Consultants work with clients to provide support around a range of strategic and/or operational issues. Corporations, governments, and nonprofit organizations all hire consultants. The tasks performed range from conducting detailed industry analyses, to benchmarking comparable organizations, to devising key strategic initiatives. Consulting firms can have a specific industry focus or serve a variety of industries, including:
- Environmental - Ensures that the client maintains an appropriate measure of compliance with environmental regulations. Candidates usually have a bachelor’s degree and sometimes a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering, Environmental Science, or some other type of science. Organizations include Strategic Sustainability Consulting, Blu Skye Sustainability Consulting, EBI Consulting, Natural Logic, US Environmental Protection Agency.
- Healthcare - Works with medical providers (e.g., hospitals), payers (e.g., insurance firms), and medical equipment/pharmaceutical manufacturers. Candidates should have an interest in healthcare or science (e.g., Pre-Medical students, Bio-Medical engineers) or IT systems (e.g., Computer Science, IEOR). Organizations include Clearview Healthcare Partners, McKinsey & Company, ZS Associates, IMS Health Incorporated, The Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, Deloitte, Mercer, L.E.K. Consulting, Health Advances, Kaiser Associates, Accenture.
- Human Resources - Focuses on the management of people; can include everything from designing an employee evaluation and compensation system to conducting organizational effectiveness training to helping an organization through a merger. Candidates often come from humanities, social sciences, and statistics majors. Organizations include Mercer, Towers Watson, Aon Hewitt, Hay Group, Deloitte Consulting, Huron, Oliver Wyman, McKinsey & Company, Accenture, Buck Consultants.
- Management - Focuses primarily on strategy for organizations. Candidates come from all majors. Organizations include McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, Strategy&, Deloitte Consulting LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, GAP International, Accenture, KPMG.
- Nonprofit - Deals with the unique challenges of nonprofit organizations. Candidates come from all majors. Organizations include National Executive Service Corps, the Bridge Span Group, Jacobson Consulting, Tavrow/Lund Consulting, Dewey & Kaye.
- Public Sector – Help government organizations build/operate lean yet responsive supply chains. Candidates often come from quantitative disciplines. Organizations include Accenture, AT Kearney, Atos Origin, Booz Allen Hamilton, Capgemini, Sapient, ICF, Parthenon, Arthur D. Little.
- Supply Chain/Operations - Focuses on evaluating and improving internal procedures and strategies, as well as the workflow structure and division of labor in a company. Candidates often have majors in operations management, supply chain management, or have MBAs. Organizations include Alvarez & Marsal, AlixPartners, Roland Berger, Huron, Capgemini, Oliver Wyman, L.E.K. Consulting, IBM Global Business Services.
While rewarding, consulting is also a demanding field. Most consultants travel extensively—they may spend three weeks a month on the road—and often work 60 to 80 hours a week. It is important to weigh the costs and benefits of a demanding schedule with the opportunities before diving into a consulting job. Attending information sessions, networking with industry professionals, and performing company research will assist you in learning about the field and deciding whether it is a good fit.
Consulting may be a good option for PhDs who are interested in careers beyond academia as it offers PhDs the opportunity to use and expand upon their expertise in varied positions, working with highly motivated colleagues. Consultants also have impact within the companies they work for and are able to see the results of change quickly. To learn more about careers beyond academia, review our career resources for PhD students page.
Consulting jobs are highly competitive and only a small percentage of candidates get hired. Companies usually recruit from campuses in September or October for positions starting the following summer. A high GPA and strong involvement in campus leadership are highly valued by recruiters. Other skills employers look for include:
- Problem-solving Skills: Structured, logical thinking; Organization and detail orientation; Comfort with numbers (but a math major is not required)
- People Skills: Ease of communication; Confidence, poise, maturity (do you think before you speak); Enthusiasm and fit for team (would they like to spend time with you for long hours)
- Business Knowledge: Business intuition; A few, fundamental business concepts and frameworks
The consulting job interview is often a combination of fit/behavioral questions and case questions. It is critical that you spend time practicing for the case interview as they are a key component of the recruitment process and it is nearly impossible to do well by “winging it.” A list of case interview preparation resources is below.
While an internship at a consulting firm is helpful for securing full-time employment, it is not a requirement. Many consulting firms seek candidates with relevant skill sets and unique areas of knowledge or expertise and therefore will value experience beyond consulting internships, such as leadership experiences, project work, and internships that have provided significant problem-solving, research, writing and/or business experience. To that end, consulting internships are fewer in number than you might expect and therefore significantly competitive.
- CCE’s Case Interview Tipsheet: case interviews at a glance
- Vault Guide to the Case Interview & Vault Case Interview Practice Guide 2: More Case Interviews: login with your UNI and password
- Wetfeet Ace Your Case series: login with your UNI and password
- Case in Point: book by Marc P. Cosentino. Copies are available to read at the CCE Career Resource Center
- CaseInterview.com: case interview secrets from a former McKinsey case interviewer
- Mock Case Interviews: schedule a 60 minute practice case interview with a CCE counselor by calling 212-854-5609. Frequent practice sessions are also offered through the Undergraduate and Graduate Consulting Clubs.
- LionSHARE: Some consulting employers that have posted job and internship positions in LionSHARE in the past year include AlixPartners, GLG (Gerson Lehrman Group), ZS Associates, Gap International, IMS Health, Sapient, Capgemini, Booz Allen Hamilton and Deloitte.
- On Campus Recruiting: Some consulting employers that have hosted on campus interviews and/or information sessions in the past year include Strategy&, Towers Watson, Crossix, Gap International, IBM, Cornerstone Research and TGG Group .
- Career Fairs: The Fall Career Fair, held in September, and the Spring Career Fair in March include 100+ organizations each from many industries. Consulting employers that have attended in recent years include ClearView Healthcare Partners, GEP, NERA Economic Consulting, PA Consulting Group, Accenture, UMT Consulting Group, Cornerstone Research and IBM.
- Industry Showcases: Each year CCE hosts several industry-specific panel/networking sessions. In the Fall semester these include Boutique Consulting and Management Consulting.
- CCE Sponsored Internships: CCE has created tailored opportunities for students to explore career interests and develop professional skills, many of which will be valuable in the consulting field.
- Vault and WetFeet Guides: CCE subscribes to career-focused web services such as Vault and WetFeet, which offer profiles of industries, companies, and careers. Download the Vault Guide to Consulting Jobs, Vault Career Guide to Consulting, Wetfeet’s Get Your Ideal Internship: Consulting or Wetfeet’s Careers in Management Consulting.
- Undergraduate Consulting Club: Columbia University's only undergraduate preprofessional organization devoted to helping students advance their pursuit of careers in consulting.
- Graduate Consulting Club: Provide opportunities for its members to learn about the field of management consulting.
- Other student groups: Groups that host consulting events include the Economics Society, Columbia Women in Business and the Multicultural Business Association.
- National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants
- Association of Internal Management Consultants
- Association of Consultants to Non-Profits
- The Institute of Management Consultants USA
Case Interview Tools
- PrepLounge: PrepLounge is a case interview community where candidates with similar career goals can get connected, practice cases and sharpen their consulting skills.