Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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Management consulting roles are highly sought-after, and given the high-paying salaries (often six- and sometimes seven-figures) these professionals earn, that is no surprise.

Management consultants have demanding jobs, but many enjoy the work they do. As integral players involved in forming and directing the strategies of top businesses around the world, these professionals have hectic schedules that keep them on their toes and make them extremely valuable employees.

So, what is a management consultant, what does one do, and how can you break into the industry? Read on to find out. 

What does a management consultant do exactly?

Management consultants work with businesses around the world to solve problems, improve performance, and develop strategies for operating more efficiently and growing financially. They tend to focus on concrete issues as opposed to longer-term goals, researching and analyzing data and working with personnel to create solutions and offer advice.

A day in the life of a management consultant

Management consultants tend to work very long hours, beginning the day early and often finishing late. Many report working 50-60 hours per week. Some items on their to-do list might include:

• Travel

Working with clients in different cities and states—sometimes even different countries—is par for the course, so you can expect to take the plane or train often as a consultant.

• Meet with clients

This involves discussing the client’s needs, touching base on projects, and soliciting feedback. At the beginning of a project, the consultant will discuss the goals and desired outcomes with the client.

• Conduct research

Management consultants gather data through different means such as creating and administering questionnaires and conducting interviews.

• Analyze data

Number-crunching is an important part of a management consultant’s work. The data analysis will go into a final report. 

• Debrief with team members

Management consultants will discuss projects with colleagues and make adjustments as necessary. They will also report on the work that has been done and still needs to be finished.

• Create reports.

Management consultants record their findings and make recommendations based on the data they have obtained and analyzed in reports. Often, they will present these reports to clients in meetings.

How do you become a management consultant?

There are different paths to becoming a management consultant. Some typical steps are outlined below. 

Education

Most employers require a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field, such as finance or accounting. It is helpful to have coursework in an area in which you might specialize, such as technology, finance, or healthcare, since management consultants often work within specific industries.

Some employers prefer to hire consultants with an MBA. You can also earn the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation from IMC USA to give you a leg up in the hiring process.

Career path

You will need to have some consulting experience before finding a full-time job as a management consultant at a firm or in another capacity. Part-time work and internships can help you gain this experience. Some consultants start their careers in areas such as business management, IT, or finance before transitioning into the role mid-career.

Demonstrating leadership is essential for landing a role as a management consultant, so make sure you have plenty of experience on your resume, whether it’s serving as the president of a club in college or working as a manager in an organization for several years.

Skills required

You will need to have a variety of soft skills and technical skills to work as a successful management consultant. They include:

• Problem-solving

• Analytical

• Communication

• Interpersonal

• Critical thinking

• Organizational

• Time management

• Leadership

How much money can you make in management consulting?

According to Glassdoor, the median salary for management consultants in the United States is $105,461 per year. Of course, earning potential varies widely according to location, experience, education, organization, and many other factors. PayScale reports that the average entry-level salary for management consultants is $76,195.

Many management consultants receive bonuses, sometimes very large ones. It is important to keep in mind that these professionals do tend to work very long hours in exchange for these salaries.

Who are the Big 4 management consulting firms?

The Big 4 firms are PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (E&Y), Deloitte, and KPMG. They are international accounting firms with huge numbers of employees and a near-monopoly on the audits of public companies. It is considered very prestigious to work for or with one of the Big 4.

How to get a consulting job

• Getting your foot in the door

Right out of college

Many firms hire entry-level management consultants out of top colleges and universities at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Recruiters identify talent through alumni networks and other resources. 

Networking with alumni from your college or employees at a top firm is one of the most effective ways of getting on a firm’s radar. In both cases, use LinkedIn to identify potential connections and reach out to them. MBA programs often have a formal process you should follow in addition to networking.

Mid-career

Many people gain industry experience in fields such as finance or healthcare before moving into management consulting. Again, networking is key here. Reaching out to connections at firms or building new connections will help you get your foot in the door. You should have extensive experience in your industry, preferably in a management or leadership role, which you can apply to a consultancy capacity. Spend some time researching firms that specialize in your field to guide your networking efforts. 

• The hiring process

Interviews are often rigorous, involving group interviews with other candidates in which you are tasked with solving hypothetical problems and presenting your solution to the interviewers. They also include case interviews, in which the interviewer presents the candidate with a complex problem to solve, and the candidate must work through a solution during the meeting.

The hiring process can be grueling, but it will prepare you for a demanding and rewarding career as a management consultant.

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