Should I Become Business Consultant?
There are many types of consultants who specialize in a variety of fields, such as environmental consultants, healthcare consultants, and engineering consultants. This article is primarily focused on business consultants.
Business consultants, also known as management analysts, can be self-employed or work at firms and government agencies. Consultants are hired to improve the structure and productivity of businesses. Sometimes a consultant might be used to solve a specific problem that the business is encountering. When a consultant begins a job, they first visit the organization and communicate with different departments and employees about operating procedures. After a thorough examination of the operations, a consultant provides suggestions on improvement. The suggestions are often presented both orally and in written reports. The consultant may have to present their report in front of a group and answer questions about the report.
Management analysts work at least full-time, although many log longer hours as deadlines approach. Management analysts may work for a large corporation, but many are contracted out by a business analysis firm or are self-employed. They work in office settings and travel to new clients' locations, when necessary. This job is high stress, but carries few physical demands or risks. The table below shows the basic requirements to become a business consultant:
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree is standard; some employers prefer a master's degree|
|Degree Field||Business or a related area|
|Certification||Voluntary certification is available through the Institute of Management Consultants USA, Inc. (IMC USA)|
|Experience||Two or more years of experience|
|Key Skills||Good communication, interpersonal, analytical and critical thinking skills; strong time management abilities, organizational skills|
|Salary||$90,860 (Annual mean salary for a management analyst)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (May 2014), ONET OnLine
Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program
Most employers require consultants to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree with a major in accounting, business, finance, marketing, management or a similar area. Coursework should include statistics, communications, ethics, project management, accounting and leadership. Additional courses in public speaking and presentation can help prepare a consultant for presenting their results and suggestions to a group or person.
- Specialize in an industry. Use a minor or pursue a double major to specialize in an industry, such as healthcare, technology, education or tourism. Consultants planning to work in the public sector can focus on gaining skills suitable for a specific government agency, which may include agriculture, education, finance, labor or transportation.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Experience can show a potential employer how successful a consultant has been at improving businesses with similar issues. Most employers prefer a minimum of two years of consulting experience. Along with experience in consulting, many employers want consultants to have experience working in a management, accounting or another business position. Some consultants may begin their careers at a firm before bidding on consulting projects on their own.
- Join a professional organization for consultants. Organizations such as the IMC USA and Association of Professional Consultants offer membership on different levels. The IMC USA offers a membership for students as well as those who are aspiring to be a certified consultant but have not met all the requirements yet. Membership can offer additional training opportunities and networking possibilities that can lead to business referrals.
Step 3: Get Certified
Although certification is not required, it can show employers that a consultant meets the certifying agency's standards in education, training and experience. IMC USA offers certification on three levels. Basic certification requires a minimum of three years experience in management consulting, five satisfactory client evaluations and a bachelor's degree or five years of additional work experience. Certification candidates also have to pass a written and oral examination. Experienced consultant certification requires ten or more years of experience along with the rest of the basic certification requirements, and management certification is for high-level managers who have 20 or more years of experience, three of which require direct consulting with clients. Each certification requires renewal every three years.
Step 4: Complete a Master's Degree Program
Although employers do not always require a master's degree, many prefer a consultant who holds a master's degree in business administration (MBA) or a similar field like accounting, finance or management. Coursework in a master's degree program can aid students in sharpening their skills in communication, economics, leadership and management and the knowledge and skills learned may even help to advance their career.
- Consider a combined bachelor's and master's degree program. Some colleges offer a non-business bachelor's program combined with a master's program in business administration (MBA). These programs allow qualifying students to specialize in healthcare, information technology, engineering or another non-business area of study while still gaining in-depth training in business concepts. Most of the combination programs are designed so students can obtain both degrees within five years, as opposed to the typical six years it could take a student to acquire the degrees separately.