Consultant Careers & Degrees How to Become a Consultant
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Management consultants are sometimes called management analysts. Their job is to look at what an organization does as a whole, then work to increase efficiency in most areas. Specifically, they strive to make a business more profitable, usually by helping the owners cut costs and grow revenue. To get there, they might recommend personnel changes, new systems, alternative practices or new procedures. Most are self-employed and work on a contractual basis. To learn more about what it means to be a management consultant, as well as the work it takes to get there, read on.
What Does a Consultant Do?
Management consultants work to increase efficiency. But that is a very simple way to explain what they really do behind-the-scenes for large companies and organizations. Here’s how their days break down.
The work of a management consultant varies from one project to another; some projects require an entire consulting team, with each person having specialized knowledge in one area. Other projects are smaller and can be handled by an individual consultant. The work involves a great deal of research, looking over internal documents, exploring expense reports, speaking with employees and monitoring day-to-day operations.
Consultant Salaries & Job Growth
Consultant Salaries Across the US
Management consultants in the United States made a median wage of $81,320 per year in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number might be higher or lower depending upon several factors, including experience, educational attainment and geographical location. Here’s what to expect from consultant salaries in various states.
Consultant Job Growth
As more organizations seek to save money by becoming more efficient, consultants are expected to be more in demand. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an increase of 14 percent in employment for management consultants from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected to be strong in government agencies, small consulting firms and those that focus on international business. Growth will be driven by particular industries as well, such as information technology or human resources. Those who have specialized expertise, are fluent in a foreign language, have great people skills and have some knowledge of “green” technologies are expected to see the best opportunities.
Steps to Becoming a Consultant
Consultants must typically earn a bachelor’s degree in order to be competitive in the field. However, some employers prefer to hire those who have earned their master’s degree, specifically the MBA. Here are the steps to reach various consultant careers.
Preparing for Consultant Careers: Management Degrees & Programs
When an aspiring police officer chooses to go to school to obtain formal education, a world of possibilities opens up. Here are some of the potential places where the certificate or degree can be earned.
Undergraduate Programs & Degrees
The business degree is designed to provide a broad base of knowledge to students, including courses in finance, marketing, organizational behavior, statistics, accounting, business law and more. This well-rounded undergraduate degree can also be specialized a bit with electives that build on the knowledge offered in the core courses. Typical classes might include:
- Human resource management
- Public relations
- Strategic management skills
- Management information systems
The bachelor’s degree in psychology can provide a strong overview of how individuals and groups think and act, which are vital points to consider when advising a company on how to handle personnel issues. This understanding of human behavior might be especially advantageous to the consultant who intends to work with government entities, including social services. Typical classes include:
- Cognitive foundations
- Occupational & industrial psychology
- Research methods
- Perspectives on the social mind
Graduate Business Program Admission Requirements
Though some consultants may only need a bachelor’s degree, some might find that employers prefer those who have earned the MBA. In a competitive field, every edge counts, which is why those who hold a bachelor’s degree might want to consider pursing the master’s in business administration. Typical admissions requirements are listed below; however, students should always check with the admissions office of the school they want to attend to get a detailed list of what they will have to provide.
- Completed application
- Application fee
- GRE test scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement or essay
- Proven work experience
- Official undergraduate transcript
Consultant Degrees: Courses & Requirements
The most common degrees for consultants are found at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. Keep in mind that the bachelor’s degree can be in almost anything, as long as it relates to business, psychology, accounting and the like – all topics that will be informative for the aspiring consultant. Here’s what to expect from the degree options.
Bachelor’s Business Consultant Degrees
Time to Complete:
Four years of full-time study
Courses typically found in a bachelor’s business program include:
This course focuses on the concepts and techniques that make up the cornerstones of management, and follow the development of management principles as they are integrated into management theory.
Students will learn how business challenges can be handled from an ethical standpoint, including real-world case analysis.
Principles of Economics
Students learn about micro and macro-economic principles and concepts and how to translate those into real-world application for businesses.
Business and Society
Primary and secondary stakeholders, ethics and social responsibility, and organizational activities are discussed in this class.
Master of Business Administration
Time to Complete:
Two years of full-time study, but accelerated degrees are available
Students may expect to find the following classes in the MBA program:
Financial Reporting and Analysis
This course looks at corporate performance as based on financial reports, how to analyze the reports, and what to look for in financial statements to ensure legality and adherence to regulations.
Management Information Systems
This course provides a strong overview of MIS and how to effectively run a business-wide operation.
Statistics for Managerial Decision-Making
This course familiarizes students with statistical theory, business systems analysis and improvements.
Focuses on general management of businesses and organizations, including identifying solutions to complex problems and choosing how to implement those solutions.
Consultant Career Concentrations
Those who choose to work as a consultant can expect to have many doors opened to them, depending upon their particular area of concentration or expertise. These are some of the careers that management consultants might choose.
2015 median wage: $67,190
The work of an auditor includes preparing and examining financial records, ensuring that all financial documents are accurate, assessing financial operations and implementing ways to make it run more smoothly, and keeping up with new laws that impact taxes and other payments.
2015 median wage: $71,590
These analysts look over the expense reports, payments, receipts, inventory lists and more to ensure that a company is running at peak financial performance. They prepare budget reports for various areas of the business and find ways in which spending can be curtailed.
2015 median wage: $60,390
When a company wants to build a new building, expand a department or otherwise drop a large amount of money into a project, cost estimators work to ensure the best possible financial advantages. They estimate the time, money, materials and personnel needed to complete a project and deliver a final budget to their clients.
Market Research Analyst
2015 median wage: $62,150
These individuals work with certain products and services, exploring the market and gauging what the best price points might be for those items or services. Their research informs companies on what people are buying, who is buying it, and what price they are willing to pay.
2015 median wage: $53,920
These researchers create surveys that focus on a particular product, brand or service, and then find the proper audience to take the survey and provide answers. Those answers are then analyzed and compiled into reports that inform businesses and organizations of their next innovation or change.
2015 median wage: $81,320
Also known as management analysts, these individuals delve into all aspects of an organization to determine where changes might be made that will lead to a healthier company. This might include changes in finance, operations, personnel and more.
Components of a Successful Consultant Careers: Skills, Credentials & Technology
Successful consultants have certain things in common, including a particular set of skills and traits. They learn to use certain technologies to their advantage, and earn credentials that help them stand out to employers. Here’s what they need.
Efficient use of time is imperative, especially when the clock is ticking on a deadline. It’s also vitally important for independent consultants who are juggling more than one client at a time.
Consultants are hired to solve problems, so one of the most important traits is an innate ability to look at the issues laid out before them and come up with solid solutions that take into account all the client’s concerns.
There are many components to figuring out management solutions; consultants must be able to pull all the pieces together and analyze them both individually and collectively with an eye toward making it all work together.
Consultants provide both written and spoken presentations for clients, and must do so in a way that their solutions can be understood by everyone, regardless of their background. Being able to communicate to groups and one-on-one is a very important skill.
Management consultants are not required to have certain credentials to conduct their work; however, the field is competitive, which means that every advantage counts. Those who have a nice list of credentials on their resume are more likely to get hired or see better pay. The most common credential is the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation, offered through the Institute of Management Consultants USA.
The CMC is awarded on three levels: Basic is designed for those who have been in the business for anywhere from three to nine years, Experienced is designed for those with a decade or more of experience, and Management is designed for those with at least 20 years of experience as well as at least three years of consulting.
To earn the CMC, applicants must submit an application, submit at least five satisfactory client reviews, pass an oral and written examination, and meet the education and experience requirements for their chosen level of credential. The process can take as little as two months. The credential must be updated every three years.
Related Careers at a Glance
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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Do Related Occupations Make?
If you’re interested in how to become a consultant, you might also be interested in related professions. Working as an accountant, budget analyst, financial analyst, or cost estimator might be on your radar. If that’s the case, you can peruse the list of related occupations below, which includes average salaries:
Banking Career Resources
Consulting CafeThis popular community is a gathering place for consultants and provides information such as articles, resources and a forum.
Consulting MagazineThis comprehensive magazine focuses on the issues of the day for consultants, as well as providing a wealth of resources to for those interested in the profession.
Institute of Management Consultants USAThis is home to the preeminent credential for management consultants, as well as pertinent information to help further professional careers.
Management Consulting NewsThis is an active blog and free newsletter that focuses on points of the consulting industry, including people who are making a difference.
Vault Consulting 50This annual ranking of the best consulting firms is a great start for those who want to find a great employer.
Wall Street OasisThis forum is designed for those who work in business, including consultants – there is a dedicated section just for them.
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