Master Out or Stick With PhD for Management Consulting

ivychemguy's picture
Rank: Chimp | 9

Hi everyone,

I'm currently in the second year of a STEM PhD and I'm realizing that I strongly dislike lab work. Looking forward, I think I would rather do management consulting as opposed to something in field for a career. I'm trying to decide whether it makes more sense to master out this year and look for a job (and potentially go for an MBA in a couple of years) or tough out another 3 years of a PhD program (I'm in a program where basically everyone does 5 years).

In case it matters, I went to a non-target state school for college and am now at a Target school for my PhD. I have a national fellowship and I'm going to be published in one of the bigger journals in my field in a couple of months. Also, I do not get summers off from my program, so I can't do a summer internship.

I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on the pros and cons of each choice and what you might recommend doing if you were in my situation. Thank you so much in advance for all of your help and suggestions.


Comments (8)

Dec 17, 2017

Okay so from your ID I would say u are in a chemistry/bio/biomed engi program, you can try biotechnology/healthcare equity research. In my bank a lot of high level analysts covering those sectors are PhDs. Reach out to a couple people to see if you like it. May not be that exciting, but pay is okay, hours not too bad usually.

Also you can try consulting, I think now consulting firms definitely recruit PhDs. But personally I dont know too much. Sorry I cannot help more.

Dec 17, 2017


Dec 18, 2017

If you have 3.5 years left in your PhD and you already hate it, I'd Master out - but not before making sure you're positioned well to get interviews with the major firms, especially since you're currently at a target school and thus stand a decent chance.

PhD: you'd have the degree ofc + higher level of entry (perhaps obviating need for MBA) + more time to craft your resume (which you can do via 3 day consulting workshops like C2C, B2BCG and pro bono stuff).

Masters: you won't spend >2 years doing lab work + make more money earlier.

My take - if I were in your shoes, it'd boil down to whether I need more time to position myself for consulting and if I do, whether I can stomach doing more lab work.

    • 1
Dec 18, 2017

Thanks so much! This was quite helpful. I've been doing my best to beef up my resume and I was wondering if you could elaborate on what options are out there in terms of pro bono stuff. Are these primarily limited to the year before you finish your PhD like C2C and B2BCG?

Dec 19, 2017

No prob - you can do pro bono earlier than that. Not sure which Ivy you're at, but Penn for example has the Penn Biotech Group that does pro bono consulting. Other volunteering activities work too.

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Dec 18, 2017

Honestly, had a similar choice, Master out. Spending 3 years working on a thesis you know will be irrelevant to your career will be absolute hell.

Dec 18, 2017

I had a colleague who was in a similar situation and mastered out. He said it was the best choice he ever made.

The only potential downside is the level at which you'd be starting. At most firms, I think non-MBA Master's students start out at the post-UG level, while PhDs start at the post-MBA level. So you might be a bit older than other people at your tenure, which is less typical at the post-UG level.

  • sp_
  •  Dec 21, 2017