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Helping you find a career in the consultancy industry
Consultancy is about providing external clients with advice and services to improve the efficiency, performance and profits of their businesses. This advice might relate to issues within operational management, strategy and planning, human resources, financial management or environment.
As a consultant, it's likely you'll be based on the client's site. Your work will include analysing certain aspects of the business through detailed observation, data collection and analysis and reviewing records and reports. Afterwards, you'll offer recommendations for improving or solving any problems the business is experiencing.
You might focus on a particular area of the business depending on your expertise. However, some larger consultancies may take a more holistic approach, analysing each section of the business and suggesting company-wide solutions.
Skills & interests required for a career in Consultancy
To succeed, you'll need to be motivated, a strong leader, goal-driven and dedicated.
Other essentials skills include:
Knowledge of business practices
You'll also need a strong knowledge of the sector you're consulting in.
Consultancy apprenticeships & other career progress routes for school leavers
A common route into consultancy as a graduate is via a graduate training scheme. Competition for a place is very strong, hence those with postgraduate degrees having the edge over graduates that don't.
The career path for those working in consultancy is fairly straightforward, and has more structure compared to other industries. Although this will vary slightly between different companies.
As a graduate moving into consultancy, you are likely to start as a business analyst or junior consultant, before later becoming an associate consultant, and eventually a consultant). These roles involve a lot of analysis, including research, conducting interviews, presenting results and building operational models.
The next rung of the ladder is for project leaders, case team leaders, senior managers and engagement managers. They manage the consultants and analysts on their team, liaise with senior managers, and interact directly with clients.
If you have a masters or higher level qualification when you begin your consultancy career, you might go in at a higher level. For example, you might become a project leader or an engagement manager straightaway.
A principal or director in the consultancy sector is the next step up. it's a demanding role. You must prove you're capable of becoming a partner, whilst maintaining your day-to-day workload: client management, new business, managing those below you, and keeping partners in the loop about what's going on in the business.
The ultimate goal of a career in consultancy is to become a partner in the company. It can take around 15 years to get there. In this role, you'll have strategic responsibility for the company's most important clients, as well as the future of the business as a whole.
Tips for getting into the field
Consultancy is a competitive and popular industry, so it's essential to know what employers are looking for before you apply for roles.
A strong head for maths and a clear and defined logical approach are both essential.
There are also a large number of general, non-industry-related things you can do to put yourself in a good position to start applying for jobs. These include:
Tailoring your CV for each specific role: making sure you focus on previous experience and relevant skills
Applying for internships: the longer the internship, the better
See what the top companies in the field require: start by looking for case studies from the big firms, and note what backgrounds and skills their current employees have
Use your contacts: university professors, those you met on work experience, people you can approach through social media or LinkedIn - they're all potentially the stepping stone to your next role and they might be happy to help you
Although direct work experience is not essential, any experience that demonstrates your analytical skills will offer you a strong advantage when applying for graduate schemes or entry level roles.
What do Consultancy professionals get paid?
Average salaries for the overarching roles in the industry, according to Consulting.uk, including benefits and bonuses, are as follows:
What qualifications do I need for a career in Consultancy?
For graduate schemes and entry level roles, the more analytical and numerical your degree (for example in finance or maths) the better chance you have of being successful.
Technical degrees such as engineering, and science degrees like physics, are also looked upon favourably, especially by big consultancy firms.
A postgraduate qualification, like a master's in business economics, is very likely to be helpful when attempting to break into this industry. The vast majority of those working in consultancy firms have postgraduate qualifications.
The best postgraduate qualification you can take to further your career is a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). The majority of those taking MBAs have worked professionally for at least a couple of years beforehand. Your employer may want you to have an MBA and will support you in this after you've worked with them for a few years.
Taking an MBA is a big time commitment, taking two years if you study full time. However, if your employer sponsors you to complete the qualification, you're likely to be working at the same time, so it'll take significantly longer to complete.