Consulting sector profile

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Are you a natural problem-solver? Do you enjoy finding solutions to complex puzzles and helping businesses achieve their ultimate goals? If so, you might enjoy a successful career as a consultant with some of the world’s leading firms.

Interested in a role in consulting? Browse available consulting opportunities and take your first step towards a career in this varied sector.

Different areas of the consulting sector

Management consulting

Management consulting involves helping businesses achieve their full growth potential by tackling a diverse range of problems, from refining their business model to helping them market to clients. They work with companies of all sizes and sectors, public and private, and may specialise in certain areas like tech or sustainability. Their work is part data analysis, part advice and part corporate strategy, with the typical aim of expanding a firm’s client base and increasing its revenue. If you find the idea of a varied workday with many different tasks exciting, then a career in management consulting may be for you.

Find out more about what a management consultant does.

Financial consulting

A financial consulting firm advises clients on how to plan their finances, so financial consultants are interchangeably called ‘financial advisers’. However, while a financial adviser focuses on personal wealth, financial consultants deal with corporate wealth. They are consulted on the running of a firm’s finances and may preside over deals and compensation packages for the executive team. Good financial consultants have deep sector knowledge of how the internal finances of companies are handled and ultimately serve to increase their client’s value in the eyes of shareholders.

If you’re not sure how to get started in financial consulting, read about how Charlotte secured her job as a financial consultant at PA Consulting.

Strategy consulting

Strategy consultants play an important role in all high-level decisions that firms make such as mergers and acquisitions, market entry strategies, and structural reorganization. Since they are brought in externally, they can act as an unbiased third party between two companies on either side of a transaction who may be reluctant to share information with each other. This makes strategy consultants extremely sought after for their industry knowledge and discretion. 

Some of the top consulting firms in the world specialise in strategy consulting, including the ‘Big Three’: Bain & CompanyMcKinsey & Company, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG). You can read more about what exactly strategy consulting is

Typical roles in the consulting sector

Management consultant

A management consultant is a problem-solver whom companies bring in when they lack expertise in a certain area and are struggling to move their business forward. Management consultants may work freelance or as part of a large consulting firm, and are usually contractors rather than employees of the businesses they help. On any given day, you could be helping optimise resource allocation, coming up with a better business model, or evaluating a marketing strategy - all with the aim of increasing sales revenue and market share. Management consultants see every side of a business and are trusted to target those areas that require the most assistance.

Learn about what it means to be a management consultant.

Project management office (PMO)

As a manager in the project management office (PMO) of a firm, your job is to ensure the smooth completion of projects within an organisation, operating within strict time and budget limits. Your time may be split between analysing and writing progress reports, providing advice on how processes can be optimised, and presenting your findings to senior management within your company. 

If you have great organisational skills and can work just as effectively with numbers as with people, then you might like to consider a career in the PMO. 

Strategy consultant

The responsibilities of a strategy consultant revolve around conducting organisational research and meeting with key stakeholders within the business to produce an optimal strategy that targets their goals. While there is an element of quantitative analysis involved in conducting market and competitor research, strategy consultants have a highly social job that allows them to network with senior management of large corporate firms during critical periods for their organisation. Your time may be split between client calls, meetings, and your own research so no two days will ever be the same. 

Find out more about the daily life of a strategy consultant.

IT consultant

IT consultants specialise in addressing the technological needs of their business clients. As firms grow more reliant on new technology like artificial intelligence, automation, and cloud software, the demand for knowledgeable IT consultants has only risen. Your job may involve analysing the specific tech needs of a company, consulting with management about their goals, and then designing and installing systems that address those targets. It is a role that rewards those who have a genuine passion for the latest developments in technology, and who like to stay up to date with new products and research. 

Like other consultancy positions, IT consultancy is client-facing, but the greater emphasis on technical skills may make it an ideal role for graduates from computer-based and numerical disciplines.

Change management

Change management consultants are brought in by companies who are undergoing organisational change. This may involve improving their existing processes or taking their business in a new direction entirely. Change managers work on ensuring these transformations are as smooth as possible by identifying potential risks, developing and communicating a comprehensive change methodology to the workforce, and addressing any resistance that might arise. 

They can be highly goal-oriented individuals, who must balance the needs and wants of managers with what is achievable within specified deadlines and budgets. Above all, change managers are effective mediators who can settle disputes during times of great organisational shift. You may want to consider a career in change management if you possess great conflict resolution and project management skills.

Risk & compliance consultant

The aim of a risk and compliance consultant is to make sure that companies are operating in an ethical and transparent way that adheres to government regulations. Risk and compliance advisors work across a huge plethora of issues, from investigating allegations of bribery and corruption, to helping corporate clients meet their sustainability goals. They have a strong grasp of both the financial and non-financial risks that can endanger a company, and may specialise in tax, audit, cyber-security, or many other functions. 

Skills and qualifications

Besides a proficiency with the Microsoft Office suite and solid research skills, there are a number of transferable skills that are useful in consulting roles. Here are some of the key soft skills you may need:

  • Teamwork. Consultants are collaborative workers, whether with their own team or with their clients. Some specialisms like change management may also require you to resolve conflict, so a team spirit can be very helpful in your daily work. 
  • Commercial awareness. Consultants are specialists brought in to fill in knowledge gaps. They are expected to understand the key events and market trends within their chosen field and to stay up to date with new developments and research.
  • Communication. Whether you’re liaising with an important client or presenting to a group of senior managers, you are likely to be asked to communicate your ideas in a succinct and informative way. 
  • Initiative. A good consultant is able to make difficult decisions on the go and step up to a leadership position at any given time. Consider a time when you have led a workgroup or society through a difficult problem and demonstrate that same skill during your application.

Find out more about the top skills consulting firms look for.

Higher education

The majority of consulting roles require a degree at a 2:1 grade but do not ask for a specific subject. This is because consulting is such a diverse field that having a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives is extremely valuable - whether you’re a finance graduate, a musician, or a linguist. Firms look for candidates with the right skills and personality who they believe can perform to a high standard as a consultant. 

Qualifications

The most recognised professional certification in consulting is the Chartered Manager Institute (CMI). There are multiple levels to this qualification depending on your level of seniority, which may be completed by an individual on their own, as part of a degree, or paid for by an employer. The CMI is the only professional body capable of awarding Chartered Manager status. 

Work experience

Although not essential, having a summer internship in consulting may help you understand which type of consulting you are most interested in and put you in a much better position for securing a graduate job. 

Find out more about summer internship opportunities in consulting.

Salaries

Consulting firms make money by charging a fee for their services on a project, and a consultant’s salary will depend on the firm and their level of seniority. Freelance consultants may dictate their own salary and working hours. Here is what you can expect to earn as a consultant:

As an entry-level analyst at a consulting firm, you can expect to earn between £28,000 and £35,000 per year. This rises to between £45,000 and £60,000 per year as you progress to a senior analyst over the next 2-4 years. 

Consultant salaries start at between £40,000 and £50,000 per year. At ‘Big Three’ firms, this can rise to between £75,000 and £90,000 per year. For senior management, this can rise to over £100,00 per year.

Directors at consulting firms can expect to earn between £125,000 and £150,000 per year. This can include a bonus of around 20% of your yearly salary.

Key employers

There are many employers looking to hire ambitious, talented graduates for consulting roles. Here are some of the key companies you may consider working for:

The application process

CVs and cover letters

The first step in applying for a consulting role is to complete an online application. This will contain your basic details, education history, and most likely a section for a CV and cover letter. Recruiters only spend a few seconds looking at your CV, so having a good layout is very important. Learn more about how to create a stand out CV.

Your cover letter is an opportunity to tell the recruiter more about yourself, why you’re interested in the role and company, and what skills and experiences you can bring to the table. It needs to be tailored to the specific role as recruiters are less likely to read a cover letter that sounds generic. 

Read our tips about writing an impressive cover letter and try out our example template for yourself.

Online and psychometric tests

The next stage of your consulting application is usually a series of online tests. These may draw upon your numerical reasoning, deductive and inductive logic, verbal reasoning, and situational judgement. Many firms, such as McKinsey & Company, create bespoke tests for their roles only. You can often find more information about these on the website of the firm you are interested in. 

Telephone and video interviews

You may then be invited to a telephone or video interview with a member of the recruitment team. While the telephone interview will be live, the video interview may be pre-recorded on a platform such as HireVue and assessed by an AI algorithm. In either case, you are likely to be asked strength- or competency-based questions, as well as to reiterate your relevant experience and interest in the role. Learn more about tackling phone and video interviews.

Case study interviews

As part of your consulting application, you may be asked to complete a case study interview. This might take place online during the testing stage, or in person at an assessment centre. They are designed to give you a taste of what you might do on the job by presenting you with information about a business and its problems, and asking how you would approach a solution. The aim of these is not to test specific knowledge but to find out more about your thought process and how well you respond under pressure. Case study interviews are typically timed and observed by an interviewer and will draw upon your analytical skills and creativity as you work to produce a bespoke answer whilst keeping an eye on the clock.

Learn more about cracking case study interviews with this Bright Network Academy course on preparing for a case study interview.

Assessment centres

The final stage of your application is to attend an assessment centre. These are usually full or half-day events consisting of additional tests, case studies, and group exercises. You may do more interviews, but these will be with senior staff in the consulting profession rather than recruiters, so it is important to brush up on your technical skills beforehand. Your personality will be on full display throughout the entire day, so it is important you appear friendly, professional, and maintain the right balance between speaking up and allowing others to contribute their ideas the entire time. After the assessment centre, the firm should respond to you shortly. You can ask for feedback whether you passed or not, which may help you in future applications.

If you’ve made it to this stage, then congratulations! They may seem intimidating at first, but assessment centres are designed to let you shine, not trip you up. Find out more about how to succeed at assessment centres

Our graduate career advice page has many more useful tips for doing your applications. You can also find out more about the consulting recruitment process.

Consulting sector graduate jobs and schemes

Interested in getting into Consulting?

Browse available graduate opportunities in the Consulting sector and take your first step towards a career as a Consultant.

More information

If you’re interested in consulting but don’t know where to start, have a look at our Consulting Career Path Guide. Finally, check out our Bright Network Academy course on how to get into consulting for exclusive application tips from an ex-consultant.