The path from consulting to strategy in the life sciences space

The life sciences space is consistently in need of world-class strategy talent who are passionate about bringing innovative medical treatments to patients.

Strategy functions can vary significantly in the life sciences industry, ranging from traditional corporate strategy positions to strategic roles focused on research and development (R&D), market access, commercial and more, depending on a person’s skills, experiences and interests.

Whether you’re a corporate leader interested in attracting top consulting professionals to your organization or a management consultant looking to make an exit into the life sciences industry, it’s important to understand the experience and qualities organizations look for, as well as the consultant profile that will best match various roles.

In this article, we share the most common areas strategy professionals contribute to within life sciences organizations, how consultant titles translate to industry roles and what a long-term career can look like in this space.

But first, it can be helpful to identify how we define the life sciences market. This industry includes organizations producing pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biotechnology, research, specialized manufacturing and the diagnostic/scientific equipment used to bring these products to patients.

According to a report from McKinsey, life sciences M&A has been accelerating from its recent lows in 2022 and is forecasted to continue into 2024, boosting the demand for the strategy talent required to drive these transactions.

How is the strategic toolkit applied in life sciences organizations?

Corporate strategy:

Traditional corporate strategy teams often operate like an internal management consulting group helping to identify how best to achieve the executive leadership team’s strategic vision.

This can include a wide range of functions, including creating strategic roadmaps, internal transformation/integration efforts, optimizing organizational efficiencies, operating as a chief of staff to various leaders and even overseeing ESG functions.

R&D strategy:

Leadership teams responsible for R&D strategy often look for consultants with deep academic backgrounds (master’s/PhDs/MDs) across STEM fields due to their unique understanding of the science behind medical products.

These insights are used to identify the potential market impact of assets under development, formulate strategies to advance these assets through approval processes and how to incorporate R&D efforts with the organization’s overall product strategy.

This ability to align R&D efforts with the organization’s overall strategy is a skill that R&D leadership teams consistently look for in this function.

Commercial strategy:

This function involves looking at assets that are approved, or trending towards regulatory approvals, and creating a strategy that allows organizations to maximize their return on investment as they take their product to market.

This involves the market-access implications, pricing/marketing strategies, medical affairs coordination, production forecasting and other factors necessary to successfully generate revenue aligned with the overall strategy.

How do consultant titles translate to industry titles?

While each organization is different and has unique criteria for defining titles, there are some common trends to take note of, which can be found across the industry:

  • Associates and senior associate titles (~0-4 years of experience in pre-MBA consulting roles) typically translate to an analyst, manager or senior manager title.


  • Consultants, project leaders or manager titles (~2-5 years of post-MBA consulting experience) typically translate to an associate director, director or senior director title.


  • Principal, director or partner titles (~7-10+ years post-MBA consulting experience) translate to a director, executive director, associate vice president, vice president or “head of” title.


What does a long-term career path look like in the life sciences industry?

Your career path often depends on where you start within an organization.

For example, if you choose the more traditional corporate strategy route, you will likely follow a path to executive leadership, chief strategy officer, chief operations officer, etc.

Likewise, if you join an R&D strategy team, you will likely carve a niche for yourself as an innovation, portfolio or strategic partnerships leader.

If your niche is in commercial, it’s common to grow into a GM / commercial portfolio manager, chief commercial officer or chief growth officer type role.

The takeaway:

From corporate to R&D to commercial strategy, top consulting talent plays a pivotal role in shaping long-term success within the life sciences industry. Understanding the different entry points and how those can lead to various career outcomes is valuable information for anyone considering the next steps in their career.

As the industry continues to evolve, strategy talent remains one of the cornerstones for achieving growth and innovation in life sciences organizations.

If you’re interested in learning more about life sciences strategy or how to effectively hire top consulting talent, contact Noah Schultz at (336) 217-9192 or