Looking to switch to consulting in early 30s

AK52's picture
Rank: Chimp | 4

I am looking to switch into consulting after 10 years in healthcare (3 years research at a top university, 7 years healthcare management directing a department). My BS undergrad was from a top school (ivy), so was my master's degree (molecular microbiology) and the Ph.D. I am working on in healthcare management and leadership (they come to my school to talk to us a lot).

I know I have to nail the cases, but my big question is - are my chances better if I apply to a specific practice (healthcare), or with a general application? And is the compensation significantly different?

Getting into consulting with a PHD in your 30's

Age is not a barrier to entry in consulting. Candidates with advanced degrees looking for a career change can typically enter consulting at the same level as an MBA. The post-MBA candidates are usually in their late twenties with three to five years work experience.

Selling your interest in consulting as a 30-year-old with an advanced degree will be a hurdle. However, you can probably line up your degree with a certain industry within consulting and leverage your knowledge there. An example would be a Ph.D. in healthcare working in healthcare consulting.

from certified user @kenb

I'm a PhD who moved to McK in mid 30s and now am at a boutique healthcare firm. Age is not an issue in 30s and I've seen people come in even later.

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Comments (16)

May 8, 2014

I applied to MBB and accepted an offer this fall, at age 31 (post PhD and postdoc in molecular biology). Of the firms I looked at, McKinsey and BCG seemed the most interested in people with life science backgrounds. Depending on which city you are based in, also look at LEK, because they have a specific position for life science PhDs. During the interview process, no one ever said anything about my age, but it seemed important to have a really good answer to "why consulting" (or even "why do you want to switch fields after all of this training".)

May 8, 2014

Thanks for the info! Did you join at associate level?

May 11, 2014

I also joined MBB in lower 30's. I'm a bit older than most people at my level but it has never really come up in conversation unless I raised it. Frankly all people care about is if you can perform.

I can't comment on the rest of your questions, but I would agree with the above poster that in addition to nailing the cases, you (more than most people) will need a good "Why consulting" answer. On my final round interview this was super important.

May 27, 2014

If you want to be a 'standard' consultant at McKinsey, you can't apply specifically to the healthcare practice. You have to make a general application and your subject knowledge won't be tested (i.e., your interview cases will cover a range of industries).

As far as I know, the only way that you can apply to a specific healthcare role is if you apply directly to something like the McKinsey Hospital Institute or a McKinsey Solutions company focused on healthcare.

I'd guess your chances of getting a role at MHI or McKinsey Solutions would be higher (they're less competitive) but for what it's worth, I'd always apply to be a general consultant- I had a healthcare background before I joined McKinsey but one of the best things about my time there was getting to work across different industries.

Also- I agree with the other posts about your age not being an issue- I interviewed a bunch of >30 year olds and their age was never an issue.

A caveat- this is based on my work and interviewing experience at McKinsey London- the US might be different (but I don't think it is).

I previously worked for McKinsey in London and have started a blog about consulting and how to get into it at www.theconsultingcoach.com

May 28, 2014

Agree with the posts above. I'm a PhD who moved to McK in mid 30s and now am at a boutique healthcare firm.

Age is not an issue in 30s and I've seen people come in even later. Generally, I think at some point they (MBB) want to make sure you have enough runway to operate as partner for a few years before you start to wind down and leave in 60s per retirement policies. Wouldn't be an issue in your 30s, though.

If you want to do Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products or Payer/Provider work at McK, you come as generalist and then get linked into these practices through staffing and your network. At least in my day - left about 5 years ago.

Aug 15, 2014

Thanks all for the informative posts. I'm older than the oldest age referenced in this thread (I'm an APD and have relevant work experience), about to start MBB interviews. Encouraging to hear that age really is a non-factor.

KenB, if you're still around I'd love to get a PM or response from you--I'm looking to emulate your career track...

Sep 10, 2014

Gobruins, sorry just saw this now and doesn't look like I have enough activity to send a PM. Happy to answer any questions, though. What would you like to know?

Sep 11, 2014

Thanks for responding. How many years were you at McK before you felt you'd received the requisite consulting experience that you needed to move on? Seems like many consultants wait until they have a period of Engagement Mgmt experience under their belt. And what do you think employers (health care consulting firms/corporate/etc) are looking for in terms of minimum # years? Thanks in advance for your answers.

Sep 4, 2014

Nice to know that age doesn't matter. But how does it feel to start as a 30+ year old person at the same level as all those young graduate students (23y)?

Sep 7, 2014

Nice to know that age doesn't matter. But how does it feel to start as a 30+ year old person at the same level as all those young graduate students (23y)?

With a JD/MD/Ph.d, you typically start at the same level as an MBA. The average age for an MBA grad is 27-29, because most top MBA programs require 3-5 years work exp. Early 30s is not uncommon for for MBA MBBers.

As has been mentioned, McK and BCG both do lots of ADP/ADC hiring. Very anecdotally, Ph.Ds seem to have greater representation in the partner ranks than initial hiring levels would indicate.

Sep 4, 2014

^^ This, and at which level would you start & what about salary negotiation leeway?

Sep 7, 2014