Management Consulting: A Comprehensive Guide

Group of management consultants

Management consulting is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide that only grows larger each day. The intellectual stimulation, professional growth, networking opportunities and compensation make management consulting an unrivaled career path.

The skilled advisors from The MBA Exchange have helped more than 5,000 applicants gain admission to business schools worldwide, with a CPA-verified track record. Our team includes current and former MBA career services professionals who have interacted directly with the recruiters from leading management consulting firms like McKinsey and Bain. We understand what these firms want and how they make hiring decisions.

What is management consulting?

Management consultants are in the solutions business. Types of consulting including operational consulting and strategy consulting. Strategy consultants typically make recommendations to management teams on high-level business decisions. Operations consulting is going to be more about identifying the best ways to execute on a business strategy and supporting implementation.

Management consulting careers can vary in size, so you have room to find the right “fit” for you. Your options include the big professional firms like Boston Consulting Group (BCG) or Ernst & Young, or you might be more interested in working for a smaller “boutique” consulting company that specializes in more specific situations like supply chain management.

Either way, as a management consultant, you seek to improve the health of organizations you’re working with by recommending best practices, taking a holistic or big-picture view and working out the kinks in organizational strategy. You trade in risk management, revenue maximization and the changes needed to guide an inc toward their business objectives.

How to start a career in management consulting

You’re interested in a management consulting career. Hopefully, you’re either a current MBA student (1st or 2nd year), a college undergraduate or an experienced professional with an advanced degree (PhD, JD, etc.). And you’re interested in joining a top management consulting firm such as:

  • McKinsey & Company
  • Boston Consulting Group
  • Bain & Company
  • Deloitte and Monitor Deloitte
  • EY Advisory and Parthenon EY
  • A.T. Kearney
  • Accenture
  • PwC and Strategy&
  • Oliver Wyman
  • L.E.K. Consulting
  • ZS Associates
  • Cambridge Group
  • Roland Berger

Competition for jobs in management consulting is fierce as highly qualified and motivated individuals recognize and seek the exceptional rewards. To win an offer, a successful candidate must present a compelling value proposition, demonstrate exceptional strength in essential skills and convince hiring managers to pick them over equally qualified applicants.

The top tier firms are looking for excellence. One way of signaling you are a top performer is by sharing a strong GPA. Scholarships, high GMAT or GRE scores, and honors and awards are other ways to show your ability if your GPA is not something to highlight. Getting into a top MBA program is not sufficient by itself – about 40% of the class of the top schools are interested in consulting.

Your resume is the other major site for focus in your plan of attack. Your work experience may need to be recast to highlight the skills consulting firms value most, including evidence of senior-level management decisions and impacts, leadership and team building skills and quantifiable financial results.

Finally, future consultants need to develop exceptional communication skills and strategies for “fit” interviews, case interviews, math tests, take-home cases, on-line cases and other steps in the hiring process at consulting firms. Get up to speed on the evaluation process and get comfortable with stressful settings.

Your career launch strategy

How are you planning on handling the management consulting recruitment process? Your best resource for becoming that candidate is the Consulting Career Academy at The MBA Exchange. We work with you through offerings including:

  • Our proprietary curriculum presented through a combination of written materials and interactive, 1-on-1 coaching sessions, rather than just video or written instructions
  • Coaching sessions scheduled at your pace and convenience
  • The option to select either a comprehensive curriculum or individual courses

Those who are most determined to join a management consulting firm seize the opportunity to get a head start. Crafting a solid plan, getting started early and keeping your efforts to become competitive on burn can make the difference between getting hired or getting ignored by consulting firms.

About our team

A team of 20 former management consultants with extensive experience from working in worldwide offices of 11 leading management consulting firms. We know what this industry is about and what it values most in new hires.

Stephanie Horn leads the Consulting Career Academy as Managing Consultant. A veteran of McKinsey & Co., Stephanie worked in the firm’s Los Angeles office on operations strategy projects for major clients in the technology, retail and industrial services industries. An MBA graduate with honors from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, she completed a summer internship in Ernst & Young’s strategy practice. Stephanie has previously been recognized by industry expert Poets & Quants as one of the industry’s “Top 10 MBA Admissions Consultants”

Matthew Strickler is an advisor to the Consulting Career Academy. Matt has over a decade of management consulting experience at BCG, the boutique strategy firm Everest Group and as an independent strategic advisor. He is a JD/MBA graduate of the Pritzker School of Law and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, formerly a Captain in the U.S. Army.

Supporting the Consulting Career Academy is Senior Career Consultant Fabiola Currarino, with over seven years of experience coaching and mentoring MBA students, MBA alumni and executives, a former Associate Director of Career Education & Advising for the MIT Sloan School of Management. We also work with Priya Bhatia, Senior Tutor for our optional “Math for Management Consultants” course.

Why a career in management consulting?

Management consulting offers multiple benefits as a career, both initially and in the long term once you join the ranks of senior consultants. There are good reasons why consulting jobs are one of the most coveted career paths out there!

Consultants work with a variety of influential people, creating rich opportunities for network and professional growth. You’re also not likely to find the day to day work of a management consultant dull, as you strive to work out new practical problems and continue optimizing professional solutions. You’ll also have plenty of options for service as part of your consulting career, for individuals who have strong progressive goals.

The salary potential is certainly a draw when it comes to management consulting. This is one of the highest-paid professions worldwide, almost rivaling investment banking for average earnings. Management consulting also doesn’t require additional training or certification beyond your academic achievements.

We advise clients to remain open to both consulting and other private sector opportunities. Depending on the specifics of what you are interested in doing in the longer term, you may want to consider boutique or niche consulting opportunities. These can sometimes offer greater flexibility for career advancement, and some might place greater value on your previous work experience.

Junior consultants are starting at the bottom of the career ladder, it’s true, but consulting is an exciting and rewarding field that introduces MBA grads to a variety of industries and teaches them how to solve a broad range of business problems. Being a management consultant can be a career unto itself or serve as a conduit to senior-level careers in management in other industries.

Contact the Consulting Career Academy at The MBA Exchange for more information on management consulting and project management careers.