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by Vault Consulting Editors | March 10, 2009

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Once you land a job in the health care consulting, what you can expect depends largely on the type of firm your choose. At large management consulting firms, it's relatively hard for college graduates to specialize by industry. However, graduate degree holders with health care-related degrees or those who have substantial experience in the health care industry prior to attending graduate school are usually pegged early in the recruiting process to the firm's health care industry practice.

Experiences in health care-focused firms also vary by the firm's size and business focus. At one firm that specializes in strategic and management support to hospital systems, newly hired college graduates are not expected to do much more than provide non-substantive administrative support to senior consultants on the road. At smaller boutique firms competing largely with academic think tanks and non-profit organizations for public-sector work, the experiences of new consultants range from work as "data monkeys," who analyze large sets of information, to presenting results to clients.

New hires at larger firms are more likely to have a standardized, predictable experience compared to their counterparts at smaller firms without formal internal processes for allocating work. But a "can-do" attitude regardless of the nature or size of the task is rewarded at all firms.

Kinder and gentler

The organizational motivation of most consulting firms seeps an unspoken irony -- each project implies a strong commitment to a client's interests without any guarantees of a long-term relationship or of any follow-up beyond the project's contractual boundary. In this environment the motivations of consultants stem largely from the project's intellectual challenges. While consultants often "believe" in what they are trying to accomplish for a client on a project, their visceral rise results from the application of intellectual muscle to complex questions. ~

Government involvement in regulating and purchasing health care reflects public opinion that health care is a social good that government should work to preserve. Even private health care market participants (and their consultants) tend to have a more humanitarian orientation compared to other industries that are more exclusively concerned with "bottom-line" issues. On the other hand, bottom-line issues are still the focus as the government looks to control public spending on health care and publicly traded technology providers and managed care organizations seek profit-increasing efficiencies. All in all, health care consultants are expected to have the same skill set as all other consultants, but may be seen as "kinder and gentler" than their counterparts consulting in other industries.

Future Prospects

Individuals beginning in consulting have a relatively broad set of options when they decide to move on. While health care consultants without graduate degrees, like other consultants, go disproportionately to the top MBA programs, there are a slew of graduate programs for individuals who want to continue careers in health care whether they want to remain consultants or not. These degrees include: MPHs (Masters in Public Health), MHAs (Masters in Health Administration) and MPPs/MPAs (Masters in Public Policy or Adminstration). In many cases, doctoral degrees specializing in these areas of study are also available.

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Filed Under: Consulting

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