Pharmacology Major working in Big 4 healthcare audit: Options/How to move into biotech IB/ER/CorpDev?

Jack Burns's picture
Rank: Chimp | 5

Hi all,
I've been lurking on this site for a little while. I've done a lot of my own networking and advice seeking over the last few years, but I'm kind of stuck right now. (Apologies if I've posted this in the wrong place). Just to give my background:

I'm 24, currently work in audit in one of the big 4, specifically in the healthcare area (worked on big pharma companies and life sciences VCs). Contract ends in Dec 2021 (I turn 27 the next month) - (In my European country you study and take the equivalent of the CPA whilst on the job - which I believe is different to the US). So at the start of 2022, I'll have the equivalent of the CPA and be able to leave the big 4 firm (you have to complete your work experience even though I'll have the passed the actual exams a year before then). I have a BSc in Pharmacology, pretty good GPA, and did some undergrad research as well as my final year research project for my thesis. I also worked for a few months in another big 4 accounting firm as a life sciences consultant. I then completed a diploma in accounting to get out of the first set of accounting exams and to work in the big 4 firm I'm at now. Whilst doing that I was able to get involved as an analyst in the student investment fund for the healthcare sector. I networked pretty hard and managed to get an internship in a life sciences focused VC fund the summer before I started my current job where I got to work on deals, screen investment proposals and studied certain therapy areas. I'm really interested in the life sciences inc biotech. I have strong accounting and financial statement knowledge now, and I still read scientific papers. I spend a lot of time keeping up with the stock market especially in terms of pharma and biotech etc. I've definitely greatly improved my knowledge of the 'business' aspects of the sector over the last 2 years.

Over the last year I've been looking at roles like corporate development, IB/ER in a healthcare group or at a healthcare focused boutique or strategy (again at a boutique or big 3). (quite all over the place - I know! I feel that for some of those roles I may be hurt by the fact that I don't have a PhD. But would the mix of science and business experience I have make up for that? I've spent time looking at whether I'd do an MBA after the Big 4. Maybe that would make up for the lack of a PhD and give me a chance of getting a position at BB or Big 3, or help me decide whether I want to go down corp. dev or IB or the other routes. It also seems like some MBAs (e.g. Rutgers), you can do MBAs focused on healthcare/pharma..not sure how wide spread that is or necessary? Would I be too old by the time I've finished an MBA to go into some of these roles? Or would I have a chance of getting these positions without one - i.e. just my science Bachelors, VC life sciences internship, Big 4 accounting healthcare audit? I know this is bordering on incoherent rambling, but that is literally what my mind is like these days!

So at the moment these are my ideas/routes I've been thinking about:

  • Doing the CFA level 1 (and maybe more) whilst finishing up my contract and try to do the much discussed on this forum switch from audit to IB as unlikely as it may be, but hopefully focusing on the healthcare sector may help. Perhaps try move into TS department.
  • Doing a one year Masters degree in a scientific area to boost my science background, but without going the full way and doing a PhD. I would probably try do one part time or the year my contract ends, and hopefully I'll be able to intern part time in the same life sciences VC.
  • Applying straight for analyst roles in healthcare IB/ER/Consulting/Corp Dev. As opposed to associate roles and not do an MBA and see what I get. And do lots of networking.
  • Do an MBA
  • If I was able to get a visa, I'd love to come to America and do an internship or work in a biotech in Boston for a year, and then return to Europe. Hopefully that would add some interesting experience to my CV. Would probably involve some serious networking.
  • Just try get some industry experience in big pharma for now - e.g. sales/finance/corp dev. (anything other than internal audit)

I'm just hoping to narrow down the above mess. I think on the positive side: I am good at networking - managed to meet partner of a VC, financial advisory firm and the CEO of a biotech start up, and have contacts in pharma/biotech. So I'm hoping that regardless of the options that will improve my chances.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Feb 18, 2019
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