How to Become a Management Consultant (And What Is Consulting)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Find the answers to the top 4 questions you have about management consulting before going into the field. Discover what it is that management consultants do.

[Featured image] A management consultant is standing in front of an office building.

Management consulting is a popular career choice, especially for Masters of Business Administration (MBA) graduates, where it remains the highest-paid position post-graduation. With the attraction of high salaries, travel, a fast-paced environment, and the opportunity to land a prestigious management consulting role with any of the Big 3, its appeal is understandable.

If you're considering a career in management consultancy, consider  understanding what the role involves, what you do on a day-to-day basis, the benefits of working in the field—and how exactly to get there. 

What is management consulting? 

Management consulting is working with businesses to identify solutions to problems to maximize business performance, improve business processes, and increase revenue.

A management consultant can cover a range of areas including business management, marketing, business strategy, supply chain, and employee productivity. They generally work with the senior levels of an organization and may focus on a specific industry or work across the board. 

As a management consultant, you work with domestic or international clients either for a management consultancy firm (a popular choice) or as an independent consultant.

What do management consultants do? 

The work of a management consultant is to solve business problems. Specific tasks vary because of the different organizations and projects—and the issues you need to solve within each business. While the details vary, certain work areas apply to all management consultants and require a specific skill set.

3 areas management consultants typically focus on 

No matter what you specialize in or the type of business you work in, management consultants typically focus on three main areas. Your work may fall under one or more of these: 

1. Expertise and specialties: Management consultants offer their expertise to businesses in several domains. These may be general or very specialized and include:

  • Business strategy

  • Business restructuring

  • Strategic management

  • Risk management

  • Mergers and acquisitions

  • Digital transformation

  • Talent management

  • Marketing

  • Business processes 

2. Analysis: Management consultants perform in-depth analysis and research relating to the areas they are working on within an organization. You'll need to remain objective and unbiased to provide a clear perspective of the problems that need solving. 

3. Project management: Management consultants are hands-on when it comes to implementing the solutions they identify. You'll work with teams to deliver and monitor solutions, working directly with senior management. 

Read more: 11 Key Project Management Skills

Common tasks 

A management consultant's responsibilities vary according to the company you work with, any specialty you work under, and the project itself, but in general, common tasks and duties will include:

  • Understanding a business’ challenges and needs by consulting with senior management and staff

  • Finding a solution that aligns with a business’ processes, culture, and goals

  • Reviewing company data, policies, and financials to build a bigger picture

  • Building a work road map, including schedules and targets

  • Communicating with senior management to update on the project, completion of milestones, and any changes

  • Communicating with employees at all levels to successfully implement changes and get buy-in from those who will be affected

  • Conducting staff training on new systems, processes, and technology

  • Listening to any employee concerns and feedback to ensure any changes are accepted and to ensure they are achievable

  • Monitoring outcomes to ensure successful project outcomes 

Key skills 

The essential skills needed to become a management consultant are effectively honed through an MBA course or similar, as well as through experience. To be a successful management consultant, you should possess the following skills:

  • Analytical and research skills

  • Working under pressure

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Commercial awareness

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Interpersonal and communications skills

  • Presentation skills

  • Translating complex information 

  • Relationship building

Why consider going into management consulting? 

The management consulting profession boasts high salaries, an excellent career outlook, an exciting workload, and numerous opportunities for career advancement. The number of reasons explain why this career appeals to so many people. 

High earning potential 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a management consultant is $93,000, with the highest 10 percent in the profession earning over $163,760 [1]. Often, management consultants working for a consulting company receive an annual salary as well as bonuses. 

Strong job outlook 

The job outlook for a management consultant is excellent, with employment expected to grow by 11 percent between 2021 and 2031, creating approximately 101,900 positions [1]. This rate is above the average for any profession. Positions in small consultancies and those specializing in technology will likely see the most growth. 

Frequent opportunities for ongoing development 

Management consultants have frequent opportunities for development and career growth. More experienced management consultants may take on more senior positions, which involve management teams, working on more complex projects, and even bringing in new business to the company. 

Career progression is possible up to the partner level for those management consultants that are exceptionally skilled. Many management consultants move into other business management positions, using skills they have gained as a consultant. 

Fast-paced and varied work 

Working in management consultancy is exciting, varied, and fast-paced. Those who thrive on tight deadlines and a high-pressure environment do well as management consultants. Hours can be long, and positions are competitive. However, the perks are well known, with travel, bonuses, company cars, gym membership, and the opportunity to work with senior-level clients of large multinationals, which are a big draw. 

How to become a management consultant

Management consultant positions are in high demand, and competition can be fierce. Most people who enter the profession start at the entry level and work up, but even this requires a high level of education, experience, and skills. Top consulting firms, such as the Big 3, typically only invite 10 percent of applicants to interview [2].

Common employment scenarios

The majority of management consultants work for a consulting firm. Consulting firms vary in size and specialism and can typically be broken down into; the Big 3 (Bain, McKinsey, and Boston Consulting Group); Tier 2 (Accenture, Kearney, Oliver Wyman, L.E.K.); the Big 4 (PwC, Diolotte, EY, and KPMG); smaller boutique firms, which handle a number of smaller or specialized projects, and lastly, independent consultants who are self-employed. 

Educational path 

To become a management consultant the minumum education requirement is a bachelor’s degree. According to Zippia, 67 percent of management consultants hold a bachelor’s degree and 22 percent have a master’s degree [3]. Typically, people with an MBA or a master’s degree in a relevant field are at an advantage. It’s also beneficial to have a degree in a relevant subject area. Many consulting firms hire candidates straight out of college. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to see if the college and course you are considering has any relationship with firms that interest you. 

Read more: Master’s in Management vs. MBA: Which Is Better?

Gain professional experience. 

Experience can be an excellent way to set yourself apart from your competition. The higher the  position level you’re applying for, the more experience you will need to have accrued. If you’re a recent graduate, it may be beneficial to have an internship in a business-related field. Any experience demonstrating your commercial awareness, leadership, and communication skills will help. Employers may also provide on-the-job training.

Certifications 

You might consider studying for a relevant certification to really set yourself apart from other applicants for management consultant roles. It can verify your credentials and upgrade your skills and knowledge. 

Read more: What Is Management Consulting?

Next steps 

Management consulting is a competitive career choice with excellent career prospects, high salaries, development opportunities, and challenging, exciting work specifications. To get started in your career as a management consultant, you can check out some of the courses listed on Coursera, including this Foundations of Project Management course by Google.

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Foundations of Project Management

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Management Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/management-analysts.htm#tab-5." Accessed September 26, 2022.

2. Management Consulted. “Bain Recruiting: 8 Insider Secrets, https://managementconsulted.com/bain-recruiting-consulting-jobs/." Accessed September 26, 2022.

3. Zippia. “Management Consultant Education Requirements, https://www.zippia.com/management-consultant-jobs/education/." Accsssed September 26, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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