What Is a Management Consultant? The Ultimate Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A management consultant helps companies, businesses and organisations improve their efficiency and streamline operations. Management consultants find solutions to problems, with the ultimate goal being to maximise a company's profits. If you're looking to become a management consultant, then it's important to understand what the role entails and what management consultants actually do. In this article, we answer the question, "What is a management consultant?", before explaining what a management consultant does daily, what skills and qualifications you can develop to succeed in the role and how much management consultants can expect to earn.

What is a management consultant?

A management consultant is a professional who helps a company find solutions to business or operational challenges that might slow down sales, incurring large costs or affecting profits. Management consultants commonly work with senior leadership figures, board members and executives to find and implement solutions to the company's problems, to reduce running costs and to remain profitable. Management consultants might provide an analysis of a company's current operations before offering long-term business strategies that the company can implement.

Management consultants often work in both the private and public spheres. Companies commonly hire them as outside consultants when an organisation is facing a skills gap or looking for independent business analysis and advice. Management consultants may specialise in a particular industry, such as health care or finance, or they may work across multiple industries throughout their careers. The role of a management consultant is a varied one, but their main areas of consultation within a company often include the following:

  • Business strategy

  • Corporate structure

  • Management

  • Accounting and finance

  • HR and recruitment

  • Marketing

  • Systems and operations

Related: How To Become a Consultant in 6 Steps

What does a management consultant do?

Management consultants often focus on a challenge, such as decreasing sales, a lack of new customers or a decline in business growth. Then, they identify the cause of the challenge before suggesting solutions. For example, a management consultant might identify that a lack of new customers is due to outdated products. They may suggest ways to improve existing products. To identify the cause of problems, management consultants often interview employees and customers, analyse existing business operations and examine corporate structures. They can use their business skills to identify solutions before presenting them to management in reports and meetings.

Management consultant typical duties

The daily duties and responsibilities of a management consultant might vary depending on their industry, the company they're working with and what challenges they're addressing. For example, a management consultant in the health care industry may find ways to improve patient care levels, while a management consultant working in construction may find ways to improve staff retention levels on building projects. Here are the most common day-to-day duties and responsibilities of a management consultant:

  • Organising focus groups, discussions, interviews and surveys with employees, management and stakeholders

  • Organising focus groups, discussions, interviews and surveys with a company's clients or customer base

  • Collecting data and information from a variety of sources, such as profit and loss charts or company accounts, that may help the management consultant to identify key problem areas

  • Conducting research into the company's corporate structure, existing business strategy and future business goals

  • Building a detailed profile of the company, its employees, its products and services and its customer base

  • Analysing company operations, structure and strategy to identify areas for improvement

  • Analysing company accounts and expenditure to identify areas where companies can improve savings or maximise profits

  • Producing detailed reports of the analysis and presenting solutions to senior management figures

  • Helping management to implement changes across the company

  • Providing ongoing analysis and progress reports as the company implements changes

  • Staying current on industry trends, business practices, economic markets and government laws and regulations relating to business

What skills do I need to be a management consultant?

Successful management consultants have a broad range of business, communication and analytical skills. Management consultants may also have specialised skills and knowledge in a chosen area of expertise, such as finance, media or health care, for example. Here are the most important skills of a management consultant:

  • Analytical skills: Management consultants often analyse large quantities of data and research to draw conclusions that may help them suggest improvements to business practices.

  • Critical thinking skills: Management consultants can think critically to provide solutions to the problems posed to them by a business.

  • Business knowledge: Management consultants have extensive knowledge of different business tools and strategies, including knowledge of corporate structures and business regulations.

  • Specialist business skills: Management consultants may find it useful to have specialist business skills in areas such as marketing, sales, finance or accounting.

  • Research skills: Management consultants carry out extensive research into a company as part of their consultancy, so knowledge of research tools, such as gathering data or organising focus groups, is helpful.

  • Interview skills: Management consultants interview people to collect data, so learning basic interviewing techniques and knowing how to find suitable sources may be useful.

  • Networking skills: Management consultants may find it useful to be able to network within their industry, create new contacts and build lasting relationships with clients.

  • Interpersonal skills: Management consultants often spend a large part of their day talking with or interviewing people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

  • Communication skills: Management consultants often have to present complex business data and analysis in an easy-to-understand format.

  • Teamwork skills: Management consultants commonly work as part of a wider team on consultancy projects, so it's useful to be able to collaborate and work with other people.

  • Organisation skills: Management consultants often have to keep to tight deadlines or manage multiple projects in one go, so organisation skills may be useful.

  • Management skills: Management consultants may manage projects, delegate tasks to other consultants or manage a small team of analysts.

  • Leadership skills: Management consultants looking to take on more senior roles may find it helpful to develop leadership skills, such as team development, training and motivation.

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

What qualifications do I need to be a management consultant?

Management consultants often have a wide knowledge of different business strategies and corporate structures, so it often helps to gain qualifications in business or economics. Many management consultants study for bachelor's degrees in suitable subjects, such as a Bachelor of Business and Accounting, a Bachelor of Economics or a Bachelor of Commerce.

Management consultants may further their knowledge and skills base by studying for postgraduate qualifications, with the most popular being a Master of Business Administration (MB). Management consultants may also consider gaining specialist qualifications, including becoming a Certified Practising Accounting (CPA) or becoming a Certified Management Consultant through the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC).

Related: How To Write a Summary of Qualifications (With Examples)

How much do management consultants make?

The average salary for a management consultant is $105,680 per year. Salaries may vary depending on location, qualifications and experience. For example, senior management consultants who lead teams of analysts may earn higher salaries than junior management consultants with less experience and responsibility. Management consultants may work for consultancy firms on a salary basis, or they may choose to work freelance. Freelance management consultants often earn pay per consultancy project, rather than being paid a yearly salary.

Is management consulting a good career?

Management consultant may be a rewarding career if you have a keen interest in problem-solving, critical thinking and business analysis. The role of a management consultant is quite often a varied one, and no two projects or companies are ever really the same. However, there is also space for management consultants to specialise in particular areas that they enjoy, already have skills or knowledge in or find value in, such as education or health care.

Management consultants often spend a lot of time travelling, meeting new people and adapting to new work environments. As you're often working with key stakeholders and senior management figures, you may have the opportunity to learn from important figures in the industry. Management consultants looking to progress their careers may find opportunities to become senior management consultants or to start their own management consulting firms as they gain experience. If you enjoy change, responsibility and enjoy helping people and businesses improve, then this could be an excellent career choice for you.

Related: How to Explain Employment Gaps Due to COVID-19

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.

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