MD vs PhD for Healthcare Buyside?

Hey, I'm an econ major and a pre-med at a top Ivy. I am really interested in biopharma and want to work at a specialized life sciences hedge fund. I am interested in medicine and feel that learning about current therapeutics and how they work could help me become a better investor (hence the MD). However, I've seen a lot of PhDs working at these places and am wondering if having that specialized knowledge is better. 

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Comments (17)

Oct 5, 2021 - 4:08pm

At Biotech/Pharma hedge funds its almost necessary to have a PHD or MD in a related field primarily cause its info you can't just pick up easily online and through practice. Plus you need to understand them on a higher level. Sure there are some that don't at the funds but it is probably for the best.

Oct 11, 2021 - 12:01pm

"MD may take longer than a PHD"

Yeah this is totally backwards. MD is 4 years all in, clear cut program where if you pass your tests you get the degree.

PhD is 4 years in the absolute best case scenario and depends on a whole lot more than passing tests - you need to get positive results in a novel research area. Getting a PhD in anything hard science is going to be closer to the scale of 5-6 years (with the possibility that you just get unlucky in your research area and don't have positive results for a long time which could delay you further)

That being said I definitely agree that you should choose the one you are more interested in because you'll have a much higher chance of surviving the program if you give a shit. 

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Most Helpful
  • Research Analyst in HF - Event
Oct 11, 2021 - 10:59pm

I cover HC, and I'd say if you're a junior in the space, going directly for healthcare investing is the best route by far. A few of my friends are MDs or DOs and a buddy of mine is MD/PhD, and my advice is you should really focus on what skills you're trying to monetize. If you work at a fund, you're not going to be conducting research yourself, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to read clinical trial results, and you'll be paying a fuck ton of money for the hope of having an "information edge". Mind you, there are hundreds if not thousands of consultants, experts, etc. that you can contract for pennies on the dime to give you the same info, and unless you're in PE or directly involved with financing companies, predicting the market is almost more important than the underlying.

The two benefits you get from having an advanced degree is a) ease of having been taught some stuff in class instead of learning on the job b) the respect of management and those that are doctors. Very few people are able to monetize greater insight than that.

I'm just thinking though if I'm fresh out of college, why would I pay a six figure down payment and take on the opportunity cost of 4+ more years of school when I can learn more applicable content while working. Anyways, just know exactly what you're trying to get out of going to school before you choose that route.

  • Intern in Consulting
Oct 12, 2021 - 10:34am

How would you say this answer changes if you want to go into the LS startup space? 

In my limited experience, I feel like someone with a non-technical background leading an early-stage LS company would not inspire much confidence. If I do get an MD, I don't think I want to see patients, so I'm not sure if it's worth pursuing a medical degree solely for the purpose of credibility. FWIW, I'm doing my undergrad in molecular biology at a top STEM school, but not sure if that's enough. 

  • Research Analyst in HF - Event
Oct 12, 2021 - 12:04pm

Great question and spot on really. You would definitely need a technical background for management side (not so much VC). I'm not certain, but I imagine PhD might be more applicable (and research area). I would say sometimes it's harder to gauge because founders are usually later in their career (vs in tech), so not great visibility into career paths early on.

At any rate, searching on LinkedIn helps sometimes (less so for academics), but maybe look at interesting treatments, find names on research papers or patents, listen to panels, conferences, interviews, etc. - any of those should help inform you of people's backgrounds prior to networking. Additionally, look up VCs that might have blogs or podcasts and follow their portcos (maybe NEA, a16z, OrbiMed, Arch Venture).

  • Research Analyst in HF - Event
Oct 19, 2021 - 9:02pm

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