What is it like to work in consulting? (Career guide)
Updated 16 May 2023
People who are passionate about business and strategy and enjoy problem-solving might enjoy a career as a consultant. Consultants can work in a variety of different areas of business and use their specialist skills and business knowledge to help organisations improve. Finding out more about this career choice can help you to decide if it appeals to you. In this guide, we answer the question 'What is it like to work in consulting?' and discuss various aspects of this job in more detail.
What is it like to work in consulting?
This guide can help you to understand more about what it's like to work in consulting. Consultants work in a wide variety of business areas so you may be able to do consulting work regardless of what your specialism is. Some areas of business where it's particularly common to find consultants include:
supply chain management
What does a consultant do?
Consultants' roles are related to helping businesses to improve. Consultants support organisations to enhance their performance, implement new strategies and processes, resolve issues and increase organisational growth. Consultants are external professionals who provide honest and objective advice to businesses, make recommendations for change and help organisations to implement these changes. They often have specialist skills that the organisation might be lacking and can help the organisation to develop the skills and knowledge it requires to succeed.
Work environment for consultants
Some consultants are self-employed but many work for consultancy firms. Consultants usually only become self-employed after gaining extensive experience working for a firm. You can expect to travel in this job because it's necessary to move between client sites. In some cases, you might also travel internationally. Working as a consultant and going into a range of organisations means you're likely to experience a wide variety of work environments and organisational cultures.
This means it's important to be adaptable. At your firm, you might work in an office or you might spend some time working from home. Consultancy firms tend to have a positive attitude towards diversity and inclusion. You can usually expect to have a diverse and varied group of colleagues.
What hours do consultants work?
Working as a consultant typically involves long working hours and additional time spent travelling. It's important to be passionate and committed so you can cope with this. Your exact working hours usually vary depending on the client and project you're working on and on your specific role. It's usual to work overtime to meet deadlines or to deal with a particularly demanding project. Consultancy firms are becoming more aware of the need for work-life balance and are increasingly offering options to support this. These might include:
working from home
career breaks and sabbaticals
Day-to-day responsibilities for consultants
The day-to-day responsibilities of consultants vary depending on the project they're working on and their specific job. Your work can also depend on the stage that a project is at. Consultancy work can be highly varied and you might find that you're doing different things every day. This type of work can also be fast-paced and you might handle multiple tasks and responsibilities at any one time. Some tasks and responsibilities that are common for consultants are:
researching clients and collecting and analysing data
interviewing client employees, managers and other stakeholders
facilitating workshops and focus group discussions
identifying issues and developing potential solutions
preparing reports, presentations and business proposals
making recommendations to clients
supporting clients to implement changes and recommendations
managing programmes and individual projects
liaising with clients and keeping them informed
managing colleagues, including analysts
What is the average salary for consultancy work?
Salaries for consultancy work can vary depending on the client and your job but the national average salary for consultants is £78,818. The location of your consultancy firm and your clients might affect how much you can earn. There's significant variation throughout the country for consultancy salaries. For example, consultants working in Leicester can earn more than those in Leeds.
Benefits of working in consultancy
Working as a consultant can be demanding but there are also a number of benefits to this job, these include:
A job in consulting offers a significant amount of variety. This comes from working on a range of different projects with various clients. This variety also means that you get the opportunity to work closely with a diverse range of people and might cover a broad range of industries and sectors. This can help you to gain varied experience and offer plenty of opportunities for learning.
If you're keen to take on responsibility in your career you might enjoy consulting work. This type of work comes with significant pressure but gives you the chance to take on a large amount of responsibility early in your career. People who enjoy challenges often appreciate this part of the job.
A career in consultancy helps you to develop valuable transferrable skills. These include research, interpersonal and team working skills and project management skills. Developing these skills means you can also use them in other areas of work. This can open up a broad range of career opportunities for you.
The variety of clients and colleagues you meet as a consultant means the job gives you valuable opportunities for networking. If you later decide you want to move your career into a different area, these contacts might be useful for helping you to make progress. Developing your network can also help you to gain further consulting jobs.
Opportunities to progress
A career in consulting also gives you important opportunities to progress if you perform well. Consulting firms tend to have a clear hierarchy but it's possible to advance fairly quickly if you work well. If you're looking for a career path that offers opportunities to learn and develop and to move your career forward, consulting work might appeal to you.
How to become a consultant
If you're interested in working as a consultant there are some steps you can follow to gain the right qualifications and experience. This can help you to find paid work as a consultant. Consultants can come from a variety of different backgrounds but these steps are a useful guide to improve your chances of finding work as a consultant:
1. Get an undergraduate degree
Getting an undergraduate degree can help you to find work as a consultant. Consultants come from a variety of educational backgrounds and to be a consultant in most industries it's important to have a relevant undergraduate degree. If you're unsure which area of consulting you want to work in it might be useful to study a business-related subject. A postgraduate degree isn't a requirement but might sometimes be an advantage.
2. Gain practical experience
To work successfully as a consultant it's important to gain practical work experience. Most of the time consultants begin their careers after having gained at least three years of work experience. This might be paid work, a graduate scheme or an internship. Past work experience in a specialist field can make you an attractive candidate for a consulting job.
3. Consider professional membership
Professional memberships can boost your credibility and demonstrate your expertise. You can show your commitment to this type of work by becoming a member of the Institute of Consulting. A professional membership can also give you an advantage over other job applicants, can increase your professional network and help you to stay up-to-date with industry developments.
4. Find consultant jobs
If you want to start working as a consultant you can apply for jobs with consulting firms. This is usually a more effective way to start than working on a freelance basis. You can find suitable jobs by searching job listings online and looking at the websites of consultancy firms. It's important to always read the job description and specifications thoroughly to ensure that the job is suitable for you.
5. Expand your network
As you start gaining more experience as a consultant you can develop your network of clients and contacts. This can help you to obtain more opportunities in the future and can develop your reputation. Developing your network might also make it easier for you to transition into other types of work in the future.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
Explore more articles
- How to become a legal project manager (step-by-step guide)
- Board of directors roles (with skills and responsibilities)
- What is a criminal law paralegal? (And how to become one)
- A guide on how to become a construction project manager
- 10 duties of a family support worker (plus definitions)
- 15 hands-on jobs for you to explore (With average salaries)
- 24 jobs where you work alone (With salary information)
- Project Lead vs. Project Manager: Definitions and Differences
- How to become a registrar (plus job options and salaries)
- How To Write a Job Application Email Subject Line
- How to get a sales job with no experience (with tips)
- 12 Online Jobs for Students and How Much They Pay