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Physicians and Management Consulting

There are a variety of nonclinical job possibilities for physicians who no longer want to practice clinical medicine or who want to try their hand at something new. 

One possibility is a career as a management consultant.  Management consulting has been open to scientifically trained individuals for some time, but recently top firms have begun recruiting at medical schools and from within the world of clinical and research medicine.  With this post I'll give an overview of the career of management consulting, and in future posts I hope to dig deeper and maybe interview a recruiter from one of the top firms.

In the world of management consulting, there are the "Big Three" and then there's everyone else.  The Big Three are McKinsey & CompanyBain & Company, and The Boston Consulting Group .

Life as a management consultant is interesting and intense. Basically, companies hire these firms to solve problems. A management consulting firm will be hired to study an issue and then report back to the leadership of the company that hired the firm and give a report on possible solutions to the problem in question.

Since the only real "asset" a management company brings to the table is the talent (and experience) of its employees, management consulting companies put a premium on finding talent wherever it resides.  Although many people at these firms have MBAs, consultants consist of extremely bright, achieving individuals from a variety of backgrounds, not just business. 

McKinsey & Company is at the forefront of recruiting physicians and even has a website dedicated to answer questions for potential physician (and other non-business) applicants. Many potential questions from physician applicants are answered here on another McKinsey webpage. A few years ago, an article entitled The War for Talent appeared in JAMA addressing the recruitment of physicians by top management consulting firms and much of its information is still applicable today.

Management consulting firms are usually broadly based and top firms have ties to almost every industry.  Physicians tapped for positions in management consulting will most likely begin with projects within the healthcare industry, but they are not required to stay in their area of training. Individuals I was able to contact with experience in these firms say physicians are just as likely to move into other industries like finance or IT as stay in healthcare.

Management consultants work in teams on a focused project for a few months and then rotate to another project. The benefit is broad exposure to a variety of fields in a short amount of time. The top firms all have international offices as well, with opportunities to work abroad if the consultant has a particular interest in a geographic area.

Those who have done stints with top management consulting firms go on to a variety of careers, many within private equity or venture capital. It remains to be seen how the carnage on Wall Street over the past 18 months will affect the career progression of those in management consulting, but with an elite network to tap and broad experience in a variety of industries, suffice it to say that experience at a top management consulting firm is still a good career step. Notable individuals who have worked for management consulting firms include former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.

Beginning salaries at top firms seem to be around the $150,000 range with significant increases each year based on ability and productivity. Senior members of top firms can have incomes in the seven figures annually.  Those who choose to leave management consulting firms can leverage their experience and move on to lucrative careers in other areas. 

The drawbacks? Long hours and lots of travel.  Since most consulting work is done on site for the client, most consultants leave their houses Monday morning and do not return until late Thursday evening.  The only exceptions would be those consultants with significant seniority at the firm or those whose local office is in a large metropolitan area with enough Fortune 500 companies offering contracts in their home city (New York City for example). Those with whom I spoke cited time from family as the major reason for leaving a management consulting firm.

In all, for those physicians who wish for a change of scenery, a position in management consulting offers an interesting career that may open significant doors in other fields. There is a lot of information about management consulting on the web, and career websites like are a good place to begin to learn more about the industry and some of the specific firms.

Reader Comments (3)

Great post on management consulting. Since I come from that world (did my stint with Accenture within their Organization and Human Performance practice), I can vouch for everything you say. One thing I caution many of my physician clients about the consulting world is that it is not always an "easier" life than medicine. Granted you don't hold lives in the balance, but you do work long hours, under strict pressure, and most always out of town. Knowing that going in the door is really important to manage expectations.

On a positive note, you also have the ability to impact many people on a large scale. I found that part of it very rewarding. And the global travel, diversity of organizations, and access to top-tier executive levels isn't bad either.

I would also mention that PriceWaterhouseCoopers has a healthcare industry practice (and a stellar reputation) that favors hiring physicians - . For an example job posting directed to MDs, see here:

Some other ways to get your feet wet as a consultant a little closer to home are:
1. Become a reviewer and site surveyor for the Baldrige Award in healthcare or an accreditation organization like the JCAHO, JCI, AAAHC, etc.
2. Review applications for business plan competitions at a local business school
3. Join websites that link inventors with investors and advisors , like
4. Become an online mentor at http://psmentoring.umuc,edu
5. Voluteer to be an advisor to a local startup as part at a local incubator or innovation center.

Thanks for the feedback, guys. There seems to be many ways to enter the field. Knowing where to start is half the battle.

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