too, like communication, leadership experiences, and a pattern of being successful. Your academic accomplishments (fellowship papers) demonstrate that you are successful. Find ways to show that you are a leader and good on teams and you'll have all the traits they are looking for for give you an interview.

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Nov 7, 2013 - 2:52am

PhD to Consulting (Originally Posted: 10/30/2012)

Hey guys,
I am a science PhD student that is researching the consulting firm application process. Due to the limited amount of information on this transition, I'd appreciate any advice on how to be the most competitive applicant possible. Santini has been very helpful, and I was hoping there was anyone else out there that might offer an additional perspective.

Thanks in advance,

Mar 3, 2011 - 5:06am

It seems my school lets me take MBA courses and graduate with a dual-MBA PHD, do you think that would help? Especially considering I would have no work experience because I'm hopping into the program straight out of undergrad.

Mar 3, 2011 - 9:26am

Yeah, taking courses and getting a dual degree would be helpful. Without work experience, you need a good convincing story when you're asked in an interview "why consulting? shouldn't you be doing research?" And believe, they will ask that to a PhD.

The courses or MBA will demonstrate that you have business interests. I went straight from undergrad to grad school with no work experience other than research internships and took some business related classes in grad school and did well in recruiting.

Nov 7, 2013 - 3:02am

PhD topic and Consulting (Originally Posted: 07/22/2014)

Hello :) I am applying to several PhDs in France. I really like Marine Biology and I would like to complete a PhD in that field and then join a consulting firm (preferably the Big 3). My question is - will a PhD in Marine Science hinder my chances at landing an offer from McKinsey/BCG? A majority of people I know got their PhDs in molecular biology, neuroscience, genetics (strong fields as they call it) and got offers from consulting firms.. Thanks in advance to all. :)

Mar 6, 2011 - 3:19am

Thanks for the info phdconsultant. I was actually thinking about the PhD route for a while (in addition to the billion other ideas I have). It probably won't happen, but it's great to have that info!

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee
Nov 7, 2013 - 3:29am

PhD to consulting CV (Originally Posted: 07/06/2015)

Hey everyone, thanks in advance for critiquing my CV. I'm currently applying to boutique life science consulting firms in London off-cycle, and will applying to the generalist firms on-cycle in the coming months. I've managed to land a first round HR interview at a boutique with the CV, so I'm hoping I'm in the right ballpark. However, I have no doubt that it can be improved.

In addition to general remarks, I'd appreciate feedback on the presentation of my research experiences. I've found it difficult to strike a balance between giving indication of my expertise that former scientists turned consultants may appreciate, while still making it basic enough that a non-expert will have a basic understanding of what I've done.

Mar 6, 2011 - 4:45pm
D M:
I was actually thinking about the PhD route for a while (in addition to the billion other ideas I have). It probably won't happen, but it's great to have that info!

One last piece of advice...if you know you want to be a consultant, getting a PhD is NOT a great way to go about it. There are very few PhD programs that are targets for MBB and the process is still extremely competitive. Only get a PhD if you think research or academia is a viable career path for you. You can become a consultant or a Wall St. quant, but you'd better do something quantitative and heavy in real mathematics. Getting a PhD is also a lengthy process. 5-6 years is far more common than 4-5 years.

I will quote a recent letter to the editor from the Economist..."A PhD is someone that forgoes current income in order to forgo future income."

Mar 6, 2011 - 5:33pm

Haha, that quote is great. When I was looking at a PhD (probably in economics), it was with the idea that I would have the opportunity to be a professor. And then I thought about all the idiots in the classes I have ever taken and realized I would probably hang myself having to be around a bunch of douchey college kids all day.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee
Nov 7, 2013 - 3:34am

Prospects at MBB for Very Experienced PhD (Originally Posted: 09/25/2010)

Bringing more than 10 years experience post-PhD (applied mathematics) in Biotech-Pharma, including project management and team leadership, what are my prospects of a career change and entry to MBB?
What should be the target starting rank (associate? other)?
Any particular points that I could play in my favor (continuous scientific publication stream, academic activity while at industry etc.)? Anything else?


Nov 7, 2013 - 3:35am

Where did you get your phd

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford
Mar 8, 2011 - 8:40am

Honestly, it's like comparing apples to oranges to me. The PhD/MBA path gives you a good education but are you prepared for 5+ years of school, working 60-80 weeks, doing research in some corner of academia that may or may not have any impact on society, and being paid peanuts compared to your private industry colleagues? If the answer is 'yes', then get the PhD and MBA. If no, go to Cornerstone for two years, then get your MBA. You'll be much happier and you'll still have a soul

If you haven't noticed, I'm not big on PhD programs. They are prestigious because you get to called doctor at the end of it, but the knowledge you gain from them is not necessarily worth the time spent in the program. And, if you end up with an adviser that you don't like, or end up without funding and have to teach your way through, it can be difficult experience.

Nov 7, 2013 - 3:45am

STEM Ph.D. to Management Consultant (Originally Posted: 05/16/2013)

Hey guys,

I'm currently a third-year biochemistry Ph.D. at Yale. During this past year, after my qualifying exams, I realized academia was not for me and began to pursue other options, including management consulting. A recent case competition helped solidify consulting as a great career for me. I joined this site a little less than a year ago out of curiosity, but I'm so glad I did. Although I have only been reading for a relatively short time, I've learned quite a bit about the industry from those who work in it.

I just want to thank the posters here who take the time to share their knowledge and expertise, as well as Patrick and other moderators for maintaining an awesome site. I can't wait to really push to network and learn more about the field.

Feel free to pm me if you would like to talk.

Thanks and regards


Mar 8, 2011 - 9:10am

That's a very fair look at it phd. Thanks for the insight. Another reason I love WSO: putting the ideas in perspective.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee
Nov 7, 2013 - 3:53am

When to apply for Consultant positions as PhD candidate? (Originally Posted: 01/15/2018)

Hi all,

I am currently a 6th year PhD candidate in Neuroscience at Weill Cornell, hoping to apply for consulting firms (MBB + Deloitte + A.T. Kearney) soon. I am wondering whether to apply in the 2018 cycle or wait for the 2019 cycle. I am on track with my project more or less and will hopefully publish/graduate in Spring 2019. I have been casing for awhile and feel mentally prepared to apply/interview, and have several business related experiences on my resume. These are the main questions I am wondering:

1) How long can you wait to start after being accepted? It may be 9-12 months if I apply this year, vs. starting right away if applying 2019.
2) I currently have no publications (but will have 2-3 based on current plans if applying 2019). Does this automatically disqualify me for now, or is it worth trying?
3) If I do Insight or Bridge-to-BCG this year and don't get accepted, will that count against me next year/will I need to do it again?


Nov 7, 2013 - 3:54am

Hi KBarnes, just trying to help:

If we're lucky, maybe these professional users will respond: akshdeep23 Angus Macgyver Zoltan-Patai

If those topics were completely useless, don't blame me, blame my programmers...

Nov 7, 2013 - 3:55am

Hi there,

I am also a neuroscience Ph.D. and I am expecting to finish by Sep this year. I was at a McK event in Germany last Dec and spoke to one of their recruiters based in London. From the conversation, I understood that if you want to get an offer in 2018, then definitely apply before their 2018 cutoff (which is in January). Given the screening, PST, and interviews, the whole process might run from January to June. If you apply at a time later than that cutoff, you will only be considered for 2019. Once being accepted, McK can wait for you up to 1 year to start (heard that from an engagement manager at the event).

I hope the info above can be helpful for your Q1. But also bear in mind that the information I had probably only pertains to McK's recruitment process out of the USA. But definitely do try reaching out to the recruiters in those companies or attend one of their events.

All the best!

Nov 7, 2013 - 3:57am

Thanks! As far as I've understood, application is primarily in the late summer/early fall for PhD students in the USA, but even that I;m not sure about... good to know that a year is the theoretical max for waiting to start though.

Nov 7, 2013 - 4:01am

I'm wondering if I have too many 'experiences' down that perhaps don't add that much? I could take my instructor position out and have a one-line teaching bullet under the PhD heading, giving me a few more lines to use for the other four. Also, my 'activities' section is essentially a list of positions I've held that I either couldn't fit bullet points in for or that I feel are not results-oriented enough to warrant to full section but which I think are good nonetheless; for example for one of the volunteer associations I created a database of renewable energy companies in the area which took quite a bit of research but as far as I know has not actually been used for anything so there are no real quantifiable results to point to. Any thoughts?

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