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Career Opportunities in Consulting

Consultants are professionals who are trained to solve problems, devise strategies, and improve the general health of clients no matter what the industry. Management consultants help clients solve specific problems (usually focused on the short-term), while a strategy consultant researches and develops strategies for improving the long-term goals of the company. Companies hire consultants not only for their problem solving abilities, but also for their objectivity.

Typically, consultants conduct research, analyze data, prepare reports and present findings; less frequently a management consultant will become involved in the actual implementation of the plan. Profits are derived from fees to clients, which consequently breaks down to "billable hours." In general, the work environment is fast-paced and stimulating and involves long hours. Work weeks of between fifty to seventy-five hours are not unusual.

Management consultants tend to work in teams of three to four individuals with one person assuming the leadership role. Travel is another important aspect of a management consultant's professional life. Spending time with the client on the premises is an essential part of the consultant's responsibilities. If you are working a management case, you may spend three to four days each week at the client site.

SPEA has also seen students go into financial and tax consulting. As with management consulting, financial and tax consultants conduct research, analyze data, prepare reports, and work closely with the client to ensure that they are being advised properly.

Career Paths

While different firms have different titles for the same positions, entry-level positions traditionally are analysts/research Associates. These positions are typically filled by undergraduates.

 For those with experience or advanced degrees, it is possible to be employed as
an Associate or Senior Associate. These positions can be filled by M.A., M.B.A., Ph.D. and J.D. graduates.

The type and amount of work depends on the kind of project the consultants are working on. The three main types of cases are: strategy, management (which would include operations and business organization), finances and taxes, and systems design.

It is possible for a consultant to have an entire career with one company. From the associate level, an individual can work up to manager, managing director, vice president to partner and/or principal. Some consultants will focus on one industry and others will work with a wide array of clients from various sectors.

More typically, after a few years, a consultant might choose to leave the firm and work for one of their clients. Usually, in this situation, the consultant will assume a strategic planning role for the organization; however, the possibilities are not limited to this one function.

Qualifications Necessary/Application Procedures to Enter Field

Most consulting firms tend to hire people with advanced degrees. In SPEA, consulting firms typically recruit MPA, MSES, MPA/MSES students, and some advanced BSPA students. Academic excellence, leadership and team skills gained from extracurricular activities and private sector experience derived from internships are important in the consideration process. The following qualities are essential for consultants: excellent oral and written communication skills; strong analytical abilities (including quantitative methods); attention to detail and deadlines; and proven leadership capabilities.



Internet Resources

For more information on Case Questions, candidates should also see:

Edited for the use of SPEA students by the staff of the Office of Career Services. Written by Career Directors from the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs. Information obtained from the Maxwell School of Public Administration.