Exploration Stories + Advice

Turning a Pre-Med Background into a Successful Business Career

I spent my first three years at BC thinking that as a pre-med biology major there were only two career options for me: become a doctor or, if that didn’t work, become a scientist. I tried hard to fit myself into those molds. After spending countless hours studying everything from cytokines to carbon rings to centrifugal force, I started to panic. Neither studying pre-med nor being in the lab made me happy. What was I going to do after college?

I was fortunate to get a summer internship at Stryker, a medical technology company, during college. It was through this internship experience that I realized that there was a third career option much more aligned to my interests. I didn’t have to be a doctor or a scientist — I could use my passion for science and medicine for a career on the business side of healthcare.

Can pre-med students really excel in business?

My internship at Stryker was in their clinical research department, which hired science/pre-med majors to manage the operations of their clinical trials. I utilized a variety of skills I learned as a biology major and through my pre-med classes to do the job like writing white papers, designing trials, analyzing results, and understanding medical terminology. The job incorporated all the parts of science and medicine that I liked without ever needing to step into a lab or put on a stethoscope.

While in that internship program, I networked with a variety of people in the company and learned that in addition to clinical research, there are many other types of jobs in the healthcare industry that look for applicants with a science/pre-med background. These include jobs in marketing, sales, consulting, and more, and can be at medical device, pharmaceutical, and consulting companies just to name a few. Having a strong foundation in science and medicine is in fact a huge asset that you can use to grow a successful business career in the healthcare industry.

Over the past seven years since I graduated from BC I have worked my way up in the healthcare industry, first using my internship to get a full-time position at Stryker, then pivoting into healthcare consulting, and finally into healthcare IT. My science/pre-med background has been instrumental in that career growth since I understand biology and can use that to quickly pick up new healthcare knowledge. I recently augmented my career growth with an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, which helped me round out my business skills. Today I am in an executive leadership development program at Cerner, a leading healthcare IT company. 

How do I get started?

  • Build a wide and diverse network: Networking isn’t just for CSOM students (even though I naively thought so when I was at BC). Start early and talk to alumni, professors, your fellow students, and more. Use Eagle Exchange and LinkedIn to search for and contact alumni you might be interested in speaking with—we love to help our fellow Eagles! Attend career fairs and healthcare industry networking events. The more different people you meet, the more you will learn about the various companies and jobs that are out there that might be a great fit for you. And you never know who might be able to help you land your dream job now or in the future.
  • Learn some core business skills: Even though many business jobs in the healthcare industry are looking for science majors, learning a few core business skills can really help you stand out. Consider taking classes in accounting, finance, or marketing or learn key concepts from your friends who are in those classes. If it’s too tough to fit anything else into your already busy schedule of science classes, another option is to take an online business class or two during the summer, there are a lot of free options available online to help you get familiar with the basics. 
  • Utilize the Career Center: One of my biggest regrets from college is not taking advantage of the Career Center’s resources. It wasn’t until I went back to school for my MBA that I realized I really missed out on using the career center at BC. The Career Center can help you learn about various companies, write your resume, prepare for interviews, and so much more.

For any of you that are pre-med and are doubting your career options, don’t lose hope! There are a ton of companies in the healthcare industry looking for someone just like you.

—By Catherine Vanacore, MCAS ‘13

About the Author: Catherine Vanacore graduated from Boston College in 2013 with a BS in Biology, and has gone on to earn her MS in Health Sciences from George Washington University and MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She is an aspiring healthcare IT executive who works as an Associate Director in the Executive Development Program at Cerner Corporation in Kansas City, MO.

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