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Management Consulting: Why It Might be the Career Choice for You

Management Consulting, consulting
“Management Consulting”-Fishbowl

Management consulting is a professional services industry which started up in the early 1900s. MIT chemist Arthur D. Little and his partner founded their own small consulting practice in 1886. His partner died in a chemistry lab accident and Little eventually formed his own consulting business in 1909 called Arthur D. Little which operated until 2002 when it was mismanaged and driven into bankruptcy. Then it was acquired by a European company and conducted business in Europe and Asia for years before re-emerging in the US. Today the company has about 1,000 employees.

Booz Allen Hamilton, a top contemporary management consulting company, was founded just a little after Arthur D. Little in 1914. The founder, Edwin Booz, had a theory that businesses could benefit from receiving impartial advice from an external entity. Early clients at Booz were the Canadian Pacific Railway and Goodyear Tire.

The much larger management consulting firm McKinsey was founded in the US in 1926 by accounting professor James McKinsey and today has about 127,000 employees with annual revenues of over $10 billion dollars.

Since the early part of the 20th century many other consulting firms have been created. Today, they do business all over the world in a thriving industry that addresses a very wide range of business, governmental and societal problems.

What are some of the top management consulting firms?

Deloitte

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC)

Booz Allen Hamilton

EY (Ernst & Young) 

Accenture

McKinsey & Company

The Boston Consulting Group, Inc

Bain & Company

What do management consulting firms do?

To put it simply management consulting firms are hired by clients like companies, government agencies and charities to help them solve their problems and manage their organizations more effectively. For example, the first management consulting firm, Arthur D. Little, helped General Motors set up its first Research & Development lab in 1911.

What are management consultant salaries?

At the top management consulting firms the salaries can reach $160,000 per year or slightly more. At the bottom end, they are in the mid to high $50,000s. Management consultant compensation is like most jobs in that it depends upon educational background, years of experience and the type of work one engages in. For example, some management consultants have doctorates, MBAs or JDs. A few have joint degrees like an MBA/JD. The more credentials you have like these generally speaking the more compensation you will receive. A new graduate with a BA or BS won’t earn nearly as much as someone with a professional degree and five years of experience. At some of the top firms like McKinsey, Bain and the Boston Consulting Group new hires can make about $100,000 per year though not all receive that much. Again, it depends on the employer, job location, and type of consulting.

What is a typical consultant job description?

What consultants do varies by organization and role. At the same time, there are some common core functions:

  • Conduct research and work with data to understand the client’s organization and dynamics.
  • Conduct interviews with employees and customers.
  • Do market research by running focus groups.
  • Author business proposals
  • Prepare and give presentations
  • Document problems and issues and come up with solutions
  • Create hypotheses, run tests and gather data
  • Generate ideas and recommend solutions
  • Implement the solutions approved of by the client
  • Manage projects and lead staff where appropriate
  • Meet with client regularly to share updates
  • Collaborate well with clients
  • Do presentations to bring in new clients.

What are the educational requirements?

At the basic level, consulting firms want their associates to have at least a bachelor’s degree from a respected or top university or college. If you have an MBA or other advanced degree having this credential can help you.

Does it matter what major I have or had?

Generally speaking, having a business major is the typical focus. Accounting and finance are other relevant majors though you can have any major and apply at a management consulting firm. Consulting firms also hire for IT-related positions like software engineer, IT business associate, data scientist and so on.

What about internships?

If you think you are interested in working at a consulting firm definitely look on the company website because many of these companies have summer internship programs. If you are accepted you could gain invaluable experience and knowledge. Even if it turns out you don’t want to pursue a career in this industry at least you can cross that one off your list. If you have the good fortune to like your internship you will have added important experience to your resume and you will have an advantage if you apply for a permanent associate position.

How do I get a management consulting job?

The competition at the top firms can be very fierce so you will probably want to approach your application process with some care. If you are a student the avenue to pursue is an internship. So, it might be helpful to contact your campus career center and get some guidance. Your college or university might have relationships with some management consulting firms. If so, they will probably have some information to help you apply with an internship placement.

If you are a graduate and are in the workforce you can get an idea of what positions are available by visiting the careers sections of the firms websites or looking on LInkedIn. You can then identify your top choices and follow those firms on social media to stay informed about their work. In fact, for such competitive job placements, the more research you do the better prepared you will be in the event you are contacted for an interview.

Within LinkedIn or on a firm’s website if you see any listings for recruiters with their names posted you might contact them to set up an informational interview, online chat or phone call. If you build some contacts and start relationships at your target firm you may get some helpful information or even a referral. Of course, you can also try to get a referral through your personal and professional networks. Also, on Fishbowl there are over 10,000 management consulting employees at Deloitte, 8,000 at Accenture, 7,500 at PwC, 7,000 at EY, 4,000 at Boston Consulting Group, 3,500 at KPMG, 2,000 at IBM, 2,000 at Slalom Consulting, 1,500 at Oliver Wyman, 1,500 at McKinsey, 1,500 at A.T. Kearney, and 1,000 at ZS Associates.

If you use our app you will be able to communicate directly with employees at these firms, join group discussions about what is happening inside them and you can ask for a referral for a particular opening. Having access to this kind of inside information can be quite beneficial for a job seeker.

Management consulting firms often have job openings in locations all over the world. So, if you want to stay in your home area you could see if the consulting firm websites have positions there or at least within several hours. If you want to move far away or even live abroad, again, you can target these locations the same way. 

How do you prepare for a management consulting career?

The first requirement is to have a bachelor’s degree and preferably from a well-respected university. Management consulting firms can afford to be selective when hiring so they don’t hire just anyone.

It will probably help your cause to have a degree or at least some studies in business, finance and accounting. Knowing Excel, Powerpoint, Word or Google Docs, and project management software well will also help. 

If management consulting firms visit your campus try to meet with them and ask some questions. There may be alumni who work for the company you can contact and get some information from as well.

What types of consultants are in demand?

Management consulting is a global industry and consultants work with an extensive array of clients so they work in many different facets of the business. Here are some consultant types:

Business consultants

Operation consultants

Strategy consultants

IT and software consultants

Finance consultants (including accounting and tax advisors)

Risk and compliance consultants

Sales and marketing consultants.

What does a management consultant do?

Meeting with clients and helping them identify key problems and issues is a central function. Naturally, the consultant must conduct careful research and communicate potential solutions to the client and have the ability and follow through to implement them.

What are the primary consultant skills and attributes?

  1. Very thorough research
  2. Problem solving
  3. Listening carefully
  4. Interpersonal skills like communicating with social and emotional intelligence
  5. Data analysis including tool use like Excel and databases
  6. Presentation including public speaking and tools like PowerPoint
  7. Personal virtues honesty and integrity (follow through)
  8. Vigor or mental and physical energy
  9. Willingness and organizational skills to be able to travel effectively.

Why would I want to be a management consultant?

Management consulting is not for everyone. There can be long hours and regular travel to visit clients. The work can be very demanding and maintaining business relationships with clients can be challenging. The work’s rigorous requirements might be stressful and draining. At the same time, many consultants enjoy the detailed research and helping clients overcome their problems. 

If you are interested in business or it is your passion you may learn much more dealing with complex problems and issues with various clients rather than only working in the same organization for years. If you travel regularly, you will be exposed to other places and cultures.

Working at certain consulting firms could boost your skill set and build your resume. You might also make far more industry contacts than you would if you worked within one organization. If you are interested in going back to school and getting an advanced degree like an MBA or JD having management consulting experience might improve your chances when you apply.

Another potential benefit is that you might grow your professional network so much that you are able to quit working for a firm and start your own business. In this case, you could set your own schedule and today many people would prefer to have more freedom rather than a lot of money. Work/life balance and flexibility are very important for some workers — especially if they are married and have children.

Are there management consulting courses?

Yes, you can find online offerings from established educational institutions and websites like Udemy and Coursera. There is also a certified management consultant program provided by the Institute for Management Consultants. No one has to get certified to be a management consultant though some employers and potential clients may have a preference for someone who made the effort to earn the certifications.

It should be mentioned that if you are not currently working as a management consultant but have an interest in exploring this field taking an online course or two could help you decide if you want to pursue it as a career path.

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