What is a Management Consultant?

Management consultants propose ways to improve an organization's efficiency. They advise managers on how to make organizations more profitable through reduced costs and increased revenues.

They travel frequently to meet with clients. Nearly one-third worked more than 40 hours per week in 2010.

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What does a Management Consultant do?

Organizations hire consultants to develop strategies for entering and/or remaining competitive in the marketplace. Although some management consultants work for the organization that they are analyzing, most work as consultants on a contractual basis.

Whether they are self-employed or part of a large consulting company, the work of a management consultant may vary from project to project. Some projects require a team of consultants, each specializing in one area. In other projects, consultants work independently with the client organization's managers.

Management consultants typically do the following:

  • Gather and organize information about the problem to be solved or the procedure to be improved
  • Interview personnel and conduct on-site observations to determine the methods, equipment, and personnel that will be needed
  • Analyze financial and other data, including revenue, expenditure, and employment reports, including, sometimes, building and using sophisticated mathematical models
  • Develop solutions or alternative practices
  • Recommend new systems, procedures, or organizational changes
  • Make recommendations to management through presentations or written reports
  • Confer with managers to ensure that the changes are working.

Management consultants often specialize in certain areas, such as inventory management or reorganizing corporate structures to eliminate duplicate and nonessential jobs. Some specialize in a specific industry, such as healthcare or telecommunications. In government, management analysts usually specialize by type of agency.

Management consultants who work on contract may write proposals and bid for jobs. Typically, an organization that needs the help of a management consultant solicits proposals from a number of consultants and consulting companies that specialize in the needed work. Those who want the work must then submit a proposal by the deadline that explains how they will do the work, who will do the work, why they are the best consultants to do the work, what the schedule will be, and how much it will cost. The organization that needs the consultants then selects the proposal that best meets its needs and budget.

What does it take to be a Management Consultant?

Most management consultants have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). In 2010, 28% of management consultants had a master’s degree.

Few colleges and universities offer formal programs in management consulting. However, many fields of study provide a suitable education because of the range of areas that management consultants address. Common fields of study include business, management, accounting, marketing, economics, statistics, computer and information science, and engineering.

Consultants also routinely attend conferences to stay up to date on current developments in their field. Many enter the occupation with years of work experience.

Organizations that specialize in certain fields try to hire candidates who have experience in those areas. Typical work backgrounds include management, human resources, and information technology.

As consultants gain experience, they often take on more responsibility. At the senior level, consultants may supervise teams working on more complex projects and become more involved in seeking out new business. Those with exceptional skills may eventually become partners in their consulting organization and focus on attracting new clients and bringing in revenue.

Senior consultants who leave their consulting company often move to senior management positions at non-consulting organizations.

Management consultants must be able to interpret a wide range of information and use their findings to make proposals. They must be able to communicate clearly and precisely in both writing and speaking. Successful consultants also need good listening skills to understand the organization’s problems and propose appropriate solutions.

Management consultants must work with managers and other employees of the organizations where they provide consulting services. They should work as a team toward achieving the organization’s goals. They must be able to think creatively to solve clients' problems. Although some aspects of different clients' problems may be similar, each situation is likely to present unique challenges for the analyst to solve.

Management consultants work under fairly high pressure. They should be confident and self-motivated when working with clients. They often work under tight deadlines and must use their time efficiently to complete projects on time.

What is the workplace of a Management Consultant like?

Management consultants usually divide their time between their offices and the client's site. Because they must spend a significant amount of time with clients, they travel frequently. They may experience stress when trying to meet a client's demands, often on a tight schedule.

In 2010, about 23% of management analysts were self-employed. Self-employed consultants can decide how much, when, and where to work. However, they often are under more pressure than those who are wage and salary employees, because their livelihood depends on their ability to maintain and expand their client base.

How much does a Management Consultant earn?

The median annual wage of management analysts was $78,160 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $43,900, and the top 10% earned more than $138,790.

Management consultants often work under tight deadlines, which can require working long hours. In 2010, nearly one-third worked more than 40 hours per week.

Learn more about being a Management Consultant