How to Become a Management Consultant: A Roadmap [updated 2020]

how to become a management consultant. Image shows two consultants discussing a business issue over coffee.

Table of Contents

If you’re looking ahead to jobs you might pursue after college, business school, or an advanced degree, you might have heard that management consulting is a highly-sought-after career path.

How does someone get into consulting? What are the best skills and experiences to build?

How can you best position yourself to be competitive when you apply to top management consulting firms such as Bain, BCG, McKinsey, and others?

At My Consulting Offer, we have over 50 team members who are ex-Bain, BCG, and McKinsey consultants, recruiters, and interviewers.

We know what it takes to build a strong consulting resume and pass case interviews and we want to help you succeed.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What management consulting is and what consultants do,
  • What types of skills you need to break into consulting, 
  • The management consulting recruiting process –  an overview,
  • How to get into consultanting –
    • As an undergrad student,
    • As an MBA student,
    • As a Master’s degree student
    • As a Ph.D. candidate, or
    • As an experienced hire, and
  • 6 tips on how to become a management consultant.

Let’s get started!

What Is Management Consulting and What Do Consultants Do?

A management consultant’s job is to solve tough business problems. 

Examples of complex business problems that companies face include:

  • Whether to launch a new product,
  • How to improve profitability,
  • How to grow market share,
  • How to enter a new market, or
  • Whether to sell off one of its businesses. 

These problems don’t have simple answers. Within companies considering such questions, there are many senior leaders with strong opinions on the right course of action.

If those business leaders agreed on the correct solution, they wouldn’t pay a consulting firm to help them find the answer. Consultants are hired for high-stakes decisions where the right course of action isn’t clear.

How Do Management Consultants Help Clients Find Solutions to Tough Problems?

Every client problem is different. However, the process for finding a solution involves the same steps:

  1. Define the business problem,
  2. Develop a fact base to use to make an informed decision,
  3. Help stakeholders from different parts of the organization reach agreement on the solution, and
  4. Outline a plan for implementing the chosen solution. 

At that level, solving a business problem doesn’t sound too hard, but the devil’s in the details.

Defining the Business Problem

Business leaders have strong points of view on high-stakes business problems. 

For example, imagine a consumer goods company is considering whether it should sell off one of its business units such as its hair care business. 

Who would be involved in this decision?

  • The leader of the hair care business. Maybe the hair care executive wants to stay with the parent organization because of the strong financial support of the larger company. Or maybe they think they can be more agile and make quicker, better decisions if they were independent.
  • The chief financial officer will have a strong opinion about the impact of selling the hair care unit on the parent company’s financial strength and profitability.
  • The leaders of other business units will have strong opinions about this decision because they might share a sales force or marketing resources with the hair care unit. Their costs could increase once the business is sold, or they could lose key personnel. Or, they might have significant bargaining power with grocery stores and other retailers because of the volume of products the company sells, including hair care products They may worry they’ll lose shelf space to competitors after the split.
  • The leaders of key functional areas such as marketing, IT, HR, operations, etc., will also have strong opinions about the potential sale of the business unit depending on how the decision will impact their part of the organization.
  • The chief executive officer will have a point of view on how the sale of the hair care business will position the company for future growth and profitability.

These different perspectives mean that key decision-makers will see the problem to be solved differently. It’s important that they come to a shared point of view on how to make the decision so that they can take action.

This is why a consulting engagement always begins with defining the business problem to be solved. In fact, the work is generally not started until the problem has been defined.

Developing a Fact Base to Make an Informed Decision



The decision on selling a business unit will require detailed financial analysis. 

  • What costs will be reduced by the sale of the business unit? 
  • What costs are fixed and will have to be absorbed by the remaining organization? 
  • Are there synergies such as shared sales or marketing resources that will be lost? 
  • How much money will the sale of the business unit bring in?

In all likelihood, the client’s financial systems don’t break out revenues and costs in a way that makes this analysis easy. If they did, there wouldn’t be disagreement over the right answer on whether to sell the business.  

Helping Stakeholders from Different Parts of the Organization Agree on a Solution
Teamwork is a key skill consulting companies look for both because their work above is done in a team environment and because at each step in a consulting case, stakeholders at the client organization need to be brought along with the consulting team’s thinking. Consultants need to ensure that everyone agrees on the facts and that each stakeholder’s concerns are addressed so that a decision can be reached. That can mean a lot of meetings with all the stakeholders identified above.
Outlining a Plan for Implementation

Implementing a complicated change to a large business is a project unto itself. If the result of the client study is a decision to sell the hair care business unit, potential buyers will need to be identified, a bank to manage the sale will need to be engaged, financial information and marketing documents will need to be created, and regulatory rules will have to be complied with.

The consulting team’s work does not end with a decision but with the development of a plan to ensure that the path forward is clear. In many cases, a consulting team will stay on to help with the implementation work.

The Types of Skills You Need to Get Into Consulting

The example above should give you a sense of the type of work that needs to be done on a consulting project. This will help you understand the skills needed to do this work:

  • Problem-solving and analytical thinking,
  • Teamwork, and
  • Leadership.

We’ll look at each of these below.

Problem-Solving and Analytical Thinking

Problem-solving and analytic thinking are needed throughout a consulting engagement. 

First, the team needs to shape an amorphous business problem into a precisely worded question that they can then answer. Then, the team must structure the work that needs to be done to reach a solution. 

Who needs to be involved in the decision?

What questions need to be addressed?

What facts need to be gathered?

What analysis needs to be done? 

All of this requires structured problem-solving. The data analysis requires analytical thinking.

Teamwork

Teamwork is important because the consulting team needs to divide the study’s workload and share information to develop the fact base. Although consultants will be assigned different parts of the problem, there is always considerable overlap.

Consultants also need teamwork skills because they have to work with the client organization to get data, share facts, and create a consensus.

Leadership

Leadership is needed to engage the big personalities of business executives in various parts of the organization. Leadership is important both for getting executives aligned on how the decision will be made and to persuade them to change their minds if and when the facts don’t support the decision they want to see the company take.

These 3 skills, problem-solving and analytical thinking, teamwork, and leadership are therefore the skills that consulting firms look for in applicants. They are the skills you’ll want to demonstrate on your resume, on your cover letter, and in your interviews.

The Management Consulting Recruiting Process: An Overview


There are several steps in the management consulting recruiting process. We’ll break them down for different types of applicants in the next section. But at a high level, it looks like this:

  • Management consulting firms provide information sessions about management consulting in general and their firm in particular, as well as informal coffee chats. These are held at many colleges, business schools, graduate schools, and online. Check these out to get smart about the industry.
  • Apply for summer internships for the summer before you expect to graduate. Many deadlines are early, so check out the websites of firms you’re interested in to find out more.
  • The firms will invite candidates to interview with them. You’ll need to learn about case interviews, a particular type of interview that consulting firms do, to be competitive.
  • If you don’t get a summer internship in consulting, you can continue to network at information sessions and apply again the next year.

To find out how you can best break into consulting, we’ve broken it down for applicants of different backgrounds. Click the link to the section that’s most relevant to your situation.

How to Get into Consulting as an Undergraduate Student

There are several things you should consider as an undergrad student who wants to get into consulting: 

  • Coursework, 
  • Extracurriculars, 
  • Internships,  and 
  • Networking.

Coursework

If you’re a business or economics major, your coursework will help you develop the business knowledge you need to succeed in consulting. This coursework will also demonstrate you have the analytic skills needed to succeed in this field.

If you’re a liberal arts major, you can still get a job in consulting. Reading business publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, or The Economist will help you develop an understanding of business issues.

Take a few economics, finance, or business classes to get the background you need. Alternatively, you could take classes that have a strong analytic component, such as STEM, math, or engineering classes. 

These classes will show that you can handle the problem-solving work in consulting. The recruiting team will look at your grades in these classes.

Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars are an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills. It’s better to get involved with fewer organizations but to take on leadership roles in the ones you’re involved in. 

Pick one or two clubs that you’re passionate about–where you won’t just want to be a member but where you can see yourself on the leadership team. Get involved in projects where you can make an impact.  

Demonstrate your leadership by starting new initiatives, improving the results of existing initiatives, or fixing things that are broken.

Extracurriculars and volunteer work are also great places to develop and demonstrate your teamwork skills. Collaborate with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results. 

In particular, convincing others to change their minds on key issues or helping a stagnant group to take on and succeed at a large, ambitious goal are ways you can show your teamwork skills.

Internships that Will Help You Get into Consulting

The best internships to get if you’re trying to become a management consultant are summer internships with consulting firms. Unfortunately, consulting firms take on small summer classes, especially at the undergraduate level, so these internships are hard to come by.

Good alternatives to consulting internships are: 1) working for the strategy department of a large organization, or 2) working for a small, entrepreneurial organization where you can take on a summer project that leads to real impact for the organization. 

What you want to show is that you can lead an organization through the problem-solving steps discussed above: 

  1. Define the business problem,
  2. Develop a fact base to use to make an informed decision,
  3. Help stakeholders from different parts of the organization reach agreement on the solution, and
  4. Outline a plan for implementing the chosen solution.

Highlight this leadership experience and the outcome of the project in your consulting resume and cover letter. Quantify results wherever possible (e.g., increased sales by x%, decreased defects by y%).

Internships are also great places to develop and demonstrate your teamwork skills. Look for opportunities to collaborate with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results.

If you are looking for an internship this year, please refer to this list we created in collaboration with Dynamite Jobs.

Internships in a Recession

Recruiting is 2020 is not optimal with the impact COVID-19 has had on the global economy. If you can’t land your dream internship, remember the key skills you want to be able to show consulting firms listed above. Look for alternative internships that allow you to create real impact in an organization and demonstrate these skills. 

For example, if you got an internship at Google but spent your summer scheduling meetings for other people and ordering lunch, that would not serve you well when you applied for full-time consulting positions. An internship with a small firm that doesn’t have brand-recognition but which allows you to help them cut operating costs by 30% and which lands you a full-time offer would give you great experience to add to your resume and discuss in consulting interviews.

If you have a couple alternative opportunities and are not sure which to take, ask both hiring managers for the job descriptions and compare which one will help you demonstrate the skills consulting firms want to see.

Networking

There are a variety of people you can network with in order to better prepare yourself to get a job in consulting:

  • Friends who work at the consulting firms you’re targeting,
  • Alumni from your college who work at consulting firms,
  • Representatives from the firms hosting networking events and meetings at your school or online, 
  • People who currently work at the firms you’re targeting or who’ve previously worked for them. 

 For more on networking, see our article on consulting informational interviews.

Becoming a Management Consultant as an Undergraduate Student: A Roadmap

A lot of work goes into developing the skills you need to succeed at consulting, preparing your application, and getting ready for interviews. 

Let’s break that work into what you need to do well ahead of your interviews and what you should do as your interviews get closer.

Fall of your junior year:
  • Pick classes like business, economics, math, or engineering that will show you have the problem-solving and analytical skills required in consulting.
  • Read the business news to develop a background in the issues businesses face.
  • Select 1 or 2 organizations that you’re passionate about to get involved with either on-campus or off-campus. 
  • Attend coffee chats or other events hosted by consulting firms on campus and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews.
  • Create your consulting resume and cover letter and apply to summer internships in consulting, with corporate strategy groups, or with entrepreneurial companies.
  • Find out what a case interview is and identify classmates interested in jobs in consulting who can be potential case partners. Practice casing before summer internship interviews.
Summer/Fall of your senior year:
  • Continue taking business, economics, math, or engineering that will show you have the problem-solving and analytical skills required in consulting.
  • Continue reading business news.
  • Take leadership positions in the on- or off-campus organizations you’re passionate about. Get involved in big projects that require teams to complete. Lead these teams where possible. 
  • Attend coffee chats or other events hosted by consulting firms on campus and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews. 
  • Update your consulting resume and cover letter.
  • Select consulting firms and offices to target and apply to full-time positions in consulting. 
  • Continue honing your case interview skills and identify classmates interested in jobs in consulting who can be potential case partners. Practice casing.
As senior-year recruiting begins:
  • Formally apply for full-time positions to the firms you are targeting. You can do this on the consulting firms’ websites and through your college’s career center (if applicable).
  • Set up regular times to meet with case partners and practice case interviews. Aim to practice 2 times each week. Use our article on case interview examples to find case questions and answers you can use.
  • Look at our list of common consulting behavioral interview questions and develop stories you can use to answer them. 
  • Continue attending events hosted by consulting firms and networking with consultants at your target firms by conducting informational interviews.
Other Tips:

Some consulting firms have deadlines before school starts or during the first week of classes. Check firm/career services websites so you don’t miss deadlines. Undergrad application deadlines have been moving up every year.

Consulting firms take a holistic approach when reviewing applications, so make sure you have at least one experience that speaks to each of the skills consulting firms look for: problem solving/analytics, leadership, and teamwork.  

It is less important to show them you have done consulting before (most applicants have had little to no consulting experience) and more important to show them you have the relevant skills to do the job.

Find Out How My Consulting Offer Helped Carolyn Land her offer from McKinsey.

My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Carolyn was able to get her offer from McKinsey:

Ready to get started on your path to consulting?

Jump down to our 6 tips on becoming a management consultant or see our page on writing consulting cover letters for even more details on how to best present your experience for consulting applications.

How to Become a Management Consultant as an MBA student

There are several things you should consider as an MBA student who plans to get into consulting: 

  • Coursework, 
  • Extracurriculars, 
  • Internships, 
  • Prior work experience, and 
  • Networking.

Coursework

If you’re enrolled in an MBA program, you’re already well on your way toward developing the skills you need to become a management consultant. Beyond the core classes, take classes on strategy, financial analysis, and financial accounting.

Doing well in these classes will demonstrate you have the problem solving and analytical thinking skills required in consulting.

Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars are an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills. It’s better to get involved with fewer organizations but to take on leadership roles in the ones you’re involved in. 

Pick one or two clubs that you’re passionate about–where you won’t just want to be a member but where you can see yourself on the leadership team. Get involved in projects where you can make an impact.  

Demonstrate your leadership by starting new initiatives, improving the results of existing initiatives, or fixing things that are broken.

Extracurriculars and volunteer work are also great places to develop and demonstrate your teamwork skills. Collaborate with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results. 

In particular, convincing others to change their minds on key issues or helping a stagnant group to take on and succeed at a large, ambitious goal are ways you can show your teamwork skills.

Internships that Will Help You Break into Management Consulting

The best internships to get if you’re trying to become a management consultant are summer internships with consulting firms. 

Over the past few years, the consulting firms have increased the size of their MBA summer programs. The implication is that more of the open spots for full-time hires are filled by people who’ve successfully completed summer internships. The consulting firms still make hires during second-year recruiting, but these offers have become harder to get. 

Good alternatives to consulting internships are: 1) working for the strategy department of a large organization or 2) working for a small, entrepreneurial organization where you can take on a summer project that leads to real impact for the organization. 

What you want to show is that you can lead an organization through the problem-solving steps discussed above: 

  1. Define the business problem,
  2. Develop a fact base to use to make an informed decision,
  3. Help stakeholders from different parts of the organization reach agreement on the solution, and
  4. Outline a plan for implementing the chosen solution.

Highlight your leadership and the outcome of the project in your consulting resume and cover letter. Quantify results wherever possible (e.g., increased sales by x%, decreased defects by y%).

Internships are also great places to develop and demonstrate your teamwork skills. Look for opportunities to collaborate with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results.

How to Position Previous Experience

With prior experience, highlight leadership, teamwork, or problem-solving roles, you’ve taken on to make them clear to consulting firms’ recruiters and interviewers. 

Show both the actions you took and the impact of your work. Quantify results wherever possible (e.g., increased sales by x%, decreased defects by y%).

Networking

There are a variety of people you can network with in order to better prepare yourself to land a job in consulting:

  • Friends who work at the consulting firms you’re targeting,
  • Alumni from your college or MBA program who work at consulting firms,
  • Representatives from the firms hosting networking events and meetings at your school or online, and
  • People who currently work at the firms you’re targeting or who’ve previously worked for them. 

For more on networking, see our article on consulting informational interviews.

How to Get into Consultanting as an MBA Student: A Roadmap

A lot of work goes into developing the skills you need to succeed at consulting, preparing your application, and getting ready for interviews. 

Let’s break that work into what you need to do well ahead of your interviews and what you should do as your interviews get closer.

Late Spring / the Summer Before Business School
  • Some of the larger consulting firms (MBB and a few others) have pre-MBA events that incoming MBA students can apply to. These are important events for networking because firms create their high-potential candidate lists during this time.
Fall / Winter of Your 1st Year:
  • Choose strategy, financial analysis, and financial accounting classes to show you have the analytic skill needed in consulting.
  • Select 1 or 2 organizations that you’re passionate about to get involved with either on-campus or off-campus. 
  • Attend coffee chats or other events hosted by consulting firms on campus and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews. Most campus networking events take place in November.
  • Create your consulting resume and cover letter and apply to summer internships in consulting, with corporate strategy groups, or with entrepreneurial companies. Most consulting firm application deadlines are in December.

Find out what a case interview is and identify classmates interested in jobs in consulting who can be potential case partners. Practice casing before summer internship interviews. Most interviews take place in January and February.

Fall of Your 2nd Year:
  • Continue taking strategy, financial analysis, and financial accounting classes.
  • Take leadership positions in the on- or off-campus organizations you’re passionate about. Get involved in big projects that require teams to complete. Lead these teams where possible. 
  • Attend coffee chats or other events hosted by consulting firms on campus and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews. 
  • Update your consulting resume and cover letter.
  • Select consulting firms and offices to target.
  • Send your consulting resume and cover letters to recruiters.
  • Continue honing your case interview skills and identify classmates interested in jobs in consulting who can be potential case partners. Practice casing.
As Recruiting Begins:
  • Set up regular times to meet with case partners and practice case interviews. Aim to practice 2 times each week. Use our article on case interview examples to find case questions and answers you can use.
  • Look at our list of common consulting behavioral interview questions and develop stories you can use to answer them. 
  • Continue attending events hosted by consulting firms. Network with consultants at your target firms by conducting informational interviews. 
Other Tips:

Consulting firms take a holistic approach when reviewing applications, so make sure you have at least one experience that speaks to each of the skills consulting firms look for: problem solving/analytics, leadership, and teamwork.  

It is less important to show them you have done consulting before (most applicants have had little to no consulting experience) and more important to show them you have the relevant skills to do the job.

Find Out How My Consulting Offer Helped Matt Land His Offer From BCG.

My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Matt was able to get his offer from BCG:

Ready to get started on your path to consulting?

Jump down to our 6 tips on becoming a management consultant  or see our page on writing consulting cover letters for even more details on how you can best present your experience for consulting applications.

How to Get Into Consulting as a Non-MBA Master’s Student

There are several things you should consider as a Master’s student who plans to become a management consultant: 

  • Coursework, 
  • Extracurriculars, 
  • Internships, and
  • Networking.

Coursework

If you’re a non-MBA Master’s student, you may need to stretch beyond your chosen field of study to develop the business sense needed in consulting and to show you have strong analytical skills.

Reading business publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, or The Economist will help you develop an understanding of business issues.

If your course of study has a STEM or analytic component, such as science, math, engineering, statistics, or data analysis, it will be clear that you have analytic skills. 

If your course of study is in the liberal arts, you should enroll in classes with an analytic component where possible. Statistics is a good option. Doing well in couple courses is enough to show your analytical skills. The recruiting team will look at your grades in these classes. 

Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars are an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills. It’s better to get involved with fewer organizations but to take on leadership roles in the ones you’re involved in. 

Pick one or two clubs that you’re passionate about–where you won’t just want to be a member but where you can see yourself on the leadership team. Get involved in projects where you can make an impact.  

Demonstrate your leadership by starting new initiatives, improving the results of existing initiatives, or fixing things that are broken.

Extracurriculars and volunteer work are also great places to develop and demonstrate your teamwork skills. Collaborate with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results. 

In particular, convincing others to change their minds on key issues or helping a stagnant group to take on and succeed at a large, ambitious goal are ways you can show your teamwork skills.

Internships that Will Help You Become a Management Consultant

The best internships to get if you’re trying to become a management consultant are summer internships with consulting firms. Unfortunately, consulting firms take on small summer classes and not all consulting firms offer internships to Master’s degree students, so these internships are hard to come by.

Good alternatives to consulting internships are: 1) working for the strategy department of a large organization or 2) working for a small, entrepreneurial organization where you can take on a summer project that leads to real impact for the organization. 

What you want to show is that you can lead an organization through the problem-solving steps discussed above: 

  1. Define the business problem,
  2. Develop a fact base to use to make an informed decision,
  3. Help stakeholders from different parts of the organization reach agreement on the solution, and
  4. Outline a plan for implementing the chosen solution.

Highlight your leadership and the outcome of the project in your consulting resume and cover letter. Quantify results wherever possible (e.g., increased sales by x%, decreased defects by y%).

Internships are also great places to develop and demonstrate your teamwork skills. Look for opportunities to collaborate with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results.

Tip!  For Master’s students, it can be confusing to figure out whether you should apply for business analyst-level or associate-level internships. 

The rule of thumb is that if you have less than 3 years of work experience, apply for business analyst-level positions. If you have 3 years of work experience or more, apply to associate-level positions. Check the websites of consulting firms you’re applying to in order to clarify this because policies vary.

Tip! Not all firms have summer internships for Master’s degree students. Check individual firm websites or ask their recruiting department.

Summer internships are for people who have a year of school left, not for people who are graduating. If you will be graduating in May, apply to full-time positions, not summer internships.

Networking

There are a variety of people you can network with in order to better prepare yourself to land a job in consulting:

  • Friends who work at the consulting firms you’re targeting,
  • Alumni from your college who work at consulting firms,
  • Representatives from the firms hosting networking events and meetings at your school or online, and
  • People who currently work at the firms you’re targeting or who’ve previously worked for them.  

For more on networking, see our article on consulting informational interviews.

Becoming a Management Consultant as a Master’s Student: A Roadmap

A lot of work goes into developing the skills you need to succeed at consulting, preparing your application, and getting ready for interviews. 

Let’s break that work into what you need to do well ahead of your interviews and what you should do as your interviews get closer.

Fall of the Academic Year Before You Graduate:
  • Enroll in classes with STEM components to demonstrate that you have the analytical skills needed in consulting.
  • Read the business news to develop a background in the issues that businesses face.
  • Select 1 or 2 organizations that you’re passionate about to get involved with either on-campus or off-campus. 
  • Attend coffee chats or other events hosted by consulting firms on campus and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews.
  • Look for specialized consulting firms that may have a particular interest in your field of study, such as life science consulting firms.
  • Create your consulting resume and cover letter and apply to summer internships in consulting, with corporate strategy groups, or with entrepreneurial companies.
  • Find out what a case interview is and identify classmates interested in jobs in consulting who can be potential case partners. Practice casing before summer internship interviews.
Fall of the Academic Year You’ll Graduate:
  • Continue taking coursework with STEM components to show you have the analytical skills required in consulting.
  • Continue reading business news.
  • Take leadership positions in the on- or off-campus organizations you’re passionate about. Get involved in big projects that require teams to complete. Lead these teams where possible. 
  • Attend coffee chats or other events hosted by consulting firms on campus and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews. 
  • Select consulting firms and offices to target. Make sure that these firms hire non-MBA Master’s students and check their website for which level (analyst or associate) you should apply for. This varies by firm.
  • Update your consulting resume and cover letter and apply to full-time positions in consulting. 
  • Continue honing your case interview skills and identify classmates interested in jobs in consulting who can be potential case partners. Practice casing.
As Recruiting Begins:
  • Set up regular times to meet with case partners and practice case interviews. Aim to practice 2 times each week. Use our article on case interview examples to find case questions and answers you can use.
  • Look at our list of common consulting behavioral interview questions and develop stories you can use to answer them. 
  • Continue attending events hosted by consulting firms and networking with consultants at your target firms by conducting informational interviews.
Other tips:

Consulting firms take a holistic approach when reviewing applications, so make sure you have at least one experience that speaks to each of the skills consulting firms look for: problem solving/analytics, leadership, and teamwork.  

It is less important to show them you have done consulting before (most applicants have had little to no consulting experience) and more important to show them you have the relevant skills to do the job.

Find Out How My Consulting Offer Helped Zoe Land her offer from PwC Strategy.

My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Zoe was able to get her offer from PwC Strategy:

Ready to get started on your path to consulting?

Jump down to our 6 tips on becoming a management consultant  or see our page on writing consulting cover letters for even more details on how you can best present your experience for consulting applications.

How to Become a Management Consultant as a Ph.D. Candidate


There are several things you should consider as a Ph.D. candidate who plans to become a management consultant: 

  • Coursework, 
  • Extracurriculars, 
  • Internships, and
  • Networking.

Coursework

If you’re a Ph.D. candidate, you may need to stretch beyond your chosen field of study to develop the business sense needed in consulting and to show you have strong analytical skills.

Reading business publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, or The Economist will help you develop an understanding of business issues.

If your course of study has a STEM or analytic component, such as science, math, engineering, statistics, or data analysis, it will be clear that you have these skills. 

If your course of study is in the liberal arts, you should enroll in classes with an analytical component where possible. Statistics is a good option. A couple courses are enough to demonstrate these skills.The recruiting team will look at your grades in these classes. 

Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars are an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills. It’s better to get involved with fewer organizations but to take on leadership roles in the ones you’re involved in. 

Pick one or two clubs that you’re passionate about–where you won’t just want to be a member but where you can see yourself on the leadership team. Get involved in projects where you can make an impact.  

Demonstrate your leadership by starting new initiatives, improving the results of existing initiatives, or fixing things that are broken.

Extracurriculars and volunteer work are also great places to develop and demonstrate your teamwork skills. Collaborate with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results. 

In particular, convincing others to change their minds on key issues or helping a stagnant group to take on and succeed at a large, ambitious goal are ways you can show your teamwork skills.

Internships that Will Help You Get into Management Consulting

The best internships to get if you’re trying to become a management consultant are summer internships with consulting firms. 

Many consulting firms offer 1-week summer internships for Ph.D. candidates. The upside is that you will have the opportunity to undertake more than one summer internship. 

If you are interested in a career in consulting but don’t get a summer internship in the field, consider working for a small, entrepreneurial organization where you can take on a summer project that leads to real impact for the organization. This type of experience will play well in consulting interviews. 

What you want to show is that you can lead an organization through the problem-solving steps discussed above: 

  1. Define the business problem,
  2. Develop a fact base to use to make an informed decision,
  3. Help stakeholders from different parts of the organization reach agreement on the solution, and
  4. Outline a plan for implementing the chosen solution.

Highlight this leadership and the outcome of the project in your consulting resume and cover letter. Quantify results wherever possible (e.g., increased sales by x%, decreased defects by y%).

Internships are also great places to develop and demonstrate your teamwork skills. Look for opportunities to collaborate with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results.

Networking

There are a variety of people you can network with in order to better prepare yourself to land a job in consulting:

  • Friends who work at the consulting firms you’re targeting,
  • Alumni from your college who work at consulting firms,
  • Representatives from the firms hosting networking events and meetings at your school or online, and
  • People who currently work at the firms you’re targeting or who’ve previously worked for them. 

For more on networking, see our article on consulting informational interviews.

How to Get into Consulting as a Ph.D. Candidate: A Roadmap

A lot of work goes into developing the skills you need to succeed at consulting, preparing your application, and getting ready for interviews. 

Let’s break that work into what you need to do well ahead of your interviews and what you should do as your interviews get closer.

Fall of Academic Year Before You’ll Graduate:
  • Enroll in classes with STEM components to demonstrate that you have the analytic skills needed in consulting.
  • Read the business news to develop a background in the issues that businesses face.
  • Select 1 or 2 organizations that you’re passionate about to get involved with either on-campus or off-campus. 
  • Attend coffee chats or other events hosted by consulting firms on campus and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews.
  • Look for specialized consulting firms that may have a particular interest in your field of study, such as life science consulting firms.
  • Create your consulting resume and cover letter and apply to full-time positions in consulting. 
  • Apply to summer internships in consulting or with entrepreneurial companies. Deadlines for applications are usually in winter or spring for internships for the coming summer.

Find out what a case interview is and identify classmates interested in jobs in consulting who can be potential case partners. Practice casing before summer internship interviews.

Summer Before Final Year / Fall of Your Final Year:
  • Continue reading business news.
  • Take leadership positions in the on- or off-campus organizations you’re passionate about. Get involved in big projects that require teams to complete. Lead these teams where possible. 
  • Attend coffee chats or other events hosted by consulting firms on campus and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews. 
  • Select consulting firms and offices to target.
  • Update your consulting resume and cover letter and apply to full-time positions in consulting. Deadlines are typically in July, earlier than many people expect, so check the websites of firms you are targeting.
  • Continue honing your case interview skills and identify classmates interested in jobs in consulting who can be potential case partners. Practice casing.
As Recruiting Begins:
  • Set up regular times to meet with case partners and practice case interviews. Aim to practice 2 times each week. Use our article on case interview examples to find case questions and answers you can use.
  • Look at our list of common consulting behavioral interview questions and develop stories you can use to answer them. 
  • Continue attending events hosted by consulting firms and networking with consultants at your target firms by conducting informational interviews.
Other tips:

Consulting firms take a holistic approach when reviewing applications, so make sure you have at least one experience that speaks to each of the skills consulting firms look for: problem solving/analytics, leadership, and teamwork.  

It is less important to show them you have done consulting before (most applicants have had little to no consulting experience) and more important to show them you have the relevant skills to do the job.

It’s also very important for Ph.D. candidates to show the recruiting team why they want to pivot to management consulting from academia/their field of specialization. You must convince them you understand what a career in management consulting is like and have thought through this transition.

Find Out How My Consulting Offer Helped Fengqi Land His Offer From BCG.

My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Fengqi was able to get his offer from BCG:

Ready to get started on your path to consulting?

Jump down to our 6 tips on becoming a management consultant or see our page on writing consulting cover letters for even more details on how you can best present your experience for consulting applications.

How to Break into Consulting as an Experienced Hire

There are several things you should consider as an experienced hire who would like to get into consulting:  

  • Work experience,
  • Volunteering in your community, 
  • Your prior coursework, and
  • Networking.

Positioning Your Work Experience to Help You Break into Management Consulting

Consulting recruiters and interviewers want to see you can lead an organization through the problem-solving steps discussed above: 

  1. Define the business problem,
  2. Develop a fact base to use to make an informed decision,
  3. Help stakeholders from different parts of the organization reach agreement on the solution, and
  4. Outline a plan for implementing the chosen solution.

Think through your work experience. Where have you demonstrated these skills?

Maybe you’ve:

  • Helped analyze a new product or service your company considered rolling out, 
  • Helped come up with a strategy to respond to business competition,
  • Improved, updated or streamlined a business process, or
  • Rolled out a new initiative. 

In projects like these, you may have had a big roll in all 4 of these problem-solving steps. If so, this would be a great experience to include on your consulting resume.

Or you may not be able to show that you solved one large problem from beginning to end, but you may be able to show that you defined the problem and built a fact base on one problem and helped with gaining stakeholder agreement and implementing the solution on another. 

That’s fine too. Include both experiences on your consulting resume.

Quantify results wherever possible (e.g., increased sales by x%, decreased defects by y%).

In addition, make sure the accomplishments you include on your consulting resume include:

  • Leadership,
  • Teamwork, and 
  • Analytic analysis and problem-solving.

Volunteer Experience

Consulting firms like people who are passionate about things beyond their job. 

Highlight any volunteer groups you work with. It’s not important to be involved in a large number of groups. In fact, it’s better to get involved with fewer organizations but to take on leadership roles in the ones you’re involved in. 

Pick one or two activities where you can see yourself on the leadership team. Get involved in projects where you can make an impact.  

Demonstrate your leadership by starting new initiatives, improving the results of existing initiatives, or fixing things that are broken. Demonstrate your teamwork skills by collaborating with others to come up with better solutions than you could have on your own and to achieve bigger results. 

In particular, convincing others to change their minds on key issues or helping a stagnant group to take on and succeed at a large, ambitious goal are ways you can show your teamwork skills.

Prior Coursework

Look at your resume and consider whether it demonstrates your analytical skill, leadership, and ability to work on teams. 

If it does, great. If not, perhaps you can show these skills and capabilities via course work completed as an undergraduate or grad student. In particular, you can highlight STEM coursework if analytical work if that’s not part of your current job. 

Networking

Networking is particularly important if you’re applying for positions in management consulting from a career in another industry. Candidates with in-demand skills and experience will be picked up quickly, but the applications of other experienced-hire candidates may be overlooked if they have no networking connection.

There are a variety of people you can network with in order to better prepare yourself to land a job in consulting:

  • Friends who work at the consulting firms you’re targeting,
  • Alumni from your college or post-graduate program who work at consulting firms,
  • People from your company or industry who have transitioned into consulting,
  • Representatives from the firms hosting networking events online, and
  • People who currently work at the firms you’re targeting or who’ve previously worked for them. 

For more on networking, see our article on consulting informational interviews.

How to Get into Consulting as an Experienced Hire: A Roadmap

A lot of work goes into developing the skills you need to succeed at consulting, preparing your application, and getting ready for interviews. 

Let’s break that work into what you need to do well ahead of your interviews and what you should do as your interviews get closer.

While You Research A Transition To Consulting:
  • Attend online webinars or other events hosted by consulting firms to find out more about the industry and what they look for in applicants.
  • Develop a concise and compelling story for why you want to transition from your current career to management consulting. Also decide whether you will apply to generalist roles or specialist roles. 
  • Network with consultants by conducting informational interviews and network with consultants by conducting informational interviews. 
  • Create a consulting resume and cover letter that repositions your skills to showcase when you’ve led organizations through the 4 steps in the problem-solving process as well as highlighting leadership, teamwork skills, and analytic capabilities.
  • Find out what a case interview is and start your preparation.
As You Get Ready To Interview:
  • Select consulting firms and offices to target.
  • Talk to recruiters at the firms/offices you plan to apply to. Not all offices conduct experienced-hire recruiting every year. A role posted on a firm-wide website does not mean a specific office is hiring experienced candidates.
  • Send your consulting resume and cover letters to recruiters.
  • Find case partners and set up regular times to practice case interviews. Aim to practice 2 times each week. Use our article on case interview examples to find case questions and answers you can use.
  • Look at our list of common consulting behavioral interview questions and develop stories you can use to answer them. 
  • Continue attending events hosted by consulting firms. Network with consultants at your target firms by conducting informational interviews. 
Other tips:

Consulting firms take a holistic approach when reviewing applications, so make sure you have at least one experience that speaks to each of the skills consulting firms look for: problem solving/analytics, leadership, and teamwork.  

It is less important to show them you have done consulting before (most applicants have had little to no consulting experience) and more important to show them you have the relevant skills to do the job.

It’s also very important for experienced hires to show the recruiting team why they want to pivot to management consulting from their current career path. You must convince them you understand what a career in management consulting is like and have thought through this transition.

Find Out How My Consulting Offer Helped Wangu Get Her Foot In The Door With McKinsey.

My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Wangu was able to get her foot in the door with McKinsey:

Ready to get started on your path to consulting?

Read on to learn our 6 tips on becoming a management consultant or see our page on writing consulting cover letters for even more details on how you can best present your experience for consulting applications.

6 Tips on How to Become a Management Consultant

1. Choose courses that demonstrate your analytical capabilities and help you develop business acumen.

STEM, business, economics, and finance classes will help ensure recruiters view you as someone who can handle the work of a management consultant when they review your resume. Strategy and financial analysis classes will also help MBA students.

2. Get involved in one or two extracurriculars you’re passionate about and can see yourself taking leadership positions in.

Get involved in activities that show you can work on teams and can lead a group to make a project a success. Take on big, ambitious projects, not just the same projects the group took on the year before.

3. Apply for summer internship positions in consulting, in the strategy groups of large organizations, or in entrepreneurial firms.

Use these positions to show that you managed a project from beginning to end and created change by developing something new or solving a problem.

4. When writing your consulting resume and cover letter, position past job experience to highlight the skills consulting firms look for: problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership.

5. Identify friends, alumni of schools you’ve attended, and consultants who work at your target firms that you can network with.

Conduct informational interviews to familiarize yourself with the industry and develop allies in the consulting firm.

6. Familiarize yourself with business issues and basic economic principles if you have not taken business or economic coursework

In this article, we’ve covered:
  • What management consulting is and what consultants do,
  • What types of skills you need to break into consulting, 
    • As an undergrad student,
    • As a management consultant as an MBA student,
    • As a non-MBA master’s student,
    • As a Ph.D. candidate, or
    • As an experienced hire, and
  • 6 tips on how to become a management consultant.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about how to become a management consultant, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

Other people preparing for a career in management consulting found the following pages helpful: 

Help with Case Study Interview Prep

Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on how to become a management consultant. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too.