MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

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MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

Postby Tina » Mon Feb 21, 2005 3:35 pm

Has anyone heard any feedback from degrees that combine science & business? I'd like to get out of the lab and start a career in management and wonder if this is the way to go. After searching, the best one offered looks like the Ivey Biotech MBA Program. But it's expensive--I want some feedback before I spend the money!

MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Feb 23, 2005 12:05 pm

Hello Tina,

As you'll find via other advice on this forum, most people believe that getting an MBA without any kind of experience in industry is a mistake. You'll have a hard time getting accepted into those top tier programs, and the value you get out of it would be very low in comparison to what may happen for you if you go after a few years of work.

Are you in industry already with a life sciences degree, and you are considering an MBA? If so, than I'd say that YES the top-tier MBA will help you considerably if you are interested in business positions. (Just don't go to interviews saying that you want to be in "management:) . . .

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What about industry research experience and then a middle tier program?

Postby Jim » Wed Feb 23, 2005 6:41 pm

What does the Ether say about the real added value potential to one's career growth when one has 5-8 years of industry research experience followed by attending and then graduating from a middle tier MBA program?

MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

Postby Don » Fri Feb 25, 2005 7:53 am

As Dave noted, if you have been in the lab for a while, and have industry experience, then it is probably a good idea.

As for the Ivy Biotech MBA programs, the value they give you is incremental over a regular Ivy MBA program - it will help you, but it will not make up for anything that is a real deficiency (such as lack of real industry experience, or additional advanced degrees such as an MD or PhD).

There are two very good Biotech MBA programs that I know of. One is offered by HBS and MIT in a combined program. The other is offered by Kellogg. Both are concentrations within the regular MBA programs.

To be sure, I think the greatest value of these programs is that they are coming from top schools. So even if you just went through the regular MBA track at these schools, you would be in a good position - especially if you have an MD or PhD to back it up.

Even if you dont have the advanced science degree, if you have a chance to get into one of these programs and you have good industry experience, the MBA will likely put you in a very good position to move forward in the business side of science.

As for the question of a mid-tier program, I would be a bit more cautious. Nearly every school that is not in the top 10 would say that they are "mid tier" - there are a lot of programs out there that probably over estimate their ability to place graduates in good jobs. To be certain, there are many good firms that are recruiting from mid-tier schools (Guidant, 3M, JNJ, Pfizer, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, etc.) but with the exception of the service businesses (banking, consulting) the pharma companies generally restrict recruiting for the most sought after jobs to the Ivys.


MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

Postby Peter » Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:47 am

I'd like to take this discussion a little further about the Biotech MBA's. What would people say are the major advantages and disadvantages of taking such a course rather then a regular MBA?
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MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

Postby Don » Fri Feb 25, 2005 11:38 am

This is a great question - and something that most people dont pay attention to. What does one actually get out of an MBA.

As I see it, there are three main things:

1. The concepts and information in the classes - the book learning if you will. For people without finance or marketing experience (i.e. most scientists) this is very important - but available in one form or another at almost any to 50 MBA program. There are some differences between the programs of course, but by and large many schools use the same texts and cases, and you get more of this (i.e. profficiency) from experience in the real world anyway.

2. An expanded network of people to learn from and look to for information, additional business contacts, opinions etc. when you graduate.

3. Marquis value in your pedigree - many top employers recruit exclusively from the big schools in part because they believe that admission to those schools is selective and so the schools have already narrowed the talent pool and are offering the best.

In my experience reasons 2 and 3 yeild the greatest results in finding a great post MBA job and being really successfull in your career. So a Top tier program is best. Please note, there are people who have found great jobs w/o Top tier MBA's but they are fewer and far between.

The difference in the Biotech focused programs is really incremental provided it is from a top school. If you are set on a career in bio, and have been accepted one of the top MBA programs but have a choice of going to a mid tier combined program - you should go to the top MBA program without reservation. If you are deciding between a regular MBA from Kellogg and the Bio focused MBA from Kellogg - do the Bio MBA.

The Bio focused MBA programs allow you to get more specific information - book learning, if you will - from the MBA program. It will also allow you to focus building your network in the industry.

Again, however - if it is a choice between mid-tier MBA/Bio and top-tier regular MBA, take the latter.


MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

Postby Peter » Fri Feb 25, 2005 12:08 pm

Cheers for that Don

But how do you think people would react to a Biotech MBA if you actually weren't going for a Biotech orientated position. So I suppose my question is does specialising with a Biotech MBA restrict you to a Biotech only business career. Also due to the fact it is bio will you be missing out on valuable info/classes on other aspects of business that are core to other types of industries?
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MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

Postby Don » Fri Feb 25, 2005 1:17 pm


Wow...! I had never thought of that. I would imagine one of the biggest issues you would face would be the inevitable "So why did you do a Bio focused MBA if you dont want to go into Bio?" from potential employers.

I can see a reason to go into it if you are planning a career in one of the related industries with a bio-focus like VC, Banking, or Consulting (such as Putam). But I cant imagine going into an interview for a job at say Ford Motors, Sony, Microsoft, or some other such company after doing a bio-focused degree. I'd like to hear what some of the recruiter types here think, but I would imagine you might look like something of a dilettante.

From what I have seen, all of these bio-focused programs teach the basics in some form or another. Most schools have a core curriculum that everyone takes (Econ, Finance, Accounting, Marketing, etc.). Where the most of the differences lie is in the electives - these are often very focused on bio or pharma. Actually, I believe the requirements are quite "light" in terms of necessary electives to fill the bio requirement (at least in some programs). So you would have exposure to many other programs.

I am not certain if this answers your question.


MBA Biotech or Life Sciences degrees

Postby Peter » Fri Feb 25, 2005 1:54 pm

Well I like to think of all the options and possibilities even if they are 10 years away ;) I'm planning on a bio business career pathway but you never know, options are always good!

Yes it answers my line of thought.


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Thanks! If only I was reasonably assured to get into one of those two programs.

Postby Jim » Fri Feb 25, 2005 6:17 pm

The costs; time and money, and efforts to study for the entrance exams and then to go through the application process when I wasn't a honors student as an undergrad causes me to pause.

Trying to find a path to greater levels of responsibilities and challenges and appreciative of your insights,

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