How to Be a Consultant: A Guide for How to Get Into Consulting

Consultants in areas such as healthcare, cyber security, and the non-profit sector help large businesses and organizations become more efficient, profitable and competitive. Find out how to get into consulting and what you might expect in salaries and job growth. Schools offering Business degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

Consultants research clients' organizational challenges or opportunities and develop strategies for improvement. They sit down with managers to clarify desired goals and then devise a plan to achieve them. Explore three types of consultant positions in the following table.

Management Consultant Information Security Consultant Scientific Consultant, including health
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Business management, business administration, finance Computer Science, Programming, Information Assurance Science
Key Skills Analytical, time management, communication, responsibility, problem-solving Analytical, detail-oriented, ingenuity, problem-solving Analytical, leadership, communication, interpersonal problem-solving
Job Growth (2016-2026) 14% (management analysts)* 28% (information security analysts)* 11% (environmental scientists and specialists, including health)*
Median Annual Wage (2017) $82,450 (management analysts)* $90,940 (information security analysts working in management of companies and enterprises)* $ 69,400 (environmental scientists and specialists, including health)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Exactly Does a Consultant's Work Look?

Your work as a consultant will depend on your area of specialty. This could be healthcare, information technology, retail, the non-profit sector, government, environmental sciences and many more. Some consultants work independently, while others, especially for larger projects, work in teams where each focuses only one aspect of the business.

The work involves researching the client's situation and analyzing internal data, identifying problems in the existing strategy, solving challenges, and liaising with managers and employees to recommend better ways to achieve the desired organizational and strategic goals. Later on, follow-up interviews are conducted to ensure the recommended strategies are working and to propose further adjustments if needed.

What Education Do I Need to Become a Consultant?

The minimum educational requirement to work as a consultant is a bachelor's degree, but some positions require a master's degree.

The field of study depends on the area in which you want to consult. If you want to help companies ramp up their information security, you will need a degree in computer science, or a related field. To help them improve their management structure, a degree in business or finance could do the trick. And if you want to specialize in making businesses more sustainable, environmental science could be your degree of choice.

Do I Need Additional Experience?

Practical experience in the field is vital to succeed as a consultant. Whether a company will place its fate into your hands depends on your past successes and reputation. Therefore new graduates may first pursue work in a related field or apply for entry-level positions at consulting firms to gain experience.

To stand out from the competition, there are also some certifications available. In the USA, the Institute of Management Consultants awards certification as a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) as well as professional membership, which can give consultants an edge over the competition.

What Areas Might Offer Work?

Consultants can specialize by industry or organizational area. Industries could be health, information technology, retail, telecommunications, marketing, and finance; and they can also be contracted by non-profit organizations or the government. Consultants working with governments usually specialize by agency.

The specific organizational areas consultants can focus on include sales, social media, environment, business strategy, human resources, security, engineering, risk/compliance, and operations.

What Types of Job Growth Can I Expect?

At 14% and 11%, job growth for management consultants and scientific consultants, including health, will be faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 28% growth predicted for information security consultants is considered to be much faster than average. Demand is expected to be particularly strong in health care due to the pressure that aging populations place on the sector. The technology sector is also expecting to see solid demand as companies ramp up cyber security measures.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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