Tips for Breaking into and Succeeding in Management Consulting

Printer-Friendly Version

by Jennie S. Bev

Management consulting is one of the professions that endure in a slow economy. Why? Because more than ever, companies need consultants to help them increase revenues and cut costs.

Management consulting is also known as one of the highest paid professions in the United States. A recent survey by the Association of Management Consulting Firms found entry-level consultants earn an average of $58,000 annually while senior partners earn an average of $259,000 (including bonuses and profit sharing). Self-employed consultants may earn $100 to $350 per hour.

Therefore, if you’ve been contemplating to break into this field, wait no more. The financial reward is a real incentive. Other perks, such as intellectual challenge, opportunity to learn, helping others to learn, self-satisfaction and prestige may further motivate you to enter the field.

Now let’s talk about the two paths of management consulting to consider — working for others and going solo. If you don’t have much experience or are a new graduate, working for others is probably the wisest choice. If you have already gained sufficient verifiable professional experience in a specialized field, going solo is a highly feasible option.

Whichever path you’d choose, here are some tips to break into and succeed in management consulting:

  1. Do your homework. Get ready for the job. Equip yourself with the required (and recommended) skills: problem-solving, communication, management, computer, and some foreign language.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have an MBA or even any degree to break into this field, but you will need to have specific personal attributes to succeed. Among them are leadership and the ability to work well under stress.
  3. Educate yourself continuously as knowledge evolves consistently and new ways of solving the old and new problems continually emerge.
  4. Know what to expect from the job. Familiarize yourself with the job titles, what their job descriptions are, the typical consulting job cycle, and (even better) how sample proposals are planned and written for clients.
  5. If your career goal is to work for a consulting firm, familiarize yourself with the professional consulting job-hunt process and interviews. For instance, the interview stage for a consulting position includes personality and resume questions, communication questions and business case questions. [Editor’s note: Check out the Quintessential Careers article, Mastering the Case Interview.]
  6. If you are considering to going solo, you’ll need to assess your working style and aptitude for entrepreneurship suitability, planning for success, advertising and publicity, pricing your services, and writing a consulting agreement. [Editor’s note: Check out the Quintessential Careers Consultant/Free Agent Quiz.]
  7. While it is not an absolute necessity and not many clients require it, you may want to pursue a professional designation to take the consulting career to the next level!

Final Thoughts on Management Consulting

Last but not least, management consulting is a very lucrative field and recession-proof. In fact, some specialized consulting fields are experiencing a whopping increase of revenue. Now get ready to plunge into this exciting and highly rewarding profession. Just make sure to do your homework properly to ensure success.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Jennie S. Bev is a San Francisco Bay Area cost-reduction consultant, instructional designer, and the author of Guide to Become a Management Consultant published by, Inc. (July 2002). Download the content from [email protected]. She is also managing editor of

Looking for the best consulting and freelancing jobs? Go to our Jobs for Consultants & Freelancers.

Find the best business and strategy guides for counsulting in our Consulting & Freelancing Books

Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.