Management consultants are responsible for improving the business process, efficiency and productivity of commercial and public sector organisations, by identifying and implementing solutions. They take their business skills and commercial expertise into an organisation.
Projects can range from a strategic review and developing a business case through to assessing the options, and may fall into some of the following areas - finance, production, retail, human resources (HR) and IT.
The type of project they work on will vary depending on the size and the nature of the consultancy. Some consultancies specialise in a business area, while others are more generalist, offering a range of services.
A management consultant's responsibilities may include:
The size and budget of the project will determine how much responsibility the management consultant has. Depending on the needs of the client, projects may run from one day to several years.
A management consultant usually works normal office hours, from Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required to meet deadlines, including weekend and evening work.
The work may be stressful and pressurised. Many employers are aware of this and are keen to work with their management consultants, promoting a good work-life balance. It may be possible to work on a part-time or flexi-time basis.
Management consultants usually work in an office environment. They are likely to spend a considerable amount of time on clients' sites, to gather information and interview employees. There will be a limited amount of travelling, which may involve short periods away from home. A driving licence would be useful.
Smart casual or business dress is normally expected.
Starting salaries for management consultants may be £25,000 to £30,000.
According to the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), the UK consulting market is the largest in Europe, worth about £8 billion. It is helping to deliver some of the most innovative and ambitious change projects in the world.
Management consultants work in all industry sectors, from financial and retail, to non-profit making organisations, local government and the health sector.
There are job opportunities throughout the UK, with big multinational consultancies and smaller niche consultancies. Project work may not necessarily be in the same area where the consultancy is based. There are also overseas prospects. Competition for jobs is intense as consultancies try to attract and recruit the best graduates available.
Vacancies are advertised on management consultancy websites, through recruitment agencies and university careers services. Specialist publications such as Management Consultants News and national newspapers The Times and The Sunday Times are all excellent sources for vacancies. The Institute of Business Consulting (IBC) and the MCA also publicise vacancies on their websites.
Management consultants usually have a degree. Most employers will look for candidates with at least a 2:1 degree.
Candidates who have studied business studies, economics, mathematics or IT may have an advantage. Some applicants will have relevant work experience and vocational skills, perhaps as part of a sandwich course.
Degree courses usually last three years full time, or four years for sandwich courses. In Scotland they last three or four years full time, or four or five years as a sandwich course. Check with individual universities for the qualifications they require.
Postgraduate qualifications, such as a Master of Business Administration, can be useful. Postgraduate courses usually last one year full time. They require students to have a good first degree, (usually a 2:1), coupled with relevant work experience.
Following a structured induction programme, training is usually on the job and may include in-house training courses combined with external qualifications.
Areas covered may include, project management, corporate governance, finance and consulting.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is essential for consultants to keep up with industry developments. Professional qualifications can be obtained from various organisations, including the IBC and the MCA.
The IBC endorses the Diploma in Management Consultancy, which provides training and development in:
It is recommended that candidates are educated to degree level, or have at least five years' business experience. Further details can be obtained from the IBC.
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A management consultant should:
The career structure will vary from one organisation to another. A typical promotional route would be to join a management consultancy as a graduate, analyst or junior consultant, then be promoted to consultant, senior consultant, principal consultant and finally partner.
A number of consultants may move into this role because they have the aptitude and detailed knowledge of an organisation's processes, systems and structure.
Management consultants may choose to specialise in a hands-on role, move into people management or work in another related area. For some, there will be opportunities in senior management. Others may become self-employed, either working for themselves or a consultancy.
Institute of Business Consulting, 3rd Floor,
17-18 Hayward's Place, London EC1R 0EQ
Tel: 020 7566 5220
Management Consultancies Association (MCA),
60 Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DS
Tel: 020 7321 3990
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.