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Technological advancements have promised to lead companies to unmatched levels of productivity and progress. Can they deliver? They can when left in capable hands. Management consultants make sure that people, processes, and tools work together to deliver maximum productivity.

Overview of the Management Consultant Career Field

Management consultants can appear under a variety of job titles such as management analyst, financial consultant, business analyst, and strategy consultant. However, they all apply a distinct set of skills to solve corporate problems. You’ll find management consultants analyzing and improving engineering production at software development firms. You’ll also see them working with human resource professionals to investigate the source of employee morale issues and recommend strategic action plans for better talent retention.

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Nearly every business can use the expertise of a management consultant at some point in its life cycle. That means that career opportunities for management consultants are wide ranging. Some companies need help to solve common business problems such as cash flow management, inventory management, and workforce training. For these issues, companies hire generalist management consultants who have academic degrees in various business disciplines such as business administration, finance, and operations management.

More innovative companies often face more unique challenges. For instance, an aerospace company must decide when to introduce new features into its most popular airplane model’s engine. It would hire a management consultant who has an aerospace engineering degree as well as several years of related work experience. Many of these specialty management consultants have undergraduate degrees in niche areas and advanced degrees in business management.

Skills Needed for Management Consulting

Management consultants aren’t born knowing how to craft effective strategic action plans for different types of companies. During their time in school and on the job, they cultivate specific skills that make them superstars with clients and management consulting firms that would want to hire them.

Here are the top skills that today’s management consultants possess no matter what industry they call home.

Communication

Everybody has biases, but effective management consultants always start projects without letting personal biases get in the way of their work. Instead, they use communication skills to achieve positive outcomes. This means asking the right questions and also actively listening to determine the true nature of problems. They also need excellent communication skills to convey recommended solutions and answer stakeholder questions both orally and in written form.

Problem Solving

Problem solving is the number one reason why companies hire management consultants. The consultants use a collection of technical and soft skills to identify the right issues, craft custom solutions, and oversee the implementation of action plans.

Data Analysis

The days when managers simply observed the work environment, asked a few random questions, and guessed at a solution are gone. Today, management consultants observe, ask questions, and verify the answers with collected data. They know how to quickly run statistical analysis on the data via computer programs in order to draft fact-based solutions. Management consultants earn the business of clients by adding value. They use data analysis skills to prove this value by monitoring and measuring the success of their custom solutions.

Organizational Skills

Everybody knows that super creative person who comes up with excellent solutions to problems and has the whole team performing heroics to make it work in time to meet the next deadline. Half of the team members think that the person is a genius and has a blast working on different projects with him. The other half of the team members get heart palpitations just thinking about the next set of projects.

Management consultants are known to be masters of organization and time management. They often bring the whole team in on crafting suitable solutions after problems have been accurately identified. They don’t try to implement solutions that have to be completed within unrealistic time frames. If it can’t be done within the specified schedule, it’s not the right solution.

Interpersonal

Clever management consultants can draft many feasible solutions, but effective management consultants know how to get buy-in from key stakeholders using their interpersonal skills.

Credibility

Starting a career in management consulting isn’t easy for the average business professional. Consultants must consistently demonstrate their value to clients and to the firms for which they work, and that value can be both perceived and actual. Each successful project and positive client interaction helps to build credibility, and credibility is what management consultants use to attract new clients and influence outcomes.

While work experience is a great way to build credibility over time, earning a degree from a respected university is at the heart of every management consultant’s credibility.

Here are 10 degree programs that pave the way for a successful career as a management consultant.

Generalist Management Consultants

#1 B.S. Economics

An undergraduate degree in economics covers both economic theory and quantitative techniques that bring the state of national and global economies clearly into focus. Management consultants bring that set of knowledge and skills to the table for flailing companies.

Prerequisites

Economics majors must demonstrate a mastery of various statistical models during the course of their academic tenure. As a result, most universities require that incoming students have a strong math and computer science background. Schools such as the University of Washington require incoming students to complete certain college-level courses before being admitted into this major. Courses that you’ll need to take include introduction to microeconomics, basic macroeconomics, calculus, and elements of statistical analysis.

Expected Courses

After meeting the prerequisite course requirements you’ll need to complete intermediate courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and scientific computing.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

Economics graduates evaluate how various elements interact to influence the market. They also assess corporate business models to determine potential economic outcomes based on market conditions.

Top Schools

Some schools that offer top undergraduate degrees in economics include the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and Duke University.

#2 B.S. Finance

Undergraduate finance degrees cover the fundamental areas of finance that include public policy, financial management, and strategic planning. Without an effective financial strategy, a company won’t reach its full potential even when markets present a smorgasbord of opportunities.

Prerequisites

Most schools require that finance majors earn at least a 3.0 GPA in math courses to gain admittance into undergraduate finance degree programs. Students must often complete a university-level business fundamentals course prior to enrolling in their chosen university’s school of business as a finance major.

Expected Courses

As a finance major, you can expect to take courses on topics such as financial planning, corporate finance, and banking.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

Finance graduates are familiar with the social, political, and financial elements that shape the market. They use this knowledge to make sure that their management consulting clients operate in ways that maximize financial performance.

Top Schools

Top schools for undergraduate finance degree programs include New York University, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

#3 B.S. Business Administration

Undergraduate business administration degree programs provide future management consultants with an introduction to business leadership, management, data analysis, and the legal environment in the world of commerce. Concepts are taught from a general point of view, which allows students to apply learned business theory in practical ways to different industries.

Prerequisites

Most universities require very few prerequisite courses to admit an aspiring business administration student. However, you’ll likely be expected to complete some basic courses in math, science, and humanities before you actually gain admittance to business schools such as Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania.

Expected Courses

Most business administration majors select concentration areas that determine the types of senior-level classes that they will take prior to graduation. However, you can be sure that a business administration major will take courses about management information systems, marketing, human resources, and business law during the course of their academic tenure.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

Business administration graduates know the value of people, data, processes, and tools. They learn how to direct these resources in ways that bring the most value to their management consulting clients.

Top Schools

Some top schools for undergraduate business administration include University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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#4 B.S. Accounting

Accounting graduates understand how to track income and expenses and assess accounting data to recommend the best courses of action for business operators.

Prerequisites

Accounting students should arrive at school with a number of college-prep math courses under their belts.

Expected Courses

Accounting students take a wide variety of specialty business courses that prepare them for certification as an accountant and for work as a management consultant. You can expect to take courses in tax accounting, auditing, and cost analysis as an undergraduate accounting student.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

Accounting graduates know how to evaluate accounting records to learn the true health of a company. They keep abreast of financial regulations and make sure that their clients’ money is allocated properly. The forensic skills that accounting graduates possess allow them to give an accurate picture of a company’s financial condition and offer data-driven recommendations for cash flow management, tax payments, and the pursuit of business financing.

Top Schools

Brigham Young University-Provo, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Indiana University-Bloomington offer some of the nation’s top undergraduate accounting degree programs.

#5 B.S. Operations Management

Operations management students learn how to use efficient processes and procedures to streamline company operations. Management consultants who have operations management backgrounds help clients to save money by cutting operational costs, improving talent retention, and introducing sustainability principles into company supply chain operations.

Prerequisites

As with the B.S. in Business Administration, you’ll find very few prerequisite hurdles to jump prior to enrolling in an undergraduate operations management degree program. After being admitted to your university of choice, you must take and pass certain core business and general education courses to be formally enrolled into the university’s college of business. These courses include topics such as accounting, finance, and English writing and composition.

Expected Courses

Other courses that you can expect to take during your four years as an operations management major include sustainable operations, management science, and trends in operations management.

Today’s companies are under increasing pressure to adapt to rules regarding climate change, which is why courses such as sustainable operations and trends in operations management are ones that you’ll not want to miss during your time at school.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

Operations management graduates know how to manage warehouse and manufacturing operations using proven operations management theory and principles as well as experiential learning activities. They have the technical and communication skills to work as members of teams or independently as third-party management consultants.

Top Schools

Purdue University, Auburn University, and Boston University are all top schools for undergraduate degrees in operations management.

Specialty Management Consultants

#6 B.S. Computer Science

Every modern business relies on information systems to attract customers, build products, and deliver services. While there are users aplenty, companies need more people who understand how applications work behind the scenes. An undergraduate degree in computer science trains the future workforce to design, build, test, and deploy computer systems that meet the needs of a wide range of user groups. On their journey to graduation, computer science majors hone analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that are needed within the management consulting career field.

Prerequisites

Most universities require that incoming students demonstrate proficiency in advanced mathematics and physical sciences. They’ll ask you to provide transcripts for college-prep courses such as advanced placement algebra, calculus, and physics. Some may require you to pass an entrance examination that focuses on these subjects.

Expected Courses

You can expect to take courses about software engineering, probability and statistics, and data structures during your time as a computer science student. Many management consulting projects require complex data analysis. The consultant may need to design the analytical model herself and run the data based on custom-written algorithms. Mastering these computer science subjects provides an excellent foundation for management consultants who work on specialty projects.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

Most undergraduate computer science degree programs offer a mix of theoretical and experiential coursework. This helps to make sure that computer science graduates can step into nearly any technical project and make positive contributions in areas such as system architecture, application design, and testing. After applying technical knowledge and theory to a variety of real-world case studies, the graduate will more than likely be ready to find the root causes of corporate issues, propose solutions, and verify that the solutions work as designed.

Top Schools

You’ll find some of the nation’s top undergraduate computer science degree programs at Stanford University, Cornell University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

#7 B.S. Civil Engineering

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17% of all management consultants are employed by the government. Many of them serve as advisors for civil engineering projects such as those that construct highways, bridges, and public buildings. To work on these projects, management consultants are required to have an undergraduate degree in civil engineering just to be taken seriously by government clients. Undergraduate civil engineering degree programs teach students the principles of structural design, project planning, and regulatory compliance.

Prerequisites

You can expect to take plenty of college-prep courses in math and the natural sciences if you want to major in civil engineering. If your high school didn’t offer advanced placement courses in these subjects, you’ll probably be asked to pass a proficiency exam to assess your quantitative skills. Some universities will allow you to take a collection of fundamental math and science courses during your first year of school to get you ready for a full load of more advanced courses later.

Expected Courses

Specific courses that civil engineering majors take depend on their chosen concentrations. For instance, civil engineering students who have the geotechnical engineering concentration will take courses on topics such as soil mechanics, fundamentals of earthquake engineering, and foundation design. If you choose a structural engineering concentration, you’ll take courses that dive into topics such as bridge design, structural materials, structural dynamics, and load testing.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

A management consultant who has a civil engineering background can walk onto teams that are responsible for planning, designing, and building the infrastructure that every modern society relies upon. Upon completion of an undergraduate civil engineering degree program, the management consultant will understand and know how to apply the principles of design including the safety aspects of structural design. He will know about the appropriate materials that can be used to build everything from roads to bridges. This type of consultant will also work well on teams that are called upon to research and implement sustainable building practices for public and private structures.

Top Schools

If you’re considering majoring in civil engineering, you’ll want to check out the University of Texas-Austin, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and University of California-Davis.

Career Switchers

#8 MBA

The master’s degree in business administration (MBA) is the most popular degree that career switchers use to move into the management consulting career field. MBA students learn advanced techniques for managing people, processes, and tools. Most universities assume that incoming MBA students have mastered general education courses in math, science, and humanities. These university programs focus on more advanced business topics such as finance, management, and organizational behavior.

Prerequisites

Career switchers who haven’t taken fundamental business courses in economics, human resources, and accounting are usually required to take some as a prerequisite for entrance into more advanced courses.

Expected Courses

If you enroll in a reputable MBA program, you’ll take courses such as regression analysis for managers, foundations of leadership, and marketing management. In today’s business environment, companies must put their best digital foot forward to attract both customers and workers. Many of them seek out management consultants who have working knowledge of digital marketing principles and best practices. Progressive universities include these topics within their MBA marketing courses.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

MBA graduates bring leadership and a breadth of knowledge about the most common business areas to management consulting projects.

Top Schools

Top MBA schools include the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and Northwestern University.

#9 Juris Doctor

Law degree programs are primarily designed to teach future lawyers about civil and criminal procedures, contracts, and constitutional law.

Prerequisites

Most law schools don’t require prerequisite courses prior to admittance into Juris Doctor degree programs. However, most students take undergraduate courses in political science, American history, and legal studies to prepare for law school.

Expected Courses

You can expect to take courses in legal writing, civil rights, and property law when enrolled in a law degree program.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

Critical thinking and logic exercises are embedded within all law school courses. It’s those skills along with law students’ power of persuasion that are most attractive to management consulting recruiting firms.

Top Schools

Harvard University, New York University, and University of Virginia are some of the nation’s top law schools.

#10 M.A. International Relations

Earning an advanced degree in international relations allows students to learn about the social, political, and economic complexities of doing business globally. Management consultants who have this academic background are sought after by companies who want to successfully expand into new markets overseas.

Prerequisites

While most universities don’t require incoming students to take prerequisite courses prior to admission, some do. For example, Harvard University requires students to enroll in some introductory international relations and U.S. history courses during the admissions process. The grades that you earn for the three courses help to determine your admission status with the school.

Expected Courses

As an international relations student, you’ll likely take courses on topics such as the United Nations, international security, and the analysis of nation-state behavior.

Skills and Learning Outcomes

International relations students graduate with a better understanding of the political and economic constraints that are found within different nation-states. Many graduates take advantage of study abroad opportunities that allow them to become intimately familiar with the cultures of host countries. This is especially beneficial for businesses who want to establish a presence in those specific foreign markets.

Top Schools

When considering an M.A. in International Relations degree program, you’ll want to see what Georgetown University, the American Public University System, and John Hopkins University have to offer.

Conclusion

Effective management consultants can provide value at all stages of a company’s life cycle. However, getting started in the career field is highly competitive. Besides getting a degree in one of the listed programs, you’ll want to do internships to gain work experience and consider becoming a Certified Management Consultant through the Institute of Management Consultants USA.

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Get our emails in your inbox, and you’ll get acceptance letters in your mailbox

Get our emails in your inbox, and you’ll get acceptance letters in your mailbox

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?