You've probably heard that consultants drive fancy cars and get paid beaucoup bucks. In the US alone, businesses spend billions of dollars a year on consulting. But perhaps you're wondering. what exactly do consultants do, anyway?
To put it simply, a consultant is a professional who provides advice in a particular area of expertise. You could be a consultant to a company or to an individual. Consultants give advice, solve problems, make recommendations, and provide specialized services, such as writing, programming, and design.
Companies and organizations hire consultants to supplement their staff, teach, serve as catalysts, or do the dirty work, such as lay off employees. Consultants are often responsible for improving a company's operational proficiency and profits.
Consulting is one of the highest-paid professions for recent college graduates. As a consultant, you have the opportunity to rub elbows with senior executives at Fortune 500 companies and work within a variety of industries. The downside of working as a consultant is that you need to travel often, work long hours, and be able to thrive in a cutthroat environment.
How to Prepare for a Career in Consulting
If you're hoping to work for a consulting firm straight out of college, apply to summer internships so you can get some relevant experience under your belt. Several major consulting firms offer paid summer internships for college students.
In some fields of consulting, you are required to have a professional certification, but it's not always a necessity. Generally, you should aim to acquire education and training in your field of interest. For example, if you want to become a legal consultant, go to law school and get experience practicing law. If you'd like to get into management consulting, your best bet would be to major in a business-related field.
Some of the most popular consulting fields include:
. Supply Chain Management
. Human Resources
. Public Relations
How Much Do Consultants Make?
The salaries of consultants are all over the map. They vary depending on one's experience, credentials, track record, and field of expertise, among other factors. Just so you have a general idea, a management consultant in the United States makes an average salary of between $70K and $75K in their first year out of college. The salaries of IT consultants range from $57,401 - $90,539. The higher your education level and the more experience you have, the higher your consulting salary will be.
5 Top Consulting Firms in America
1. McKinsey & Company - Offers consulting in business technology, corporate finance, operations, organization, risk, strategy, and marketing/sales
2. Bain & Company - Offers consulting aimed at determining strategy, increasing efficiency, and creating value
3. Deloitte - Serves more than one-third of the companies in the Global Fortune 500, consulting practice areas include human capital, technology/systems integration, operations management, and strategy
4. Accenture - World's largest consulting firm, considered the top firm in the areas of business process engineering and systems integration
5. Booz Allen Hamilton - Leading provider of consulting services to government agencies
Most of these top consulting firms recruit high-achieving undergraduates and MBAs from top-tier universities throughout the country.
The Bottom Line
If you determine that a career in consulting is a good fit for your career goals and personality, pursue a course of study that is relevant to the field in which you're interested. A career in consulting is no walk in the park, but the opportunities it gives you to earn a lucrative salary, travel the world, and work alongside top management executives make it an exciting and rewarding career path.