Careers in consultancy

Consultancy is a sector of interest for many students as it gives the opportunity to be exposed to a range of sectors and functions whilst advising firms. There are many well-established companies that students are familiar with but it’s worthwhile looking beyond those to investigate niche consulting firms who may have specific sector interests ranging from digital, sustainability, creative industries…the list goes on. The usual entry point for graduates is Business Analyst/Fellow level – although those with more work experience may be able to enter at a more senior level. Key experience for the consultancy sector includes teamwork, working with clients and business acumen.

What is a career in consultancy?

Consultancy is a wide-ranging field offering opportunities to be exposed to a variety of industries and business areas. Topics range from strategy and operations, digital transformation to more specialised functional areas such as HR, finance, marketing or IT.

Consultants help organisations to solve problems, create value, improve processes and identify opportunities to maximise growth and business performance. Examples of consultancy projects include clarifying an organisation's strategic direction, streamlining manufacturing processes to save money, supporting change management projects, or identifying ways to reduce staff turnover.

Consultancy is a popular option for LSE graduates and graduate positions are normally open to students from any degree background. However, the knowledge and skills developed in management, economics, and finance degrees can be well suited to consulting.

Careers in consultancy offer a fast-paced work environment and a variety of projects to work on with the opportunity to gain experience across a wide range of sectors and organisations. Working in high performing teams is also a great benefit of working in this sector. However, there are potential downsides. Travel can be extensive with a large amount of time spent on client sites which may not be in the most exciting of locations.  The work hours are often long and initially you can expect to spend a lot of time on research rather than presenting strategies to the C-suite.

Where can I work, what can I do, and how can I get there?

Where can I work?

The consultancy industry is incredibly varied and management consulting is often used as a catch-all term to encompass a wide range of consulting firms. Many firms do a wide range of work offering end-to-end solutions but there are many specialised consultancy firms as well.  Therefore, it’s important to take the time to investigate the options available.

  • Large generalist consultancies: These usually offer end-to-end solutions to their clients but may have traditionally been recognised for their expertise in a particular area.  The three largest strategy consulting firms are McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bain & Company (often referred to as MBB). While strategy has been their focus, they now have teams that focus on specific sector or functional specialisms. They may have acquired smaller firms with specialisms in particular areas to grow their own expertise. Other international generalist consulting firms include Accenture, Oliver Wyman, Strategy&, Kearney, OC&C, L.E.K. Consulting and Roland Berger. The big four professional service firms (EY, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG) also have consulting branches which cover a range of specialisms.
  • Boutique or niche consulting firms: These usually specialise in a certain industry or business function having been set up by experienced consultants with a particular area of expertise. Some may have expanded to work across an increased range of areas but remain a mid-sized organisation. New recruits to these types of firms may be involved in a broader range of tasks and get to work with senior staff members from the start. Niche consultancies that focus on digital consulting or sustainability consulting are increasingly present in the sector.
  • In-house consulting divisions: These are often found in large corporate organisations and are an alternate for those companies if they don’t wish to use the services of an external company. These roles allow you to develop and industry / company specialisation and you get to see your recommendations implemented. This isn’t always the case when you work for an external firm – unless they’ve been hired to consult on the implementation. As a rule, in-house groups travel less than their external counterparts. Companies where these divisions exist include Airbus Management Consulting, BASF Management Consulting, BNP Paribas CIB Consulting, Capital One Strategy Group, Deutsche Bank Management Consulting, Ericsson Management Consulting, Maersk Management Consulting and Siemens Advanta Consulting.

What can I do?

Many job roles exist in this sector and below are some that are often of interest to LSE students with links to further information. Try to talk to someone who’s doing the job that interests you, so you get a real sense of what it’s like.

Most consultancy careers follow a hierarchical ladder. Different firms have varying job titles:

  • Business analyst/Fellow – works within ‘case’ teams on a variety of projects to develop their skills. Conducts desk and field research, interviews clients, gathers and analyses quantitative data and gives presentations to colleagues and clients. This is the typical graduate entry-level position into management consultancy.
  • Associate/Senior associate/Junior consultant – identifies issues to be addressed within a project, develops hypotheses and tests these through complex analysis. Structures the work of analysts on the team, presents strategic recommendations to the client’s senior management. Analysts may be promoted to associate after two to three years.
  • Project manager/Engagement manager/Case team leader/Manager –responsible for the day-to-day management of the project and team. Works closely with partners to align on what work needs to be done and with consultants to agree on how it should be done. Project managers are usually the first point of contact for clients.
  • Partner/Director –more involved in conceptual discussions and problem solving, usually present in the team room at least once a week to give guidance, help structure the project and present to the client. They are also responsible for sourcing new business.

Specialised consultancy areas include:

  • Strategy consultant – offers strategic advice to companies on projects such as market entry, long-range planning and rationalisation of goods and services. 
  • Human resource consultant – offers specialist HR advice, e.g. in organisational restructuring, talent and reward strategies. 
  • Financial consultant – offers financial advice, including the installation of budgetary control systems, profile planning and capital and revenue budgeting. 
  • Healthcare consultant – advises public and private healthcare companies, pharmaceutical organisations, government and international organisations about their business plans, strategies and policies. 
  • Economic consultant – applies techniques of economic analysis to help businesses, regulators and policy makers evaluate and implement strategic decisions. Uses microeconomic theory, econometrics, quantitative techniques and financial modelling in conjunction with sector expertise to formulate tailored advice to organisations. The Prospects Management consultant profile and targetjobs Consultant job description provide further details.

How can I get there?

Larger consultancy firms offer graduate schemes, as well as summer internships for penultimate year students.

Don’t neglect the small firms, you may gain more responsibility faster. Look for niche consultancies and consider sending targeted, speculative applications to consultancies that interest you – you can find lists of consultancies via professional bodies (see Resources).

If you’re looking to gain experience

Consultancy firms value any experience that involves teamwork, working with clients, business or finance knowledge and organisational skills. This could come from part-time work, volunteering or extra-curricular activities.

Business experience will allow you to demonstrate your commercial awareness, knowledge of a specific sector and of the internal structure of an organisation.

To stand out, you could attend insight days or weeks during your first year, or in your second year look for a summer internship – note that their closing dates are around February.

If you’re early on in your career

Applying early is key for graduate schemes, as many have closing dates in November and December.

Graduates can have a degree in any discipline, although a degree which is numerical or analytical can be an advantage. A degree in business, management, economics, mathematics or statistics can be an asset for entry into some firms, and a 2:1 is often the minimum requirement.

When applying, make a handful of top-quality applications rather than wasting valuable study time applying everywhere.

If you have more experience

With an MBA, a PhD, or several years of professional experience, you may be able to enter directly as an associate.

If you’re changing career

Some consultants enter the profession later, after having acquired skills and expertise in one or more industry and/or functional areas.

You may consider becoming self-employed or joining a niche consultancy.

Not sure what to do next?

We’re here to talk over your career plans with you. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, so don’t feel you have to have it all worked out. You can book a one-to-one appointment with a careers consultant on CareerHub. 

Where can I find out more about working in this sector?

Interested in finding out more about a career in consultancy?

Here are some helpful links, including the ways LSE Careers can work with you on your journey.



LSE Careers resources:

External resources:

Jobs and opportunities

  • CareerHub – jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities. 
  • targetjobs and Prospects for graduate level job vacancies in consulting. 
  • Top Consultant – jobs board and information website for consultants.
  • Green Jobs – jobs board with details of environmental and sustainability consulting jobs.


If you’d like to discuss your options in this sector, or chat through your current plans, please book an appointment with an LSE Careers Consultant.