About graduate careers in consulting
Clients use management consultants to help improve their business: consultants analyse the way a business is currently being run and then make suggestions on how to improve its performance. Some consultancy firms specialise in specific areas, for example HR or IT, while others will cover all aspects of a business’ practice. Similarly, some firms will work with specific sectors, for example retail or the public sector, while others will be more general. Some of the highest graduate starting salaries are in management consultancy.
During a project a consultant will be involved with a variety of different tasks that will require a range of different skills and techniques. New graduates will often work on areas such as making recommendations, attending meetings, fact-finding and keeping clients up to date with progress.
Consultancy is a popular and competitive sector for graduates as it offers variety and intellectual challenges as well as perks such as high starting salaries and the possibility of travel. As such, it can be a very competitive sector to get into, so internships offered by some of the larger firms can be helpful in gaining experience. These are usually available to undergraduates in their penultimate year, providing a great opportunity to learn more about the job, build work relationships and impress recruiters before applying for a full-time graduate role.
Many consultancy firms recruit graduates onto training programmes; the majority have structured applications where they recruit annually, usually closing between October and December. However, some firms recruit throughout the year and close positions when they are filled.
Key competencies are far more important to consultancy firms than specific degree backgrounds. These competencies include attention to detail, great communication skills and commercial awareness (knowledge of the industry). A high level of academic achievement is also a requirement. Work experience or an internship will help a candidate stand out.
Graduates can be given lots of responsibility early on in their careers, as well as opportunities for a lot of personal development due to the varied nature of the job. Some firms will sponsor graduates while they complete an MBA.
Students interested in consulting...
- most commonly studied business/management (54%), followed by economics (11%), mathematical science/statistics (7%) and natural science and computer science/IT (both at 5%)
- expected to earn an average income of £27,216, which, according to data collected by TARGETjobs from employers, appears to be a fairly realistic expectation of consulting graduate salaries
- tended to be very active on LinkedIn, more so than students interested in all other sectors; 90% of student surveyed said they used it for careers-related purposes
- tended to be willing to move or relocate if required during their graduate scheme (76% said they would be), which is positive because travel is a common feature of a consultant’s work
- tended to have work experience related to their course (64%) and over half have completed work, study or voluntary activities in a foreign country (51%).