A Fufilling Side Hustle

On this week’s episode of the PNC podcast, Dr. Shirag Shemmassian joins me to discuss a nonclinical career I’ve never considered before: academic consultant.

Shirag was pre-med throughout his college career and planned to be a surgeon. But when the time came for him to apply to medical school, he decided to switch his focus to the area of his research, clinical psychology. With little direction when he began preparing to attend graduate school, he studied the process that he had to navigate on his own. And he began helping people with their applications 15 years ago. In 2015, he founded Shemmassian Academic Consulting as his way to help more struggling students.

Our Sponsor

We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country, with over 650 graduates. And, unlike other programs, which typically run 1 – 1/2 to 2 years, this program only takes a year to complete. Recently, Economist Magazine ranked the business school #1 in the world for the Most Relevant Executive MBA.

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Graduates have taken leadership positions at major healthcare organizations. And they've become entrepreneurs and business owners.

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Shirag had no background in business when he began consulting, just his experience mentoring med-school hopefuls. Now, his business has grown to a network of more than 70 academic consultants who work with students as early as high school. His company helps them apply to undergraduate programs, med schools and law schools. Some of the services these consultants offer include:

  • MCAT Tutoring,
  • developing school lists,
  • editing application essays, and
  • interview coaching.

His coaching services are generally provided virtually, through emails, phone calls and video conference calls.

The Ideal Academic Consultant

The ideal candidates to become a part-time academic consultant are:

  • medical residents or recent graduates from a residency program,
  • natural mentors who enjoy helping younger students, and
  • willing to spend two to four hours per week helping each student.

The consultants Shirag works also have strong social skills and a background in admissions. Once they join the team, they also receive personalized training.

Three Kinds of Students

It is also important to Shirag that an academic consultant is honest with her clients. There are three types of prospective students, and each of them requires a different kind of help than the other.

  1. The Superstar – This is the student with an exceptional GPA and MCAT score who knows they are going to get into med school. They seek a consultant to help them get into a competitive top-10 or top-20 school.
  1. The Borderline – This kind of student feels they may or may not get into med school. The role of consultants in these cases is to help tip their odds toward admission.
  1. The Long Shot – Even a student with a very slim chance of admission sometimes wants to try anyway. Shirag doesn't judge who should, or shouldn’t, apply to med school. He'll tell them the odds, then do his best to open as many doors as possible, and try their best to make the long shot.

With so much competition, it makes sense that students want to maximize their chance of admission. Many uncoached applicants are not accepted anywhere. With the help of Shirag and Shemmassian Academic Consulting, students have an extra edge through the expertise of experienced mentors.

Links for Today's Episode

Nonclinical Career Academy Membership Program is Now Live!

I've created 12 courses and placed them all in an exclusive, low cost membership program. The program provides an introduction to dozens of nontraditional careers, with in-depth lessons on several of them. It even includes my full MSL Course that normally sells for $397.00 as part of the membership. And I'll add more content devoted to one of these topics each and every month:

  • Nontraditional Careers: Locum tenens, Telemedicine, Cash-only Practice
  • Hospital and Health System Jobs
  • Pharma Careers
  • Home-based jobs
  • Preparing for an interview, and writing a resume
  • And more…

Thanks to our sponsor…

Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It is just what you need to prepare for that fulfilling, well-paying career. You can find out more at nonclinicalphysicians.com/physicianmba.

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Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton


The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business. 

Many of the links that I refer you to, and that you’ll find in the show notes, are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you, that I have personally used or am very familiar with.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counsellor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career.