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Your career in management consulting

Graduate careers in management consultancy: entry requirements, working life, salaries and career progression.

Jobs in management consulting are highly sought after by graduates due to the diversity and ‘leading edge’ nature of projects, the fast career progression, high salaries and international exposure that often go with the sector. Client assignments are always complex and demanding: if they weren’t then the client would have solved the issue themselves! Consulting is regarded as offering a potential fast track to a graduate career and, even if you don’t remain in consulting forever, the exposure often ensures subsequent career success elsewhere.

Graduate entry jobs in management consulting

Most management consulting companies offer graduate programmes with a clearly defined career path. There is normally a very comprehensive induction and ongoing training programme for new recruits. Induction training may cover areas relating to finance, project management, IT, presentation skills and networking within the firm.

Graduate entry is usually at analyst level, where work focuses on research, information gathering, identifying market trends and supporting more senior team members. (MBA graduates may join as associates or consultants, the next step up the ladder.) Analysts work in teams alongside more senior, experienced staff so training is both structured and ‘on the job’.

Training and development in management consulting

Management consulting firms usually have a very high commitment to staff development, and training continues throughout your career in management consulting. You are likely to have the opportunity to attend off-site courses, e-learning and in-house seminars and to undertake further study in the evenings if you wish.

It is very common for people working in this area to undertake an MBA after a number of years’ work. Usually this involves taking a year out of work and attending college full time (although MBAs are offered on a part-time basis, it is unusual for consultants to choose this option).

Career progression for management consultants

After working as an analyst, usually after about two years, graduates are promoted to associate (MBA graduates usually enter at this level) where they take on additional responsibility for project management.

Career progression can be fast, especially if you are ambitious, and there are usually opportunities for further training, including in-house seminars and externally accredited qualifications.

Different firms will use different job titles but almost all operate an ‘up or out’ philosophy, ie you must be good enough to be promoted or the firm would rather you consider other job options elsewhere.

Areas of work in management consultancy

Management consultancy firms may specialise in any or all of the following areas:

  • Strategy
  • HR/change management
  • IT consulting
  • Customer relationship management
  • Business development
  • Supply chain management
  • Corporate finance.

A consulting assignment can be in one or a number of these areas and can also focus on any number of different industry sectors. Firms can range in size from very small, one man operations to large international firms. As a general rule, the bigger firms are likely to have a broad client base covering more industry sectors. It is this range and variety which makes the job so dynamic and interesting.

Salaries for management consultants

Salaries in management consulting are usually among the highest graduate salaries available. In Dublin or London, these would be equal to those in investment banking or the top graduate jobs in industry. Currently none of the large, international management consulting firms have offices in Northern Ireland, so graduate opportunities only exist in smaller, locally focused, niche firms and within the larger accountancy practices: this lowers typical starting salaries. Salaries increase significantly after a number of years’ experience.

Working life as a management consultant

Management consulting is renowned for its long working hours. This is a deadline driven business and consultants often work weekends and late evenings, particularly when a project is nearing completion or when a report or proposal has to be completed. They are often based at a client’s site and international travel is common. This can have an impact on family and personal life and should be taken into consideration: consultancy is not always the best career for those who value work/life balance.

Large firms tend to treat their staff well with in-house facilities such as cafes, restaurants and gyms, and staff also have lots of social and networking opportunities.