Is it useful to get an MBA after a PhD in Science

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Is it useful to get an MBA after a PhD in Science

Postby Bright B. » Thu Dec 24, 2015 8:53 am

I'm starting a new job as a Senior Toxicologist in January. My new company is offering after 6 months, a good chunk of money toward the completion of any degree. I'm thinking about taking advantage of this and get an MBA. My thoughts is that, getting an MBA will be useful for me in the future as I try to climb the corporate ladder. So my question is to know whether getting an MBA after a PhD is useful? Please share your experience and thoughts.
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Re: Is it useful to get an MBA after a PhD in Science

Postby D.X. » Sat Dec 26, 2015 12:08 pm

Hi Bright

I will share a few thoughts and experiences.

First - do research what the company will want in return for that MBA or any external certificate or degree program. In general they will demand a certain amount of your time in years after completion of the degree. You will also have to examine how they will handle your days out of office. Vacation, paid leave or unpaid leave. This is important because should you leave the company before the agreed commitment time you will have to paid that tuition fee back (usually based on a forgive scheme per annum) and plus all those days back in the event of paid leave. Unless you think this is a company for your very very long term growth (in consideration of today's 2 years and out landscape) then really think about it. Also balance that with if you think another company will take that cost should you jump as part of your negotiation. It can happen but don't rely on it. I am doing similar with a certificate program, I signed their contract - basically they want 4 years post completion of my program in order for me to payback. For me - I take the risk that I will negotiate another company takes that cost should I jump as part of my negotiation.

Second - as far as MBA, remember when you finish that MBA you will be a Toxicologist with a MBA. Still a Toxicologist. Unless the company has a strong IDP program and you have full backing of your supervisor it will be hard to make a leap. The MBA will not help in your current track - what will help you more than anything is your experience and team credibility in your current track. You don't need a MBA to be in Drug Safety.

Third - as far as corporate ladder - to do what exactly? Remember you will be a PhD toxicologist (Drug Safety) with an MBA and no experience. In Pharma you will be labeled with that drug safety badge it will be hard to shake off. Especially in today's world where you are in heavy competition. My best guess is that you may need to jump outside of in house and check out management consulting firms to get some good business experience before any Pharma will take you back in a business role.

Fourth - which leads me to do you really need a MBA? After a bit of time in your role, if you don't want to advance in Drug Safety you can look at other options - I. E management consulting in a big firm or try transitioning to other functions where you are routinely engaged heavily and are interested, I e Medical Affairs, Clinical Decelopment, QA, Technical Operations - no MBA need there either.

Fifth - the other element that will work against you is age. You can have MBA, PhD, whatever - but at some point if you are of a certain age and are trying to make a transition no amount of degrees will help you. What will is experience. Experience is worth a hundred MBAs, use that to make your steps.

Sixth - what do you want to do ? What is club the corporate ladder means to you? As far as my experience tells me here is what makes you go up the ladder - strong crossfm funtional working with leadership competencies - what that looks like? You see a problem and you don't hesitate to summons a meeting to tackle the problem. Another is strong presentation and workshop facilitation skills- if you can get up and take charge of a meeting and Workgroup, challenge constrctively and nove towards output a and actions with you coordinating then that will get you recignized. Another is business acumen that is are you working to deliver on business objectives? You don't need a MBA for that just common sense and understanding on where your paycheck is coming from. At last networking and being politically saavy.

Seventh - not to say don't get a MBA but you have a PhD see where you can go with it! A MBA may help you get a first job post MBA but after that - it's what I said above will take you forward - your experience and how you work.

Ask me any other questions - I have a partner with a MBA as well in Medical Affairs (Directior) at a Big Pharma - see my point about helping with first post MBA job (a job of minimal interest to her and low salary) - it was a setting stone but really after the first job it was her experience and her selling herself, keeping an eye for opportunity and taking some risks that took her forward. The MBA expired basically after her first job.

Then there is me. No MBA.

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Re: Is it useful to get an MBA after a PhD in Science

Postby D.X. » Sun Dec 27, 2015 4:18 am

One other point - as you just joined your company I recommend you wait a bit to open that conversation if you decide on that path. Your supervisor must approve and usually that decision is taken after a long discussion about your career goals etc. Know your supervisor first - you may be putting your self in an weird position opening that conversation with such little tenure - become an expert in your job, perform then after a while if you want to open that conversation the do it but very constructively - you will need to business case yourself as to why the company should pay for your MBA and how the company will benefit - use your IDP as part of the story. HR will want to see this as part of their approval process (after endorsement of you boss). You may raise a red flag if you express this interest too early.

as mentioned I've recently been through this for a costly program my company is paying for so these are some of the things I went through - it wasn't easy - HR wise even after my supervisor +3 was a solid "go".


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Re: Is it useful to get an MBA after a PhD in Science

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Dec 27, 2015 1:14 pm

All of DX's comments are great. I would add that after many years of talking to people who have earned MBA's early on (right after their technical degrees), the consensus appears to be that the MBA is worth a lot more if you get it AFTER you've had significant experience, and not as a "tack on" to your PhD. In fact, an MBA on top of a PhD can make your job search even more difficult if it isn't coupled with experience that means the MBA is worth something to an employer.

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Re: Is it useful to get an MBA after a PhD in Science

Postby D.X. » Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:35 pm

Agreed with Dave - regarding Dave's comment a MBA being worth alot more after significant experience is very very very relative to "no" experience. That "significant experince" and follow on decision to do a MBA should be well calculated to a career trajectory where one believes the MBA combined with that significant experience, will take them --- after very very careful research, with willingness to accept some risk and some possible hard work to get where one wants - in other words - have a well defined plan. And if you want the employer to pay make sure they are fully on board with tentative milestone and objectives in your IDP.

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Re: Is it useful to get an MBA after a PhD in Science

Postby Dustin Levy » Tue Dec 29, 2015 10:31 am

In my case, I got an MBA, which my first employer paid for, after about 18 months of industry experience. As a general rule, I think you should take advantage of every financial benefit your employer will offer you. Just as any financial planner will tell you to maximize the employer contribution to your retirement account, you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t at least consider having your employer fund your business degree.

As D.X. indicated, you will owe them a period of employment after you get the degree, in my case 12 months. That’s a very fair exchange in my view. I would hesitate to commit more than 2 years.

Some additional advice I got from some business executives – either get your MBA from a top-tier school (Ivy League, Sloan, Stanford, etc.) or get it from wherever is the most convenient for you. In the case where you’ve already got a Ph.D., you’re academic record is already strong, so it’s fair to take the easy route. In my case, I entered a blended program where about 2/3 of the courses were online. Many reputable colleges and universities, though not in the top-tier, will offer these types of convenient programs and they will be easy compared to what you went through to get your Ph.D.

The greatest benefit I saw from an MBA was being able to understand and communicate business language. Compared to my peers, I became better equipped to translate technical information to business leaders, which helped get me and my teams the resources they needed to complete their work. My MBA didn’t get me a promotion, but my ability to better influence my leaders made me and my teams better, which ultimately led to promotions for myself and others around me.
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Re: Is it useful to get an MBA after a PhD in Science

Postby Dick Woodward » Wed Jan 06, 2016 10:31 am

One other thing to consider - there are often prerequisites to the MBA (basic accounting, economics, etc.) that a PhD will not have been exposed to, even as an undergraduate. At some schools, these are the "MBA Boot Camp" required before admission to the program. It is possible that you can get these out of the way while you are gaining the "significant scientific experience" that the other posters have discussed; you may also not be required to commit to the company for some of these courses.

As an aside, I would recommend taking basic accounting - I found that this made it much easier to communicate with the more financially-oriented people at the company.

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