How to Become a Management Consultant (And What Is Consulting)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Find the answers to the top four questions you have about management consulting before going into the field. Discover what it is that management consultants do.

[Featured image] A management consultant is standing in front of an office building.

Management consulting is a popular career choice, especially for Masters of Business Administration (MBA) graduates, where it remains the highest-paid position post-graduation. Its appeal is understandable, given the attraction of high salaries, travel, a fast-paced environment, and the opportunity to land a prestigious management consulting role with any of the Big 3.

If you're considering a career in management consultancy, consider understanding what the role involves, what you do on a day-to-day basis, the benefits of working in the field—and how exactly to get there. 

What is management consulting?

If you work in management consulting, you will work with businesses to identify solutions to problems to maximise business performance, improve business processes, and increase revenue.

A management consultant can cover various areas, including business management, marketing, business strategy, supply chain, and employee productivity. They generally work with the senior levels of an organisation and may focus on a specific industry or work across the board. 

As a management consultant, you work with domestic or international clients either for a management consultancy firm (a popular choice) or as an independent consultant.

What do management consultants do?

The work of a management consultant is to solve business problems. Specific tasks vary because of the different organisations and projects—and the issues you need to solve within each business. While the details vary, certain work areas apply to all management consultants and require a specific skill set.

3 areas management consultants typically focus on

Management consultants typically focus on three main areas, regardless of what you specialise in or your business type. Your work may fall under one or more of these: 

1. Expertise and specialties: Management consultants offer their expertise to businesses in several domains. These may be general or very specialised and include:

  • Business strategy

  • Business restructuring

  • Strategic management

  • Risk management

  • Mergers and acquisitions

  • Digital transformation

  • Talent management

  • Marketing

  • Business processes 

2. Analysis: Management consultants perform in-depth analysis and research on the areas they are working on within an organisation. You'll need to remain objective and unbiased to give a clear perspective of the problems that need solving. 

3. Project management: Management consultants implement their identified solutions hands-on. You'll work with teams to deliver and monitor solutions, working directly with senior management. 

Common tasks

A management consultant's responsibilities vary according to the company you work with, any specialty you work under, and the project itself, but in general, typical tasks and duties will include:

  • Understanding a business’s challenges and needs by consulting with senior management and staff

  • Finding a solution that aligns with a business’ processes, culture, and goals

  • Reviewing company data, policies, and financials to build a bigger picture

  • Building a work road map, including schedules and targets

  • Communicating with senior management to update on the project, completion of milestones, and any changes

  • Communicating with employees at all levels to successfully implement changes and get buy-in from those who will be affected

  • Conducting staff training on new systems, processes, and technology

  • Listening to any employee concerns and feedback to ensure any changes are accepted and to ensure they are achievable

  • Monitoring outcomes to ensure successful project outcomes 

Key skills 

The essential skills needed to become a management consultant are effectively honed through an MBA course or similar and through experience. To be a successful management consultant, you should possess the following skills:

  • Analytical and research skills

  • Working under pressure

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Commercial awareness

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Interpersonal and communication skills

  • Presentation skills

  • Translating complex information 

  • Relationship building

Why consider going into management consulting?

The management consulting profession boasts high salaries, an excellent career outlook, an exciting workload, and numerous opportunities for career advancement. Several reasons explain why this career appeals to so many people. 

High earning potential

Glassdoor UK shows a management consultant’s average annual base salary is £60,129 [1]. Management consultants working for a consulting company often receive a yearly salary and bonuses. 

Strong job outlook 

The job outlook for a management consultant is excellent, with great progression from graduate to partner if you work in a consulting company.  However, it is a highly competitive industry, with lots of people competing for top positions in top management consultancy firms. 

Frequent opportunities for ongoing development

Management consultants have frequent opportunities for development and career growth. More experienced management consultants may take on more senior positions involving management teams, working on more complex projects, and even bringing new business to the company. 

Career progression is possible up to the partner level for those management consultants who are exceptionally skilled. Many management consultants move into other business management positions, using skills they have gained as consultants. 

Fast-paced and varied work

Working in a management consultancy is exciting, varied, and fast-paced. Those who thrive on tight deadlines and in a high-pressure environment do well as management consultants. Hours can be long, and positions are competitive. However, the perks are well known, with travel, bonuses, company cars, gym membership, and the opportunity to work with senior-level clients of large multinationals, which are a big draw. 

How to become a management consultant

Management consultant positions are in high demand, and competition can be fierce. Many people who enter the profession start in an entry-level position and work up, but even this requires a high level of education, experience, and skills. Top consulting firms, such as the ‘Big 3’, typically only invite 10 percent of applicants to interview [2].

Common employment scenarios

The majority of management consultants work for a consulting firm. Consulting firms vary in size and specialism and can typically fall into several categories: the ‘Big 3’ (Bain, McKinsey, and Boston Consulting Group); Tier 2 (Accenture, Kearney, Oliver Wyman, L.E.K.); the Big 4 (PwC, Diolotte, EY, and KPMG); smaller boutique firms, which handle several smaller or specialised projects, and lastly, independent consultants who are self-employed. 

Educational path

Becoming a management consultant requires at least an undergraduate degree, with many choosing to complete postgraduate qualifications. Typically, people with an MBA or a master’s degree in a relevant field are advantaged. It’s also beneficial to have a degree in a relevant subject area. Many consulting firms hire candidates straight out of university. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to see if the college and course you are considering have any relationship with firms that interest you. 

Professional experience

Experience can be an excellent way to set yourself apart from your competition. The higher the position level you’re applying for, the more experience you need to accrue. If you’re a recent graduate, having an internship in a business-related field may be beneficial. Any experience demonstrating your commercial awareness, leadership, and communication skills will help. Employers may also provide on-the-job training.


You might consider studying for a relevant certification to set yourself apart from other management consultant candidates. It can verify your credentials and upgrade your skills and knowledge. 

  • Certified Management Consultant (CMC)

  • Certified Management Consultant (CMI)

  • Project Management Professional Certification (PMI)

  • Chartered Management Consultant (CMIC)

Next steps

Management consulting is a competitive career choice with excellent prospects, high salaries, development opportunities, and challenging, exciting work specifications. To get started, you can check out some courses listed on Coursera, including this Foundations of Project Management course by Google.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Management Consultant Salaries,,21.htm." Accessed May 7, 2024.

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