Management consulting remains one of the most popular career paths for people at business school. But is an MBA essential if you want to move into this industry? Read more in this article.
INSEAD, which is very strong in this sector, reports that 39% of its full-time MBAs went into consulting after graduating in 2011.
MBA programs endow you with a practical, working understanding (rather than complete mastery) of the gamut of business functions: finance, marketing, operations, organisational behaviour. It’s the big-picture mindset that a management consultant needs and an MBA is a rubber stamp that you have the requisite toolkit.
Nicky Winch, head of recruiting for CapGemini UK says: “The MBA helps to demonstrate an intellectual and analytical capability and along with relevant experience, can help make a candidate stand out against others.”
MBA programs also provide you with practical experience. Most require their students to complete at least one, if not several consulting projects for corporate, start-up and non-profit clients.
Here are a few examples from BusinessBecause.com of people who have successfully used an MBA to break into management consulting.
Tom Park studied law at McGill and public policy at Harvard. Between 2004 and 2007 he worked in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the OSCE Mission in Pristina, Kosovo and the UN Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia. Previously he was an associate at McCarthy Tetrault, Canada’s largest law firm. A two-year MBA at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth enabled him to land an internship, and then a permanent role at McKinsey in Montreal. He is currently based in Dakar, Senegal working on a global health project.
Italian Fabio Gastaldi holds an MSc in Electronics and Computer Engineering. He worked for Ericsson as a Solutions Integrator for four years, before joining the MBA program at Spain’s IE Business School in order to revive his stalling career. Fabio says he got a job at Bain & Co. through the network he gained on the IE MBA, which helped him identify roles suitable for his combined Engineering and MBA qualifications, a sought-after combination in the industry. “It was an Italian I met during the MBA that linked me up with Bain’s HR manager in Italy. I got invited to the interview then that’s it”, he says.
INSEAD grad Ioan Carpus had a varied career before he embarked on an MBA. He qualified as a lawyer in Romania, and then worked as a web developer and in an e-learning business. At INSEAD he worked with Professor W. Chan Kim in the famous professor’s Blue Ocean study group.
If you haven’t heard of it, blue ocean strategy is a business theory coined by two star INSEAD professors, aimed at making competition irrelevant. Since graduating in 2007, Ioan has set up his own strategy consulting firm focused on blue ocean methods, in partnership with several other INSEAD grads – a career move he would have struggled to make before his MBA.
If you want to get into management consulting, business school can certainly help you make the switch. You’ll meet recruiters on campus, the growing numbers of MBA Clubs dedicated to consulting provide great networking opportunities, and you can fill out your resume wit projects to prove that you have the right leadership skills.
However, business school comes with a price tag – around US$45k in tuition for a decent full-time, one-year program in Europe, double that in the US! And opportunities won’t be handed to you on a plate – you’ll have to work for them!
Of course an MBA is not the only way to break into consulting, and plenty of people get in and move up the ranks without one. Industry experience is sometimes enough to move into a boutique consulting firm or the relevant practise area of a large firm. The best way to figure out if you can make the switch without an MBA is to apply directly to firms and see how you do! Speak to as many partners and hiring managers as possible at your target firms beforehand, to figure out what your chances are and how to present yourself
Maria Ahmed is Editor of BusinessBecause.com, a professional network for the business school world. On BusinessBecause you’ll find useful information about MBA jobs, MBA Rankings and fresh daily editorial including the Why MBA series.