Getting into management consulting as a physician or medical student

Mar 8, 2018

There are plentiful opportunities in management consulting for physicians. It’s notoriously difficult to be hired as a management consultant at one of the “big 3” consulting firms – McKinsey, BCG, and Bain. However, all three are also known to encourage physicians to apply.

Why management consulting firms hire physicians

The work that physicians do in business consulting doesn’t require a medical license, board certification, or even most of the knowledge that we picked up during medical training. What it does require, though, is critical thinking, problem solving, long hours, people skills, and tackling complex issues laden with political haze. Remind you a bit of residency? Or your job with a hospital system? These are all proficiencies that doctors tend to have.

MDs have several qualities that consulting firms value:

  • Already proven to have the work ethic and other soft skills to succeed
  • Demonstrated the ability to learn and apply a broad array of knowledge
  • Instant rapport with and respect from clients due to their title and background
  • Willingness to put in long days in order to complete tasks

As a result, consulting firms have realized that physicians bring value to their teams.

Moreover, many clients obtained by big consulting firms are related to medicine. They include healthcare systems, pharma, and biotech companies. A baseline knowledge of how healthcare is delivered or how drug development works can be a true asset when solving clients’ problems and meeting with their teams.

Management consulting for physicians is competitive

Submit an unsolicited application to any of these well-known consulting firms, and you’re likely to get a rejection letter. They get a huge number of applicants, due to both their aggressive campus recruiting programs and their reputations.

These characteristics will assist you in getting an interview:

  • Went to a top university for undergrad, medication school, or another degree (eg Harvard, Stanford)
  • Had stellar grades and standardized test scores
  • Have experience or an accomplishment that makes you stand out

If you don’t meet these bullets, though, or you want an additional leg up in the management consulting application process for physicians, there are several programs to consider that are run by these firms. They are designed to give potential applicants a taste of what a career in consulting is like, but also to assist with recruitment and identifying applicants who merit an interview.

Programs to get your foot in the door to consulting

Here are several programs offered by McKinsey, BCG, and Bain that physicians, medical students, or residents are eligible for. They cover a range of lengths, and are designed to fit in with the work or school schedule of target participants.

 

McKinsey Insight Healthcare

Eligibility:  Completing an MD, medical internship, residency, or fellowship this year or next year

Length:  4 days

Application process:  Online application plus a phone interview

After the program:  Participants are automatically invited to a first-round interview for a full-time job

McKinsey used to have another program called “MD Contact” which was specifically for physicians. I participated sometime around 2013 and really enjoyed it. It seemed to be a very condensed version of their Insight program, consisting of only an evening reception and a one-day program the following day. I can’t find any current information on this program, though it’s possible it will resurface in future years.

McKinsey MD Fellow

Eligibility:  Second- and third-year medical students can apply, and the fellowship takes place between third and fourth years

Length:  2 years

Application process:  The same as the process for regular advance degree candidates for full-time positions, consisting of multiple interview rounds

After the program:  There are no details about this on the website; however, given that it is a paid, 2-year program, chances are high that the company would invite you to return after completing your degree.

McKinsey Next Generation Woman Leaders

Eligibility:  Female (obviously), and must be based in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa. They had a US-based program as recently as last year, though I’m unable find any information about a 2018 program in the US.

Length:  3 days

McKinsey Spark Event Series

Eligibility:  Women in advanced professional degree programs (PhD, JD, MD) at Harvard, MIT, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Stanford, UCSF, and UC Berkley.

Length:  1 day

BCG Internship Program

Eligibility:  Students in business, engineering, science, law, or humanities who are nearing completion of their undergrad or graduate studies.

Length:  Typically 2-3 months, but can range from a few weeks to a year

Application process:  Online application

After the program:  Per the website, “a vast majority of our interns receive offers for full-time positions”

Bain Summer Associate Program

Eligibility:  MBAs and advanced degree candidates

Length:  10 weeks

After the program:  “The majority complete their summer with a full­-time offer to join Bain as a consultant upon completion of their studies.”

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