Becoming an Operations Consultant
Similar to a management consultant or analyst, an operations consultant is a type of research analyst who uses data models to help an organization's management streamline and improve operations. They may help increase business efficiency, reduce costs, and improve responsiveness to customers. Operations consultants may work independently or as part of consulting firms, and their career paths can vary according to specialization or industry.
Operations consultants are often self-employed, allowing them to choose their clients, work load, and schedule. They also travel a great deal, spending time both at their clients' facilities as well as at their own office.
|Median Salary (2015)*||$78,630 per year (for operations research analysts)|
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree required; some employers may prefer candidates with master's degrees|
|Degree Field||Business administration, management science, or a related field|
|Certification||Voluntary certification may offer increased job opportunities|
|Experience||5+ years in business operations|
|Key Skills||Strong critical thinking, analytical and math skills; excellent written, verbal and interpersonal communication skills; ability to develop relationships with clients and vendors; proficiency with spreadsheets, databases, and the Microsoft Office Suite|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute of Management Consultants USA, Online job postings (February 2013), Payscale.com (July 2015)
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aspiring operations consultants should look for programs with a strong foundation in statistics, business management, and information technology. Some business administration programs offer a specialization in operations management, and students can develop expertise in quality control, logistics, and supply chain analysis, as well as accounting and economics. Prospective consultants may also consider management science bachelor's programs, which typically include classes in production and operations management, information technology, and systems analysis. A few schools offer bachelor's programs in operations research as well.
Step 2: Gain Professional Experience
Most employers require candidates to have at least five years of relevant professional experience. After graduating from a bachelor's degree program, aspiring operations consultants may find entry-level work in a variety of closely related fields, such as business analysis. Common responsibilities for business analysts can include assessing operational effectiveness, recommending process improvements, and preparing reports for senior-level review.
Step 3: Obtain an Advanced Degree
According to the BLS, some employers prefer hiring applicants with master's degrees in business administration or related fields, including operations and operational excellence. These programs can help students gain in-depth knowledge of management theories, communication strategies, leadership, ethics and advanced problem-solving techniques. Some schools list work experience as one of the eligibility requirements for entry into their programs.
Step 4: Earn Certification
Although gaining certification is not necessary to work as an operations consultant, it may offer a competitive edge in the job market, since it demonstrates professional expertise and a strong commitment to the profession. Common certifications for consultants include the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) credential offered by the Institute of Management Consultants USA, the Certified Business Consultant credential offered by the Business Training Institute and the Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB) credential.
Requirements for becoming certified vary depending on the organization issuing the certification. In general, an individual must meet experience and education requirements, complete an application, submit the required fee, and pass a certification test.
Research renewal requirements. Most certifications are only valid for a few years. Candidates typically need to complete a set number of continuing education or professional development activities during that time in order to renew their certifications.
To secure an operations consultant position, obtain a bachelor's degree, get some real-world experience, obtain an advanced degree, and get certified.