CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a consultant.
Is becoming a consultant right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
Still unsure if becoming a consultant is the right career path? Take the free CareerExplorer career test to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a consultant or another similar career!
Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.
Because of the diversity of the consultancy world, consultants hold many different kinds of undergraduate degrees. However, many earn a bachelor’s degree in a business-focused discipline, such as business administration, business management, finance, or accounting. A psychology degree is another popular choice among prospective consultants.
Students who are certain of the field in which they wish to offer consulting services may choose to combine a major business or psychology concentration with a minor in that specific discipline.
A bachelor’s business program is designed to provide a broad-based, core education, but can also be specialized to a degree by adding electives.
Typical courses include:
Concepts and techniques that make up the cornerstones of management; the development of management principles as they are integrated into management theory
• Planning, organizing, and leading a group
• Controlling a project from start to finish
• Theories of management and practical application in the workplace
How business challenges can be handled from an ethical standpoint, including real-world case analysis
• Ethics of decision-making and policy development
• Proper human resource management
• Creating an open and ethical working atmosphere
Principles of Economics
Micro- and macro-economic principles and concepts and how to translate those into real-world application for business
• Understanding of government economy and international trade
• Understanding of how economics factor into business decisions
• Understanding of costs, diminishing returns, and the marginal principle
Business and Society
Primary and secondary stakeholders; ethics and social responsibility; organizational activities
• Understanding of how society and globalization affect business strategies
• Understanding of how stakeholders influence business decisions
• Understanding of the social responsibilities of stakeholders
A bachelor’s psychology program provides a foundational overview of how individuals and groups think and act – human behavior issues that are vital to understand when advising an individual, company, agency, or organization on how to handle personnel issues.
Typical courses include:
• Cognitive Foundations
• Occupational and Industrial Psychology
• Research Methods
• Perspectives on the Social Mind
Experience / Transition to Consulting
The field of consultancy is wide and varied. Because of this fact, the consultant experience in virtually any business sector is valid and valuable.
An entry-level position with a private business, government agency, or non-profit will lay the foundation for every subsequent work experience and ideally lead to transition to a rich and rewarding consulting career, be it a generalist one or one focused in a specific sector or industry.
Master’s Degree (common / optional)
For consultants, the decision to pursue a master’s degree will typically lead to more senior consulting roles or contracts. Some companies and, particularly, some government agencies may require that the consultants they hire possess a graduate degree.
The most common graduate level program chosen by consultants is a Master of Business Administration (MBA). The MBA can be specialized to allow for targeted training, but most programs include the following courses:
Financial Reporting and Analysis
Corporate performance as based on financial reports; how to analyze the reports; what to look for in financial statements to ensure legality and adherence to regulations
• Understanding of accounting standards
• Understanding of how taxes factor into financial analysis
• Reading, interpreting, and analyzing financial documents
Management Information Systems (MIS)
An overview of MIS and how to effectively run a business-wide operation
• Managing IT as a strategic resource
• Understanding the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO)
• Process engineering, planning, governance, and communication
Statistics for Managerial Decision-Making
Statistical theory, business systems; business systems analysis and improvements
• Understanding probabilities
• Using common software
• Decision analysis based on a variety of simulations
General management of businesses and organizations; identifying solutions to complex problems and choosing how to implement those solutions
• Pinpointing the source of problems
• Management of solutions
• Action-oriented general management techniques
Certification (recommended / optional)
Voluntary certification in the consultancy field is offered by a number of professional associations and organizations. One of the most recognized credentials is the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation, offered by the Institute of Management Consultants USA.
The CMC is awarded on three levels:
• Basic – designed for consultants with between three and nine years of management consulting experience
• Experienced – designed for consultants with 10 or more years of management consulting experience
• Management – designed for consultant with 20 or more years of management consulting experience
Start an independent consulting business (optional)
Experienced consultants who have established a trusting clientele often choose to operate an independent consultancy over offering their services through a consulting service.