Advice for changing career path from life science to finance or performance consulting?

My nephew came to me with this problem, but he lives in Canada and I'm not very familiar with the specifics of how employment work there.

He has a BSc in Cell Biology. He originally wanted to become a doctor, but change his mind in 3rd year and is really against it now. He didn't change majors then because he didn't want to through away 3 year of work, and he was only a year from graduating.

He couldn't find any full-time white collar work for almost a year after graduating (just when the economic depression hit), so he went back to school last fall. He's now working on a MASc in Chemical Engineering because he was hoping it'd open more doors for him outside of life sciences (where, as he tells me, his options are limited to academia or the pharmaceutical industry if not medicine, and he's not interested in either). But he says his project is more biology/medicine related than pure chemical engineering projects (he told me he hasn't even had to do any calculus or typical engineering-related mathematics), and his supervisor isn't providing enough support, so he won't be on track to graduate on time.

He's always been somewhat interested in the finance industry or performance consulting, but doesn't know exactly what to aim for. He's really good on critiquing things, on just about any topic if he reads enough background information, seeing where the weaknesses are and possible improvements. He's good with numbers too, and for as long as I've known him he's been smart with money. Unfortunately, he's never had a true full time job yet, and nothing related to those particular fields.

I'd really like to give him some good advice on what to do. I've already thought of suggesting doing an MBA or doing another Bachelor degree (in Business Admin this time), but from what I've read, MBAs only help if you already have full-time work experience, and another Bachelor degree would mean at least another 3-4 years of school. So if anyone familiar with this type of situation can explain to me what his best options are, I'd greatly appreciate it!


Thanks for everyone who answered so far. Just to clarify, he is still in school working on his MASc. (I mentioned that above but I know my question explanation was very long, sorry!)

I just talked to him last night again, and he said in Canada at least, you don't need a Bachelor degree in engineering to do a MASc. for certain engineering disciplines, that only applies if you want to do a MEng. The supervisor he is working for is cross-appointed in biology, so he was brought on by the supervisor to help with biology-related work in the lab.

He mentioned he took intro to management, intro to marco- and micro- economics, and price theory during his undergraduate studies. But he said the types of jobs he found available in the finance and banking sectors require deeper experience than just a few courses.

From the sounds of it, should I just recommend then that he stick it out, and even if he can't graduate on time, there will still be some benefit to getting the degree?

Update 2:

Thanks Vespa, you've confirmed a lot of things I was thinking myself. I know he's not afraid of working, in fact he always complains that he can't seem to find the right opportunity to get work. He did full-time contract work for a couple of years, so I know he has a good work ethic.

I think maybe he needs to try a new strategy to get into the job interview process? I've noticed he always turns himself down before even applying for a job if he doesn't meet all the requirements but can demonstrate he has the right experience (he often asks me about the job he's currently applying for).

I know this can be a separate question, but what strategy is the best to apply for financial sectors jobs with no finance background?

His current strategy has simply been visiting company sites and applying for jobs online. Should he try in-person cold calls at the offices?

4 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    With no full time work experience, I'm not sure it's very wise of him to keep throwing more and more money at his education when he's so unsure of what he wants to do. An MBA is only useful if you are with a company and have management experience or you'll literally be over educated and underemployed and not to mention, you won't really benefit much from it unless you have 5 yrs experience to bring to the table so you can see the practical applications of what you are learning.

    I would suggest he go into financial services at a large firm like Fidelity or Schwab and get his feet wet in the investment arena just to see if he likes it. They don't care what kind of degree you have and they will pay for your CFA (Certified Financial Analyst) , which is better than an MBA if he is more analytical.

    In my humble opinion, what is the use of paying a substantial amount of money for a graduate degree you don't even like or really want to use? The opportunity cost is enormous considering he could already be getting his foot in the door in a direction he's more interested in and getting paid for it and eventually that company paying his tuition for a degree that will benefit him that he's interested in. It's also totally unnecessary for him to go back and get another Bachelor's degree as well. I would really question at this point whether your nephew was fearful of getting into the working world or just trying to avoid it being a professional student.

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  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    For someone with a science background, business is a snap. If he's still in school now, I would take an intro to accounting class and an intro to finance class, and that's all he really needs functionally to do well.

    Pharma and biotech are great industries right now. He may still want to pursue a job there anyway, and switch roles within the company at some point to the business side.

    At that point, it would then be much easier to transfer into consulting or finance.

    With a little industry experience and some background in finance, he might be able to work at an investment bank with a biotech or pharma industry group.

    It's funny. I am more of a science person and wound up doing an MBA and investment banking and kind of wish I'd become a doctor. I guess the grass is always greener elsewhere.

    His background is really strong for today's job market, though. I would rather have a degree in chemical engineering right now than an MBA. Your options might be more limited, but the growth prospects are good and you're competing with less people. Mix in a couple business classes, and you're even stronger.

    Good luck!


    The econ and management classes are good, but accounting and finance would be stronger. I think it would be best for him to stick it out with the chemical engineering. Get a job in that field and then leverage it into more of a business role if that's the direction he wants to go in.

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  • Walton
    Lv 4
    9 years ago

    First, I've never heard of anyone being able to get a Masters in Chemical Engineering without an undergraduate in an engineering related discipline first...I do know that ChemE and Chemistry are only like 30 hours different, so its certainly not impossible, and some folks go back and fullfill the remaining requirements and THEN do it....Second, no calculus? This is sounding even more bizarre...Generally, in the US at least, engineering majors have at least 4 courses of Cal (12 hours)...

    No work experience is a problem and I realize its difficult to obtain in this economy. An MBA might be something to consider with even just a couple years work experience, but not without any...A bachelors degree shouldn't mean another 3-4 years as many hours would likely count for dual credit (humanities, arts/sciences, general electives, etc.)...But yeah, it could take a while (just tell him to pull whatever strings he did when went from Biology undergrad to Masters in ChemE! lol!)...

    My reccomendation - all kidding aside - is get whatever job he can...Pharmaceuticals seem to be a good way to go, just for a couple of years, and then see what opens up...Often times an "entry point" into the company is not the job you want, but gets your foot in the door and opens up other things. Then if his dreams don't come to fruition he can always pursue that MBA then with some experience under his belt.

    Source(s): Life, MBA, etc.
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  • 9 years ago

    I would definitely recommend going back to school for a BBA then getting a job. In three years time he can go for his MBA and hopefully get recruited by a big-time consulting firm.

    Another potential option is to try get a finance-y/business job with a pharmaceutical company and then do an MBA.

    If he goes back to school, he could also do a CA and go the accounting route!

    Also, what school does he go to? I go to school in Canada too, and if I know the school I could make some more specific recommendations!

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