PhD in life science to PE? (vs. other options such as management consulting)

Rslph's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 22

I am a Ph.D. candidate at Caltech (California Institute of Technology).

My Ph.D. is in life sciences so while I am competent in mathematics (800 in simple standardized "quantitative" tests) and coding, those are not my strongest skills (especially compared to mathematics, physics and some engineering Ph.D.'s)

After examining many different career paths of my peers with similar backgrounds as well as different backgrounds, I have decided that PE and VC seem absolutely the most interesting.

Since I come from a very non-traditional background and possibly a non-target school, what are some things I can do to increase my chances of getting into a PE firm?
Networking and increasing my knowledge in business are the only ways, as far as I can tell, which will significantly increase my chances.
For networking, I've heard of a number of smaller hedge funds and private equity shops in Los Angeles so I am planning to network with various firms and individuals in the area.
But besides doing the above, what are some other good ways to increase my chances?

Second question is how would my chances at getting a job in a PE firm compare to some other careers in finance, such as hedge fund, investment banking, different equity research roles, or even non-finance like management consulting (MBB)?
McKinsey and BCG in particular recruit my school's Ph.D.s but the chance of getting an offer is obviously quite low (estimated anywhere between 2-4 per year)

Thank you very much for your help.

Comments (8)

Sep 9, 2012

In-house VC at a pharma company would be an easier switch. Are you sure you want PE and not VC?

Sep 9, 2012

Wouldn't those VC positions only be available to people with operational experience (usually at a startup)?
I did not know that in-house VC positions existed also.

I think VC positions would be great too but it just seems to me that early stage investing that VCs do, especially in pharmaceuticals, has too much unpredictable scientific/technical risks, while PE investments deal with more systematic strategic risks that may be slightly more predictable.
For instance, regardless of your expertise, you cannot predict that a compound will be without deleterious side effects but you might be able to cut costs in manufacturing in most industries using similar tricks.

Sep 9, 2012

I think Roche has an in-house VC investment team among many other firms.

Sep 9, 2012
IlliniProgrammer:

I think Roche has an in-house VC investment team among many other firms.

Thank you very much about the info. I will look into Roche and see what kind of qualifications they are looking for in entry level VC positions.

Sep 9, 2012

A lot firms have in house VC.

I'd say your shot at getting into finance is pretty low, you don't have operational experience or finance experience. You probably couldn't join as an associate as you can't put together financing, have zero banker contacts, and no business skills. Analyst positions are very rare

I'd say you'll have a better chance on the sell-side or consulting where they have training programs and are willing to teach fresh grads who don't know anything. Especially look into research where many people can't apply to the same positions as you because certain sectors prefer research associates with in depth knowledge of medicine.

So with that said : 1) the best way to increase your chances of getting into PE is to go into banking/consulting/equity research first. 2) you have a much higher shot getting into sell-side right now.

Sep 9, 2012

Thanks for the terrific advice couchy.

I will look into sell-side and equity research positions.
I guess it will be MBB or bust for me then!
Perhaps I'd better get ready for more schooling (MBA).

Sep 9, 2012

What are some of the positions in sell side?
Does "sell side" belong under the branch of ibanking?

Sep 11, 2012
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