Author Topic: Mustachians in Biotech - Should I get an MBA on top of my PhD?  (Read 765 times)


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I hold a PhD in Bioengineering and have been working in academia for the past 6 years - first a postdoc, now in a research scientist position that includes some project management/administration duties.

After jumping ship from the tenure-track pathway, I'm feeling very unchallenged by my current role and I'm craving a change to something that offers more opportunity for career growth. This past year in my current job helped me realize that I am truly an ambitious person and working in a job - albeit a low-stress and secure one - with no opportunity for growth is wearing on me.

On top of that, I'm feeling a little jaded about academic research as a whole and am looking for a fresh, but tangentially related career path. I do enjoy the limited management/administration things I do at my current job - much more than the research responsibilities. Ideally, I'd like to transition to industry, but would like to aim for more of a management/business development role. And, of course, all this time surfing the MMM forums has really bolstered my interest in finance!

I've considered getting my foot in the door in R&D as a scientist and transitioning to a more business-oriented role once in the company, but haven't had any luck because it seems like these scientist positions all require industry and commercialization experience that I don't have.

And because my city is a smaller one with a limited biotech community and two large R1 universities, there is a lot of competition for these scientist jobs. Moving is not an option right now and maybe not in the future either.

So my questions are:

Is it worth getting an MBA to help me transition to a more business-oriented role in biotech?

Are online MBAs respected? They are significantly cheaper and their flexibility appeals to me because I have young kids and don't want to have to stick around campus all evening.

Am I too old to get an MBA? I've read some perspectives that say the peak hiring age for MBAs is early 30s. I'm 37 now and would probably be 40 by the time I earn a degree (I'd only consider doing a part-time professional or online program that will allow me to continue working).

If not an MBA, how else can I make myself a more attractive candidate for industry positions?

Did I make a horrible, horrible mistake by getting a PhD and sticking around in academia in the first place? (Don't answer that!)

I'd love to hear any input. Thanks!


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Re: Mustachians in Biotech - Should I get an MBA on top of my PhD?
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2019, 11:25:15 AM »
As you already know, the two routes into biopharma BD/management are to either:

1) work on the science end in said company with a PhD, slowly building up your BD/management skills/responsbilities. little by little, you will be come that BD person. You wont need an MBA as you have incrementally assumed all the skills and experience you will need and have demonstrated the capacity to lead/perform.

2) Apply to a company as an outsider with either a business degree and/or PhD. If the latter, you will be required to have all the requisite skill sets under your belt and be able to prove it.

I think your biggest challenge is getting into industry at all, in any context, whether on the science end, QC/QA, BD, manufacturing, whatnot. This is a significant but not unattainable challenge.
Your next big impediment is not being able/willing to move. I live in one of the densest biopharma hubs in the USA with well over a decade of industry experience, and despite this, my biopharma job search over the past 4 months is leading me to believe that it is almost certain that I will need to move to find new work.

When I look at the license plates in our companies parking lot (global pharma), I see vast out of state license plates. it is very telling.

I know several PhDs who went on to get their MBAs to transition into BD. I also know many PhDs who just gradually assumed such roles from within the inside of the organization. Furthermore, I also know some PhDs who came right into BD from external bench science. Not sure how they pulled that one off. Maybe a Nature or Science publication that made the front cover and came from a super-hotshot lab?


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Re: Mustachians in Biotech - Should I get an MBA on top of my PhD?
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2019, 12:23:52 PM »
Just following for the bio PhD career talk. Sorry, I know nothing!