Management consultants are exposed to a variety of different companies through the contracts they are assigned. While the growth rate for the number of management consultants will exceed the normal growth rate of other industries, competition for such positions will be fierce. If you have a graduate degree, a talent for salesmanship, and a specialized expertise, you should seriously consider a management consultant career.
Education and Certification Requirements
Management consultants and analysts may have different educational requirements if they are entering the government or private industry. Consulting firms generally require the applicant to have a masters in business administration, or an equivalent masters level degree. Some entry-level positions may be staffed with candidates holding a bachelor’s degree. However, those positions may be restricted to research associates or research analysts and then promote them to consultants after years of experience.
Because of the nature of management consulting, almost no educational programs exist that are designed around this discipline. Many business fields of study provide adequate background for the consultant, because of the variety of areas the consultant may be required to explore. Business fields involved with the operation of a company are excellent starting points. Degrees in management, business, accounting, economics, marketing, statistics, engineering, or information science may provide a solid educational platform.
Supplementing the educational piece with years of experience in human resources, operations, management, finance, or information technology is also critical. The Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation is offered by the Institute of Management Consultants USA. The Institute of Management Consultants requires a level of experience, along with client reviews of the consultant’s work be submitted. The consultant also needs to pass an exam covering the IMC code of ethics. The certification must be renewed every three years. While certification may not be required, it may give an applicant an edge over others in a competitive job market.
While responsibilities of management consultants may vary based on assignment, there are certain tasks that are part of typical work activities. Consulting is essentially project based, with a distinct beginning, middle and end to each assignment. Understanding project management processes and tools is definitely helpful
For new graduate recruits who may have the job title of management analyst, job tasks may include conducting research and data collection and then analyzing the data. Using information gathering techniques, the analyst may need to interview the client’s employees, managers and other key stakeholders. Some of the information gathering techniques may also include running focus groups with select individuals. The analyst may also have to facilitate workshops to explain the process. In order to become more familiar with the client’s business, the analyst will need to spend the majority of time onsite. The analyst may also be responsible for writing the proposals and preparing presentations.
More senior consultants may be involved in some of the same tasks as the analysts. However, they will also be involved with identifying underlying issues and forming initial hypotheses on the cause and effect. From their discovery process, the senior consultant will then formulate a recommendation and design the implementation plan for the recommendation. Another aspect the senior consultant may be involved in includes ensuring the client has the needed resources and knowledge to implement the recommendation.
Management consultants generally must be self-starters and excellent time managers, organized, and excellent planners. Project management skills are beneficial to a management consultant, as each new client is actually a project. Because management consultants need to interview and discuss sensitive topics, they need to have strong interpersonal skills and be able to work with a variety of personalities. Many times, a team of management consultants may be assigned to a project. A candidate who is a solid team player will succeed in this environment.
Having an analytical mindset that allows the candidate to sift through large amounts of data is helpful, especially in understanding the causes that led the company to its current situation. Creativity and the ability to see connections between seemingly unrelated events also is helpful, especially for positions where the management consultant is being brought in to find out what’s wrong and prescribe a change to repair the situation.
Communication skills are critical for a management consultant. The management consultant may be responsible for delivering findings as well as interim updates. The consultant also must be an expert in delivering both good and bad news to stakeholders who may be resistant to the findings. Tactfulness and a firm understanding of interpersonal dynamics is critical.
The job outlook for management consultants is very strong, especially for those who hold advanced degrees, have a technical skill, and/or have experience as a consultant. The industry is fiercely competitive, even though there are over 678,000 management analysts and consultants in the market. The market for management analysts and management consultants is projected to grow by 22% from 2006 to 2016.
Job growth will be primarily from rapidly changing business climates requiring businesses to rethink how they approach the marketplace to make money. In addition, regulatory changes are pushing other companies to update their financial and accounting processes to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley act.
Expansion internationally has also driven the need for more consultants, as U.S., based companies design market penetration strategies where cultural, language and value differences would prevent a traditional U.S. style product launch form succeeding.
Salary ranges for management consultants and management analysts are broad, based primarily on the industry of expertise as well as years of experience. The median annual income for a management analyst is $67,851. The median annual income for a management consultant with 20 years of experience is $122,000.
Management consulting is an exciting profession that will expose the consultant to a variety of businesses, as well as be intellectually challenging. Management consulting positions are projected to continue growing through 2016, although the competition for positions will be fierce.