Careers in Consultancy

 

In brief

Consultancy is a growing field offering opportunities to work in a variety of industries and settings, from strategy and operations to more specialised consulting areas such as HR, finance or IT.

As a consultant you will help organisations to solve issues, create value, make improvements and identify opportunities to maximise growth and business performance. Examples of management consultancy projects include clarifying an organisation's strategic direction, streamlining manufacturing processes to save money, or identifying ways to reduce staff turnover.

Knowledge and skills developed in business, management, economics, and finance degrees can be well suited to consulting,

graduate positions are normally open to students from any degree discipline. It is a popular option for LSE graduates.

The potential for a good salary, bonuses, international travel and varied, project-based work are key selling points for careers in consultancy, but it can be a demanding, high pressure sector with long hours and lots of travel.

Where can you work?

To target the right firms, it’s important to take some time to investigate the different types of consultancy work available. For example, management consulting is often used as a catch-all term to encompass a wide range of types of consulting, and consultancy firms are often classified as strategic or operational consultancies, but these areas often overlap. There are many more specialised consultancy areas as well.

  • Large consultancies – usuallyoffer end-to-end solutions to their clients. The three largest strategy consulting firms are McKinsey, the Boston Consulting Group, and Bain and Company. Other international generalist consulting firms include AccentureOliver WymanStrategy&AT KearneyOC&C, and Roland Berger. The big four professional service firms (EY, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG) all have a management consulting branch as well.
  • Mid-sized boutiques or niche firms – offer specialist expertise and services. They may focus on a specific function, e.g. HR, finance, environment, healthcare, marketing etc, or a particular industry or client type, e.g. corporate companies, public sector and government, charities, educational institutions etc.
  • In-house consulting divisions – often found in large corporate companies such as AmericanExpressCiscoIBMGoogleSamsungAirbus, and Citibank

What’s changing in the sector?

As a result of globalisation, new technology, evolving business trends and changes in regulation/legislation, demand for consultancy services is rising. Clients increasingly expect consultants to be available around the clock, providing multi-disciplinary teams who can offer solutions to complex and novel problems. This means that individual consultants are specialising earlier in their careers, often only two or three years after starting in a firm.

Growing areas include digital-strategy consulting and risk management.

Useful websites

Job vacancies and sector information

CareerHub – jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities.

Target Jobs and Prospects for graduate level job vacancies in consulting.

Top Consultant – jobs board and information website for consultants.

Management Consulted – sector information, insights, and advice for applications and case studies.

Vault Guide about consulting – LSE Careers exclusive resource, with extensive information about the sector on an international level. Scroll down to Vault: Career Insider and click on the link to log in.

Case Coach - click on Case Coach for practice videos on case interviews

Professional bodies in the UK

Management Consultancies Association (MCA) – representative body for management consultancy firms in the UK.

Institute of Consulting – consultancy professional body.

Overseas networks

European Federation of Management Consultancies Associations – European level federation of 15 national associations.

Inhouse Consulting Network is a network of in-house consulting units of 24 leading German companies, with about 1700 internal consultants.

LSE graduate profiles

LSE graduate profiles in consulting

Useful Information

Routes in

Introduction

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 Useful Websites).

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.

Job roles

There are many different job roles in this sector. We’ve outlined the ones that are often of interest to LSE students with links to further information. Try to talk to someone who’s doing the job you’re interested in, so you get a real flavour of what it’s like.

Most consultant careers follow a typical hierarchical ladder. They have varying job titles:

  • Business analyst/Fellow – works within 'case' teams on a variety of projects to develop their portfolio of 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. Find out more in Andrea's LSE graduate case study.
  • Associate/Senior associate/Junior consultant – identifies issues to beaddressed 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 2-3 years. Find out more in these LSE graduate case studies: Silvio, and Curtis.
  • Project manager/Engagement manager/Case team leader/Manager –responsible for the day-to-day management of the project and the team. Works closely with the partners to align on what work needs to be done and with the consultants to agree on how it should be done. Project managers are usually the first point of contact for clients. Find out more in Martina's LSE graduate case study.
  • 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. In specialised consulting, the content of projects and the skills and knowledge involved may vary significantly.

 

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 Target Jobs Consultant job description provide further details.

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