What Does a Management Consultant Do?

Management consultants fill a unique and valuable role for businesses. These professionals bring knowledge, experience, and fresh perspective to help companies address operational concerns and seize opportunities.

Because management consultants work in so many industries and have a wide range of specialties, similarly varied opportunities are available to current and aspiring professionals. A consultant might choose to focus on issues common to a big firm, emphasize technology implementation, carve out a niche in supply chain management or build expertise in many other areas related to business operations.

What does a management consultant do? Nearly anything that relates to modernizing processes, optimizing management structure and steering a business toward positive results.

The dynamic nature of a career in management consulting can’t be overlooked. The ability to work with a variety of clients and move from one issue or opportunity to the next can be especially exciting. Business-minded individuals who want to avoid a career focused on routine may be well-suited for this professional path.

Earning an undergraduate degree, such as an online Bachelor of Science in Management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business, is a crucial first step toward this unique and rewarding career path.

While it’s easy to understand the basic concept of management consulting, learning how to become a professional in this field requires more information. Let’s take a closer look at how to become a management consultant, the value of an undergraduate degree that supports professional development, key skills, related career opportunities and more.

What Types of Businesses Hire Management Consultants?

Nearly every type of business can benefit from the services of a management consultant.

Smaller organizations, medium-sized companies and multinational corporations can all run into issues related to everything from operational strategy to oversight of human resources practices and policies. These companies may also recognize that a potential opportunity exists for growth or diversification, but not have a firm understanding of how to take advantage of it. In all these cases, management consultants can provide a fresh perspective, share best practices and offer guidance to right the ship or turn a valuable possibility into reality.

These businesses need to identify a management consulting firm or individual consultant with the acumen to offer effective support, of course. They must also have the funds available to compensate a consultant or firm. Beyond these basic requirements, it’s possible for nearly every organization to tap this resource.

The broad usefulness of management consulting services is an important part of what makes this field so popular, both for clients who work with consultants and students interested in entering this field. Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that more than 1.5 million individuals serve in management analyst and market research analyst positions. Additionally, the BLS projects more than 250,000 additional positions will open in these fields by 2030.

The continuing demand for management analysts and professionals in similar roles is clear.

Key Needs and Related Skills for Management Consultants

While management consultants’ work varies a great deal based on the specific industry and issue involved, there are some important commonalities to keep in mind. Before looking at individual career paths, it can be helpful to understand key requirements, duties and needs.

Because management consultants work closely with clients, they tend to travel. While many in this profession work for a management consulting firm and have their own workspace or office, they can spend substantial amounts of time visiting a client site. This need to travel regularly might be seen as a key benefit or major drawback, so it must be recognized by anyone considering a management consulting career.

Management consultants require strong interpersonal skills because of the emphasis this role places on communication. Key duties, ranging from collecting information and building context to presenting a report on the effects of a major change, require the ability to interact effectively with a variety of stakeholders. Management consultants may need to interface with everyone from frontline workers to members of a company’s executive suite.

The ability to self-manage and self-direct is also crucial for management consultants. Consultants can work in a variety of settings when they travel outside their own offices. It’s common for experienced professionals to do so without a manager or supervisor accompanying them. This sort of freedom can be a major asset, but it requires consistent self-discipline to manage available time effectively and deliver positive results. This is especially important in situations where a flat fee is paid to the consulting firm — more resources spent on a project make that fixed compensation less valuable.

With time management in mind, it is also worth noting that some management consultants work more than 40 hours a week. While not a requirement for every position in this field, it is a common expectation. Because consultants usually work for a client in a contract relationship, as opposed to being employed by the business directly, high expectations are often outlined. These organizations may have to make serious and complex changes by a certain date, putting stress on consultants. The ability to work under pressure is, therefore, a crucial need.

Management Consultant speaking in the center of the room.

Management Consultant Career Options

With this foundational understanding of a management consulting career, let’s look at some specific roles in the field.

Management Consultant

Also called management analysts, these professionals review issues pertinent to a client’s operations. Then, they gather information about the concern, build potential strategies to address it and meet with decision-makers to finalize a course of action. With a plan in hand, consultants work with stakeholders to implement the necessary changes, as well as monitor progress and results.

The BLS points out that management consultants may start working for a client, at least in a sense, before a contract is signed and a relationship is formalized. Businesses generally request proposals from several management consulting firms and independent consultants. Analysts regularly provide a detailed proposal to potential clients before any substantial work can begin.

Education and Credentials

Aspiring management consultants generally need an undergraduate degree to compete for open positions, according to the BLS. A management consulting firm will consider an applicant’s field of study in relation to its own areas of focus and clientele. Business, management, social science and engineering degree programs can support the development of broadly relevant skills that can be applied in many management consulting contexts.

The Institute of Management Consultants offers the Certified Management Consultant credential to distinguish achievement and superior performance in this field. While employers don’t usually require this certification, it can help a candidate stand out in recruiting efforts.

Pay and Career Outlook

As of May 2020, management analysts earned a median annual salary of $87,660, according to the BLS. That’s more than double the national median pay for all occupations ($41,950) in that same time frame. In terms of job opportunities, BLS projections indicate significant growth in potential career paths. The total number of positions is expected to grow by 11% — an additional 124,400 roles — through 2030. On a yearly basis, roughly 99,400 openings for management consultants are anticipated.

Types of Management Consulting Specializations

While a complete list of all areas of focus for management consultants would be too long, highlighting a few common ones can help further define this role. Common specializations include:

  • Information technology consulting: Sometimes referred to as technology or software consulting, work in this field emphasizes finding solutions to high-level concerns related to a company’s technological infrastructure. Issues could range from ineffective data collection practices to disorganized management structures. Successful consultants need a mix of interpersonal, problem-solving and technological skills to succeed.
  • Human resources consulting: The atmosphere in which a company’s employees work can have a major influence on productivity, engagement and similarly important factors. HR consultants help businesses develop more effective strategies for everything from onboarding new hires to managing experienced, high-level staff.
  • Sales consulting: Several qualities set salespeople and sales departments apart from other areas of a business. That includes a focus on sales quotas, an emphasis on commissions in compensation and the need to connect regularly with new prospects and existing customers. Sales consultants can help department leaders craft more effective strategies, compensation plans, employee training and much more.
  • Leadership consulting: Enterprises generally lead from the top down, which makes strong policies and plans vital for success. A leadership consultant can help organizations reexamine their approach to managing and overseeing employees, resources, functions and the company as a whole.
  • Nonprofit consulting: Businesses aren’t the only organizations that may require the support of a knowledgeable and experienced consultant. Nonprofits can face issues with revenue, fundraising, operations and executive decision-making, just to name a few. Nonprofit consultants build expertise in this unique field to offer specialized and relevant support.
  • Government consulting: Government agencies and departments, from the municipal level to the federal government, can use consultants to address a wide variety of issues. Similar to nonprofit consultants, professionals in this focus area become familiar with the specialized operations, needs and goals of government agencies to provide effective support.

Market Research Analyst

Like other types of consultants, market research analysts also provide guidance and advice to a wide variety of businesses. However, these professionals solve problems in a specific area of operations, placing their focus on products and services. The main goal of a market research analyst is to gather information and reporting on a specific market to determine if a proposed offering ultimately will be viable, according to the BLS.

Market research analysts can work directly for an employer, but it’s common for professionals in this role to work in a consultative capacity. They commonly gather data electronically, through surveys of customers, existing statistics about market demographics and in many other ways. They may also research competitors, marketing and distribution methods and other related concepts, as outlined by O*NET.

Education and Credentials

Employers of market research analysts generally require candidates to complete an undergraduate degree before being considered for an open position. Common areas of study include business, business administration, communications and social sciences, according to the BLS. An advanced degree can help analysts progress in their careers but usually is not an entry-level requirement.

The Insights Association offers certificates and certifications that can support career growth and demonstrate proficiency in this field. These distinctions aren’t uniformly required by employers but can help individual candidates stand out from others.

Pay and Career Outlook

As of May 2020, market research analysts earned a median annual salary of $65,810, according to the BLS. That’s significantly more than the national median pay across all occupations. It’s worth noting that the top 10% of earners in this field have a median annual pay of $127,410, demonstrating the potential for salary growth as candidates move beyond the entry level. Job outlook is strong, with 22% projected growth through 2030 and an additional 163,600 positions opening through that year. Roughly 96,000 openings become available annually for market research analysts, representing plenty of opportunities for aspiring professionals.

Education That Supports a Career in Management Consulting

Management consultants need to cultivate knowledge and abilities that empower them to provide effective guidance and spur meaningful change for their clients. Selecting an undergraduate degree that incorporates interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills, alongside concepts like the theory and practice of management, can support career growth after graduation.

The online Bachelor of Science in Management offered by UAB’s Collat School of Business supports the development of the leadership-focused skills that are so frequently leveraged by management consultants. Students gain insights into organizational dynamics, employment law and similarly relevant topics as they learn from a dedicated and experienced faculty.

With accreditation for the program provided by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, it’s clear that this program — like all other degrees offered by the Collat School of Business — meets exceptionally high standards for quality of instruction and curriculum.

Earning an online Bachelor of Science in Management can be the first step toward a career in management consulting. Get in touch with an enrollment advisor at UAB to start working toward an engaging and rewarding professional path.


Recommended Reading

What Can You Do with a Business Management Degree? Learning Outcomes and Career Possibilities

What Does a Management Consultant Do?



Bureau of Labor Statistics — What Management Analysts Do

Bureau of Labor Statistics — How to Become a Management Analyst

Bureau of Labor Statistics — Management Analyst

Bureau of Labor Statistics — Market Research Analyst

O*NET OnLine — Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists

Institute of Management Consultants — CMC Benefits and How To Get Certified

Insights Association — Advance Your Career