Management Consultant: Executive Summary

Top Ivy Leaguers frequently target this career, for good reason.

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Top Ivy Leaguers frequently target this career, for good reason. Management consulting is one of the few careers in which you get to be a big shot, giving advice to corporate honchos—even if you're just in your 20s. And there's great variety. For two months you might be consulting with a restaurant chain, then spend the next six months with an alternative-energy producer. Starting pay is solid, and it's realistic to expect six-figure pay within a few years. Stick with it and you could see mid-six figures before you're 40.

You might ask why corporations pay fat consulting fees to hear the advice of a 20-something with limited work experience. Because the top consulting firms arm their freshly minted top-tier grads with files full of detailed data developed by senior staff. Not everybody admires this business model. Several analysts (details below) have warned that management consulting firms too often come up with plans that sound good in theory but, in the real world, turn out to be expensive disasters.

Median Pay

National: $138,000. More pay data by metropolitan area

(Data provided by PayScale.com)

Training

Top management consulting firms don't care much what you've majored in, but they do value good grades from a designer-label college like Stanford or Harvard. You need to be able to think on your feet and communicate impressively. Consulting firms feel that, with those raw ingredients, they can turn you into an effective part of their team with in-house training. If you live up to their expectations, after a couple of years, firms will often pay for your M.B.A. Older workers get hired mainly if they have senior expertise in a particular field or a lucrative "book of business"—loyal clients.

The Institute of Management Consultants offers specific training for aspiring and current management consultants.

Smart Specialty

In-house Management Consulting. Some corporations, unhappy with consulting firms, keep a stable of business analysts in house. This niche offers the variety that comes with consulting work, without the pressure to maximize your billable hours.

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