Don’t Discount the Private Sector

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MariaAbricaBy Maria E. Abrica, MPH

I am a self-described health policy nerd, so it was only appropriate that I completed my MPH at GW with a Health Policy concentration back in May 2015. Just like many of you, I too aspired to be a change agent by being a part of making the world of public health a better place. I left beautiful, sunny California to come to DC to make a career out of that aspiration, and I did and continue to do so.

Now, interestingly enough, I am currently working as a Research Consultant at The Lewin Group, a national health care and human services consulting firm. I did not imagine I’d be working in the private sector post-graduate school, but I am so happy I did.

Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Because Federal, state, and local governments have limited capabilities to do amazing work, they contract with private companies to do the job. This means that more often than not, you’ll be getting more hands on experience if you end up working for a private company, though this is still possible in other sectors.
  • Your work may be more than just research and policy analysis, which keeps things interesting.
  • Depending on the consulting firm you end up at, you may end up working on more than one area of health policy, such as health IT, health insurance exchanges, state innovation models, specific areas within Medicaid and/or Medicare, project evaluation and analysis, etc.
  • Because you are being pulled in to work in different projects, your skills continue to evolve and grow.
  • You learn that the private and public sector are very interdependent and at some point can’t choose which one is the lesser of two evils (kind of kidding here).
  • Consulting firms have various practices and it makes a difference. I work in the State Practice in my company so my work involves working with states or both states and HHS/CMS.

I am not advocating for anyone to choose the private sector over the public sector, but I think it’s important to consider your options as you commence your job search. Consulting can be challenging for some people and I can tell you that from my experience, you may end up working long hours. You may even end up in a project you hate and that’s just part of the deal.

Many of you may worry about what’s next after graduate school. Some people have a clear path and they work towards it, some are going with the flow of things. Ultimately, knowing what you would hate or love is important so that you are working towards something.

My experience thus far has taught me that:

1) The work hard graduate school attitude of a GW Health Policy student is a solid indicator of how your school to work transition will be. It won’t be hard and you may just have more free time on your hands.

2) Being in DC gives you the advantage of building a strong network, of trying different things if you are unsure about what you want (i.e. internships), and of customizing your professional resume. I hated networking, but not doing it is an opportunity wasted (that’s how I landed all of my jobs since I started grad school).

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at if you’d like to know more about consulting or Lewin.


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