How to Get Into Consulting
Consulting—giving expert advice to a client—is an exciting and popular career path.
Consultants help businesses solve problems and identify ways for organizations to work better. A management consulting role — often called management analyst — is consistently ranked one of the best jobs. The consulting field also has a great outlook, with above-average expected growth over the next decade.
So how do you break into this dynamic, competitive field?
Take relevant courses
You can secure a consulting job with a bachelor’s degree — typically in business — though many consultants eventually pursue MBAs as well. For many consulting roles, you’ll want a solid foundation across multiple aspects of business — accounting, finance, operations, organizational behavior, and project management.
Management consultants may be the “standard” general consultant title, but consultants perform a wide range of services across nearly every industry. You might focus on a particular business area, like marketing. You can become a consultant dedicated to a specific industry, like healthcare. Or you might have a specialized practice with broad applicability, like as an environmental and sustainability consultant. If so, you’ll want to take courses and perhaps even pursue a major or advanced degree in line with your aspirations.
Get hands-on experience
There’s no better way to prepare for a consulting career than to do real work for real clients. In most jobs, you'll gradually understand your company's methods and culture. In consulting, you'll have to learn a new set of expectations every time you begin a new project. This requires strong communications skills and a level of flexibility that comes with practice.
Internships provide excellent experience for consulting jobs. You'll also build relationships that may lead to full-time jobs after graduating. Various sized consulting firms, from global brands to mid-size and smaller consultancies, often hire from their summer intern cohorts. Many will also hire for just-in-time job openings.
Other experiential learning opportunities also allow you to gain resume-worthy consulting experience. For example, at Kogod, we offer pro bono consulting projects where groups of undergraduate and graduate students work together on real projects for DC-area startups and small businesses. Students get great practice working for a client and working with each other in a collaborative, interdisciplinary team.
You've heard it before: network, network, network. Look for campus or local events to attend where you'll hear from and meet working consultants. Talk to your professors about your goals and ask for their advice on your next steps. Find groups on campus — like the American University Consulting Club — where you'll gain an instant network of peers who share your interests.
Not only will building a network boost your career prospects, but the act of networking — making quick connections —is also great practice for the work of consulting!