Approximately 684,470 management consultants and analysts are employed in the United States. Many consultants work in the private sector for firms that provide consulting services to companies, nonprofits, government agencies, and other organizations. Federal, state, and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations employ many of the others. The U.S. Department of Defense employs the majority of those working for the federal government. Although management consultants are employed throughout the country, most work in major metropolitan areas. Nearly one in five management consultants are self-employed.
Most government agencies offer entry-level analyst and consultant positions to people with bachelor's degrees and no work experience. Many entrants are also career changers who were formerly mid- and upper-level managers. With 18 percent of the practicing management consultants self-employed, career changing is a common route into the field.
Anyone with some degree of business expertise can begin to work as an independent consultant. The number of one- and two-person consulting firms in this country is well over 100,000. Establishing a wide range of appropriate personal contacts is by far the most effective way to get started in this field. Consultants have to sell themselves and their expertise, a task far tougher than selling a tangible product the customer can see and handle. Many consultants get their first clients by advertising in newspapers, magazines, and trade or professional periodicals, as well as through networking. After some time in the field, word-of-mouth advertising is often the primary method of attracting new clients.
A new consultant in a large firm may be referred to as an associate for the first couple of years (although consulting titles often vary by firm). The next progression is to senior associate, a title that indicates three to five years' experience and the ability to supervise others and do more complex and independent work. After about five years, the analyst who is progressing well may become an engagement manager with the responsibility to lead a consulting team on a particular client project. The best managers become senior engagement managers, leading several study teams or a very large project team. After about seven years, those who excel will be considered for appointment as junior partners or principals. Partnership involves responsibility for marketing the firm and leading client projects. Some may be promoted to senior partnership or director, but few people successfully run this full course. Management analysts and consultants with entrepreneurial ambition may open their own firms.
Read Consulting magazine (https://www.consultingmag.com) to learn more about the field.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings: https://www.consultingmag.com/careers and https://aimc.org/careers.
Become a college student member of the Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Conduct information interviews with consultants, and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field. Visit the IMC USA Web site, https://www.imcusa.org/search/custom.asp?id=2065, for a database of consultants.