To someone just starting their journey toward a career in business, the word “consultant” might bring to mind some preconceptions. What does a management consultant do? Who might they work with or for, and what type of responsibilities would they have?
Let’s explore the details of a job as a business management consultant. Read on to learn about the role and how an online Bachelor of Science in Management from UAB can help prepare you for a consulting career.
What Is Management Consulting?
The Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) defines a management consultant — also called a management analyst — as “a professional who, for a fee, provides independent and objective advice to management of client organizations to define and achieve their goals through improved utilization of resources.”
Breaking the first part of this definition down, you’ll notice that a consultant is an independent, third-party analyst and advisor. A consulting firm will usually be their employer. When an organization requires a consultant’s input, its leadership team will contract a consultant to offer constructive and unbiased advice. The second part of the definition explains that consulting work is all about goal-oriented, efficiency-driven planning and solution implementation.
Forbes contributor Terina Allen explains that this occupation’s main functions fall into three categories:
- Project management: Consultants partner with leadership teams, whether in the C-suite or a specific department or division, to provide hands-on project planning and implementation services as well as analysis after the fact.
- Functional expertise and specializations: Management consultants offer industry-specific guidance across various business activities, from mergers and acquisitions to risk management, corporate governance, and marketing.
- Objective analyses and assessments: As trusted third parties, management consultants offer their clients unbiased, objective counsel, backed by extensive research and detailed assessments.
What Does a Management Consultant Do Day-to-Day?
Management consultant Alexandra Nuth recounts a typical day in her profession in The Muse. From waking up at 5:30 a.m. to catch a flight, to turning in at midnight after a long day’s work, Nuth’s play-by-play of a typical Monday illustrates just how dynamic and rigorous the business consultant experience can be — and how professionals in this field often spend time away from home.
While management consultants can certainly serve local clients, it’s common for solo consultants or small teams from the same firm to fly to a client site in another city at the start of the workweek. And, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), 81% of management analysts work more than 40 hours per week.
But what does a management consultant do during that time? It all depends on the project they’re working on. When onsite with a client, consulting colleagues generally spend much of their time in a breakout room or boardroom where they make headway on a project. They’ll also check in with their client contacts during meetings or more formal presentations. Much of the day can be spent on activities like data collection and research. The team will gather information related to the project, as well as producing deliverables and reports and other related consulting services. In the evenings, consultants often meet with clients over dinner, where they have a chance to build rapport and strengthen client relationships. From morning until nighttime, consultants constantly catch up on calls and emails, where high-priority project communications flow in and out throughout the day.
Communication is a significant part of the job. According to an O*NET survey, 92% of management analysts report using email every day, 85% say they use the phone every day, and 50% note participating in face-to-face discussions every day.
Another critical aspect of management consulting is data analysis — quantitative reasoning, specifically. This relates back to the part of the IMC’s definition wherein consultants help clients “define and achieve their goals through improved utilization of resources.” An organization’s resources include time, money, people, space, supplies, vendors, and influence, to name a few. The use of these resources can be quantified, analyzed, and improved upon through actionable goals and new initiatives.
The role also requires strategic thinking abilities and business acumen. Typical client projects that consultants provide advice for include:
- Deciding whether to undertake a merger or acquisition
- Attempting to enter a new market
- Finding ways to cut operational costs
- Pinpointing and improving process inefficiencies
- Strategizing ways to implement organizational changes
Companies don’t typically enlist the help of management consultants unless there’s a challenge or decision they need help working through. They count on consultants to be true experts who can:
- Help guide goal-setting
- Undertake relevant and in-depth research
- Brainstorm innovative problem-solving approaches
- Consider the consequences or limitations of each possible solution
- Support the implementation of a new initiative or program
- Monitor performance metrics and adapt when necessary
What Types of Businesses Need Management Consultants?
Organizations of all kinds — from private-sector enterprises to government agencies — look to management consultancy firms for guidance on how to lower costs while improving productivity and efficiency. Small businesses and multinational conglomerates alike can hire management consultants when they need expert input on solving business problems.
Demand for management consultants is growing substantially. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field is expanding at a rate of 14%, which is much higher than the 5% average across all occupations. By 2028, this will likely result in the creation of 118,300 new management consulting jobs for a total of nearly 1 million positions.
The health care sector is experiencing much of this growth. An aging population and increasingly complex insurance landscape place pressure on the current health care system and reveal opportunities for strategic improvement. Additionally, companies in need of stronger cybersecurity measures and systems improvements are increasingly looking for expertise in information technology consulting.
Given these developments, the BLS notes that niche consulting firms that cater to specific industry needs will continue to grow and thrive. A management consulting firm that brings the industry expertise required to understand their clients’ organizations and make informed recommendations will likely see greater success in attracting a loyal client base and offering insightful solutions.
In addition to IT consultants and their counterparts in health care, Consultancy.org notes that there are also specialized opportunities for financial advisory consultants and human resources consultants, as well as operations consultants and strategy consultants. Professionals working in operations consulting help facilitate improvements across business operations, from production and sales to supply chain management, and may be involved in the planning as well as implementation stages. Those in the field of strategy consulting typically address high-level concerns such as corporate strategy and government policy development, working alongside C-suite executives and other organizational leaders to develop strategic plans.
How Much Do Management Consultants Earn?
According to the BLS, management analysts or consultants earned a median salary of $85,260 in May 2019. The top 10% in the field earned more than $154,000, and those in the professional, scientific, and technical services had the highest salaries overall.
How Do You Become a Management Consultant?
To become a management consultant, most employers will require that you have a bachelor’s degree in management or a related field and the requisite experience. Related fields of study that can lend themselves well to a management consulting career include business administration, economics, finance, psychology, or marketing. The amount of work experience you need will depend on the type of position you seek out, but in general, a mid-level management consultant will have at least four years of consulting experience on their resume along with a bachelor’s degree.
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) can improve your chances of employment, but is not essential to getting your foot in the door and securing an entry-level position. O*NET data reveals that 38% of management analysts hold a bachelor’s degree, 12% possess a post-baccalaureate certificate, and 46% earned a master’s degree.
According to Forbes, the typical management consulting hierarchy includes four types of positions in increasing seniority:
- Business analyst or associate consultant: These are entry-level positions that generally require an undergraduate degree and little experience beyond a business internship.
- Management consultant: This is a mid-level position, often requiring a bachelor’s degree and at least four years of professional experience, or a master’s degree and at least two years of work experience.
- Senior consultant or project lead: In this more senior-level position, a consultant is typically expected to have a master’s degree and at least seven years of experience, or a bachelor’s degree and at least 10 years of consulting experience.
- Partner or principal: Reaching this position typically requires more than 10 years of experience in the consulting profession and a graduate degree.
With an online Bachelor of Science in Management from UAB, you will be ready to enter the workforce and launch your consulting career. Contact a program advisor to learn more about the innovative curriculum.