The Career Path for Management Consultants

management consultant

Say you’ve decided to pursue a career as a management consultant. Jobs at various consultancy firms beckon you with the promise of good pay and greater learning. If you grow in your management consultancy career, what would it look like? Across all management consultancy jobs, one factor remains consistent. The more senior you get in an organization, the more exposure you are likely to get with clients; senior management clients in particular. Without knowing how your career will progress, being prepared for it can be challenging. You won’t be aware of what skills to build or what knowledge to focus on at different points in your career. By being aware of various paths of growth, you can plan your career in advance and prepare yourself to do it efficiently.

There will be a time in your career when you take a break to do an MBA or choose to become an independent consultant. This post focuses on various milestones in the career of a management consultant.

1. Business Analytics

As a Bachelor’s degree graduate, if you want to work for a consultancy firm, you will probably be hired as a Business Analyst. The majority of your work will be related to ‘data gathering.’ The data you gather will be included on the decks the consultancy presents to clients. The decks typically contain the consultancy’s analysis of the client’s challenges. As a consultant, this is the first skill you will have to master before growing in your career. Some business analysts will be required to create financial models that can support the same decks.

2. Independent Consultant

After your Bachelor’s, or after having worked as a Business Analyst for a while, you can choose to continue within an organization or focus on setting up your own business. If you want to become an independent consultant, you have to acquire the knowledge and skills required of an entrepreneur. You not only have to generate business but also manage clients’ requirements from end to end. So, ideally, you have to pick-up conversational and presentation skills, apart from skills related to your specialization. As an independent consultant, you also have to worry about small details such as consultant insurance.

3. MBA

If you have been working in a consultancy for a while and have built a good reputation for yourself, you may be able to skip a few levels without needing an MBA. But the majority of consultancy firm analysts will require an MBA and a possible firm-switch to acquire their dream jobs. Independent consultants can also add value to their businesses by completing an MBA, even if advancement isn’t a challenge for them as it is for consultants in firms. Most firms and clients will only recognize a full-time MBA from a top school like Harvard or Wharton, which could make a major dent in your finances. So, if MBA is on your career plan, ensure that you save for it in advance.

4. Business Associate

Once you have completed your MBA, you can rejoin your old firm as a Business Associate, which is a job with important responsibilities and better pay. This is easiest done if your firm offers to fund your MBA and promise you a job once you have completed it. Alternatively, you can use your experience as leverage and get a job in a competing firm, only if your previous contracts allow for it. Business Associates have more exposure to clients and the responsibility of completing a portion of the consulting project by themselves.  

5. Associate Partner

If you have made it to the Associate Partner position at your firm, it’s a good indication of your assent in the firm’s hierarchy. Associate Partners have to manage entire teams of Business Associates and ensure that consultancy projects are completed according to the expected quality and time. They’re even expected to mentor and develop the Business Associates under them. Associate Partners have to impress at client meetings and get to travel quite a bit.   

6. Partner

Partner or Director is at the peak of your career as a Consultant at a firm. To get to this point, you require a mix of different skills in networking, client acquisition and management, and end-to-end management of consultancy projects. The people who make Partner or Director require a strong roster of loyal clients who are given top-class work managed by their teams. As a Partner, you will need to have a great track record and be known as a good leader and people manager.

As a management consultant, your career path can be exciting, provided you prepare for it in advance and ensure that the progression occurs as expected. This post describes various milestones in a management consultant’s career that you will have to pass if you are to be as successful as one.

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