Do you get a real sense of satisfaction when you come up with a clever solution to a problem that’s been bothering you? Do you enjoy thinking about how things could be done better? A career as a consultant could be a great fit.
It’s complex work, but rewarding: a survey found that two out of three young consultants rating their job satisfaction as good or very good.
In this guide, we’ll look at how to become a consultant, featuring the tasks, skills and salary involved – and also answering: how long does it take to become a consultant?
What is a consultant?
In this article we’ll be talking about the role of a management consultant, sometimes called business consultant. We’re not referring to consultant in the medical sense (that’s the name given to a senior doctor who works in a hospital).
In a nutshell, a consultant is an expert in a particular field or area of business that gives advice to a company.
They work with different organisations (called clients) to help them make more money and be more efficient.
They draw on their specialist business know-how and key skills to solve problems and make recommendations. For example a business consultant could help a restaurant chain hire better staff, or help a homelessness charity raise more funds.
Consultants are employed in different ways. They could work for a management consultancy firm, which could be a big company offering lots of different services, or a small ‘niche’ firm which has expertise in a particular field.
Consultants give advice to a range of different client companies – it could be a school, hospital, hotel, factory, university, law firm, government department, or shop.
Usually the advice they to clients give relates to one of the following areas:
- Strategy: thinking about a business’s plans for the future.
- Recruitment and human resources: hiring staff and making sure they’re happy.
- IT: computer and security systems.
- Finance: looking at how much a company spends and earns.
- Marketing: how the company promotes itself to customers.
So what do management consultants do on a day-to-day basis?
The everyday tasks of a consultant include:
- Meeting with your clients to talk about what the company needs.
- Doing lots of research to understand the client and their sector.
- Interviewing staff and customers.
- Analysing the data from your research, and preparing reports.
- Figuring out what the problems are, then planning how to solve them.
- Telling the client where improvements could be made and presenting your recommendations.
- Agreeing the actions that the client has to take in order to make improvements.
What’s the management consultant salary?
The starting salary is between £25,000 and £30,000. An experienced management consultant salary would be between £40,000 and £60,000. A highly experienced consultant could earn up to £90,000.
What skills would I need?
The employability skills and personal qualities you’ll need to pursue a career in consultancy include:
- Presentation skills: confident, articulate speaker (here are some fun ways to improve your presentation skills).
- IT skills: good with digital technology.
- Good at working with others: see this for how to develop teamwork skills and this to learn how to improve interpersonal skills.
- Strong communicator: able to make your point persuasively (here’s how to work on your communication skills).
- Able to think outside the box: always coming up with creative solutions to challenges.
- Analytical approach: critical thinker.
- Hard-working: determined, able to work long hours and cope under pressure.
- Flexible: consulting can be unpredictable work.
How to become a consultant
You will usually need a degree in order to pursue a career in consultancy. This could be in business or economics – but consultancy is open to graduates from most degrees. Engineering, finance, maths and science are particularly useful.
You could then apply for a graduate training scheme with a management consultancy firm. You’ll usually need at least a 2:1 degree.
Work experience, part-time jobs or volunteering will help when it comes to applying for jobs or university courses. Check out our guides to help you out:
How long does it take to become a consultant?
Well, that depends. If you apply for a graduate scheme with a consultancy firm after your university degree, then it could take as little as 3 or 4 years (from when you leave school) before you can start working as a trainee consultant.
Many professionals also decide to become consultants later in their careers, after they’ve developed a very strong knowledge and experience of a particular industry. That could take many years, if not a decade, to build up that level of expertise.
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Main image via Freepik.