The Questions

Do I need a degree for a consulting career, and if so, in which subject area?

What are employers looking for?

What is the best way to begin a consulting career? Should I train with a small, medium or large firm?

When should I apply?

What happens after I join?

What is the application process like?

Is there any opportunity to travel?

Will I receive any training/development opportunities?

Are roles office based?

When do you start specialising and is it easy to switch between specialisms?

How much can I expect to earn from a career in consulting?

How do I find courses leading to qualifications in consultancy?

What networking opportunities are there to develop a career in consulting?

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The Answers

Do I need a degree for a consulting career, and if so, in which subject area?

The vast majority of individuals who enter consultancy are graduates. They come from all disciplines – it is not necessary to have a business-related degree. It is advisable to take subjects that you will enjoy and at which you excel. The majority of firms ask for at a least a 2:1 degree. With A levels, we recommend at least three Bs – although some recruiters will ask for three As – and all candidates will need Maths and English GCSEs with an A or B grade. However, a number of big consulting firms are now abolishing their entry requirements.

Many firms now place an increasing emphasis on individual behaviours and values, over traditional academic routes into a consultancy career. Pathways such as apprenticeships are an increasingly attractive alternative.

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What are employers looking for?

Beyond meeting any entry requirements, you will also need to display a wide range of personal qualities. A consultant must possess the following traits:

    • Integrity: your clients’ needs come first.
    • An analytical mind: every problem must have a solution.
    • Clarity of expression: both verbally and in writing.
    • Empathy: the ability to recognise another person’s point of view, although not necessarily agreeing with it.

Employers will also be looking for someone with a demonstrable passion and determination to enter the profession. Take a look at potential employers and find out more from them; do you share their values and do they offer the opportunities you seek? How will they develop you and support you in your career? Finding an employer that fits your demands is essential in gaining a strong foundation from which to build your career. Find out more about key skills here.

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What is the best way to begin a consulting career? Should I train with a small, medium or large firm?

The choice is down to personal preference. A good indicator is how comfortable you feel during the interview. Graduates beginning their consulting career in larger firms tend to be placed within particular business sectors, whereas in smaller firms they would gain more general practice experience. Do as much research as possible into what a firm does and what career options it offers. Talk to the firms you are interested in and to people who have worked with them. There are several good sources of information on a career in consulting, such as the Institute of Consulting website and the MCA website.

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When should I apply?

Consultancy firms that recruit graduates tend to advertise their vacancies early in the autumn term, with many of them requiring candidates to apply by the end of the calendar year. A few will continue to recruit through to the summer, but given the competitiveness of the consultancy jobs market, we recommend that you make your application early.

You can find many leading recruiters in our Employer Directory. Details of their current vacancies and deadlines can be found here.

You could also check with your campus careers service for details of which companies are visiting your university and when.

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What happens after I join?

On joining a firm of management consultants, you will normally receive several months of induction and training whilst also being under the guidance of an experienced consultant. During the induction and training period, your diagnostic skills are developed as you build your understanding of the organisation’s values and standards. Particular attention is drawn to clear writing and the ability to present thoughts and ideas effectively to clients. There will also be opportunities to provide additional training as required.

Although no organisational framework is common to all consultancies, most have established career structures for their staff, for example, progressing to responsibility for detailed day to day management of an assignment and later a team leader role in a multidiscipline assignment.

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What is the application process like?

This will depend on the type of consulting organisation you join. Many hold open days for graduates to get a better understanding of the type of roles on offer and the organisational culture. This is a valuable way to gain insight into the organisation, though you are advised to spend some time researching potential employers as well.

The traditional application process including the submission of CV, covering letter/personal statement and interview still applies. However, in many cases you will be expected to undertake additional assessments and activities throughout the recruitment process. In all cases, employers will want to see who you really are and whether you are a good fit for their organisation. So they will do everything they can to make the process simple, to offer you the best chance to demonstrate your passion, ability and personality.

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Is there any opportunity to travel?

There will almost certainly be the opportunity to travel, as you will be expected to meet and work with clients at their offices. Depending on the nature of your client brief you may also need to travel internationally. Many large consultancies have global clients with business and production locations based all over the world. Opportunities will also most likely be available for you to work in your own organisation’s overseas offices.

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Will I receive any training/development opportunities?

Most consultancy firms provide both structured, formal training and development and individual development plans tailored to you and the organisation’s specific needs. In searching for a suitable employer, consider the extent to which they can provide you with the experiences and training you seek.

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Are roles office based?

This will really depend on the type of work your organisation undertakes. However, it is likely that you will be expected to travel to client premises and attend meetings outside of your normal place of work.

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When do you start specialising and is it easy to switch between specialisms?

This will really depend on the nature of the organisation you work for. Typically you would undertake two years of general consulting and advisory training before then specialising. However, those with more specific qualifications relevant to a particular area may specialise much sooner.

Some specialisms are closely related so your existing specialist skills will be transferable, enabling you to make a switch much easier. For a more distinctive switch of specialism you will need to undertake additional training and development. The Institute of Consulting provides a range of different courses and development opportunities to support consultants wishing to gain specialist skills and knowledge.

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How much can I expect to earn from a career in consulting?

Your starting salary will vary according to where, and for whom, you’re working. Your salary will match your increasing responsibility. Find out the average consultancy salary in 2016 here.

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How do I find courses leading to qualifications in consultancy?

The Institute of Consulting offers two consultancy qualifications – a Certificate for those considering, or new to, management consultancy and a Diploma for those with more experience. Please check out the website for course providers. The Institute of Consulting has also developed a series of short practical training courses for individuals interested in getting into consultancy or further developing their competence as a consultant. Contact their graduate support service, on 01536 207480.

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What networking opportunities are there to develop a career in consulting?

Joining a professional organisation, or institute, is one of the best ways of finding out about networking opportunities – where you will meet like-minded individuals and potential employers alike. The Institute of Consulting carries a full listing of events running throughout the UK that include regional and expert groups and the MCA have a Young MCA network.

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