How to get an entry-level job as a consultant
If consulting is a field you’re interested in pursuing, there’s a broad range of roles in various industries to consider. It’s also worth noting that it’s a growing job need. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for consultants is expected to grow 10% over the next ten years.
If you’re ready to kickstart your career in the consulting world, continue reading to learn more about the education path you might need to secure this job, the different ways you can work as a consultant, and the potential steps to take to pursue this job.
What does a consultant do?
A consultant provides expert advice and recommendations to individuals or organizations, often specializing in a particular field or industry. Consultants can work as a part of a consulting firm, independently, or in-house within an organization to do this work.
Consultants sometimes have specialized knowledge, skills, and experience in a particular area that they use as they work with organizations to analyze their needs, identify opportunities, and develop strategies for success.
They may also provide guidance on implementing and managing changes and offer ongoing support and evaluation.
It’s a broad role that can mean many different things depending on where a consultant works, the needs an organization has for a consultant, and the specific mandate for the consultant.
Specific entry-level roles in consulting
The role of a consultant can mean a great deal of things. Here are some specific examples of consulting roles.
If you’re a recent graduate looking to pursue management consulting, your job responsibilities could include the following:
- Working with a broad scope of clients on various kinds of projects
- Working with cross-functional teams on project planning and management
- Solving business problems using data science and analytics
- Traveling to meet with clients
Small business consultant
Small business consultants often advise business owners to help them develop plans to improve performance and efficiency. As a small business consultant, you might be working on projects in:
- Human resources
- Insurance guidance
A technology consultant, also known as an IT consultant, helps companies manage and improve their technology systems. You may be dealing with various computer-related issues and projects such as cybersecurity, software performance, and data and analytics. Some IT consultants also offer advice and solutions about the new kinds of technology companies should implement to drive results.
Some tech consultants don’t start their careers as consultants but rather as entry-level software engineers, computer technicians, or IT support specialists as they develop their skills.
Human resources (HR) consultant
Often, the main aim of HR consultants is to advise companies on how to build more robust, efficient, high-functioning human resource policies. These roles can involve diverse tasks like business research, analysis, planning, and management counseling.
HR consultants’ responsibilities can be far-ranging and can include:
- Professional consulting
- Employee training
- Providing human resource solutions
What’s an entry-level consultant’s salary?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2022 yearly median pay for management analysts (another name for consultants) was $95,290. Keep in mind that this was the median yearly salary for this role broadly and not just entry-level employees. Still, this median salary statistic does give a sense of the salaries to expect for these positions.
How to secure an entry-level consulting job
Depending on the specialization you wish to pursue, sometimes it can be beneficial to specialize when it comes to your degree. For example, if you want to become a management consultant, a degree in business administration might be beneficial. Similarly, if you aspire to be a healthcare consultant, a degree in healthcare administration might be helpful.
Beyond a bachelor’s degree, many consultants pursue advanced degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a specialized certification. It’s also worth noting that some consulting firms provide MBA tuition reimbursement to their employees.
Skills employers may look for
Below are a few skills that employers hiring consultants may look for:
- Analytical and problem-solving skills: Employers value consulting candidates who can analyze complex data sets, identify key issues, and develop solutions. This involves critical thinking, attention to detail, and the ability to approach problems logically.
- Communication skills: You may need to convey clear messages in writing and verbally when communicating with stakeholders, co-workers, and supervisors as a consultant. Consultants will often need to translate technical jargon into understandable language.
- Teamwork and collaboration: The ability to work effectively in diverse teams is often essential for consultants. Consultants often work in groups and must be able to collaborate, share ideas, and build consensus.
- Leadership potential: Even in entry-level roles, showing leadership potential can be important. This can involve taking initiative, demonstrating project management abilities, and the capacity to guide a team or project.
- Technical proficiency: Depending on the role, knowledge of specific software, tools, or methodologies (like data analytics, financial modeling, or project management tools) can be valuable.
- Client management skills: For more client-facing roles, the ability to understand client needs, build relationships, and manage client expectations can be critical.
- Detail-oriented skills: As you’ll be responsible for working with many people and on various kinds of tasks, paying attention to detail is often necessary as a consultant to ensure you’re accurate with your work.
- Time management skills: Since many consultants may be brought onto a project for only a certain amount of time, it’s often imperative that they meet deadlines to implement solutions and to meet their goals.
Potential steps to take to secure an entry-level consulting job
Outside of pursuing an education, there are some steps to consider taking if you’re interested in pursuing entry-level roles as a consultant.
- Gain relevant experience where you can: Seek out relevant experience through internships, part-time jobs, or volunteer positions, particularly in roles that involve analysis, project management, or teamwork.
- Work on developing essential skills: Consultants tend to need a blend of technical and interpersonal skills. Enhance your analytical skills, build proficiency in digital tools, and hone your presentation abilities. Participate in activities or coursework that allows you to hone in on these skills, too.
- Networking: Networking can be crucial in the consulting industry. Attend industry events, career fairs, and informational sessions hosted by consulting firms. Connect with professionals and alumni in the field through digital platforms. Seek informational interviews to learn more about the industry and gain valuable insights.
- Prepare for the interview process: Consulting interviews often include case studies and behavioral questions. Practice case studies where you can, along with preparing your ability to discuss your experiences and how they’ve prepared you for a career in consulting.
- Consider certifications: It might be worth pursuing certifications relevant to consulting as these might enhance your resume.
- Apply to jobs strategically: Tailor your resume and cover letters for each application, highlighting experiences and skills that align with the job description for the roles you’re applying for. Consider applying to a range of positions, including big names and smaller companies.
What to include on your resume if you're applying for entry-level consulting roles
When applying for entry-level consulting jobs, your resume should be tailored to showcase skills, experiences, and qualities that align with the demands and expectations of a consulting role. Here are some items to consider including:
- Educational background: Start with a clear and concise education section. Include your degrees, majors, and any relevant coursework or projects, especially those demonstrating analytical and problem-solving skills.
- Relevant work experience: Even if your previous work experience isn’t directly related to consulting, highlight roles and responsibilities where you utilized skills pertinent to consulting. This could include internships, part-time jobs, or volunteer work. Focus on achievements demonstrating your ability to analyze data, solve problems, work in teams, and lead projects. Use specific examples and quantify your impact wherever possible.
- Skill sections: Consultants need a mix of technical and soft skills. Include proficiency in any data analysis tools, programming languages, and your ability to work with large datasets. Also lists softs skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, and time management. If you’re fluent in multiple languages, also consider including this.
- Certifications and courses: If you have completed any certifications or courses that are relevant to consulting, such as a project management certification or courses in business analytics, consider including this.
- Extracurricular activities and leadership roles: Participation in extracurricular activities, especially in leadership roles, can be appealing to employers hiring consultants. Whether it’s being part of a student organization, leading a volunteer project, or participating in a debate club, these experiences might demonstrate teamwork, leadership, and initiative.
- Personal projects or case competitions: If you’ve participated in case competitions, business simulations, or have done any significant personal projects that involve strategic thinking or problem-solving, these might be great to include.
Given the diversity of opportunities for those who want to pursue consulting, it can be helpful to hone in on the precise roles that you’re interested in so you can apply to jobs in a more targeted way. If you aren’t sure, talking to people in the industry to get a sense of what their job is like might be helpful.