Being a consultant is an exciting opportunity to learn the ins and outs of running a business in an effective and profitable way. Regardless of your major, if you’re a creative problem-solver who is interested in different types of business models, then being a consultant might just be for you.
Here are some of the key things you need to know about working in consulting.
What is consulting?
Consulting is a fairly broad term that can have a variety of meanings depending on the industry it refers to. For example, you can work as a marketing consultant helping companies create and optimize their marketing campaigns or as a software consultant, designing software systems for an organization. However, although the term has many applications, it’s generally used to refer to management or strategy consulting, the practice of helping companies increase their efficiency and profits by addressing the major operational or strategic challenges they’re facing.
What do consultants do?
Consulting roles can vary greatly depending on the type of consulting firm you work for and the companies you work with. For example, if you work for one of the large management consulting companies (such as McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group) you’ll be following a fairly structured career path, starting off as a junior consultant and moving up to a senior consultant role within two to three years. Working at one of the larger consulting firms also means that you’re more likely to be a generalist in your early years since you typically only become specialized in a particular vertical, industry or type of work after working in consulting for several years. At smaller consultancies or boutique firms, you’ll generally focus on a particular industry from the beginning (such as healthcare or technology) and work exclusively within that industry.
What are the challenges of working in consulting?
Being a consultant is an exciting career path but it does have its share of challenges. One of the main ones is traveling. Although many other careers require travel (e.g. sales), few are as travel-intensive as consulting. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear of consultants who travel four out of five days of each work week, meaning that your non-travel time will usually be limited to weekends. Additional challenges include long hours (12-hour days are standard) and working closely with a new team every few months. Although these factors might take a little getting used to, most consultants adapt to them fairly quickly and are able to thrive in their roles.
What are some of the benefits of working in consulting?
One of the main benefits of being a consultant is having the opportunity to learn about multiple industries and business models. In fact, this knowledge will serve you well throughout your consulting career (and beyond), allowing you to quickly spot operational and managerial problems and come up with creative solutions to solve them. And although travel can be a challenging part of the job, it can also be an exciting one, giving you the opportunity to see new parts of the country (and helping you build up some frequent flyer miles in the process!). Consulting will also improve your presentation skills, teaching you how to build impressive presentation decks and communicate your point effectively to any type of audience.
What is a typical consultant salary?
One of the other benefits of being a consultant is the high earning potential. In fact, consulting is one of the most lucrative professions around and it offers great salaries for recent graduates. Entry-level salaries for management consultants typically start at $63,000 (including bonuses), though this can vary depending on the size of the firm you work for. Consulting salaries increase significantly with each year of additional experience and can go up to $250,000 for a project leader or even $500,000 and above for a partner.
Although consulting is certainly a challenging field, it’s also an exciting one that presents many opportunities for recent grads. The best way to find out if being a consultant is a good fit for you is to intern at a consulting firm and get a hands-on feel for the role and the culture of the industry.