Is it Possible for Software Engineers to Break into Consulting without an MBA?

Written by . Posted in Consulting Industry

Discussing results

So, you’ve been thinking about shifting careers. Don’t worry, this is normal. In fact, many people realize that what they truly want is different from what they are doing, among them are software engineers who flirt with the idea of becoming management consultants.

The prestige and competitive monetary compensation that the consulting industry offers is attractive for applicants from different backgrounds. The good news for engineering students and graduates is that many consulting firms consider hiring candidates with engineering backgrounds as long as they have the proven skills to perform the job well. In fact, top-tier firms like McKinsey and Bain have been noted for hiring engineering graduates in the last several years.

Concerns about Pursuing Consultancy

As you are planning to break into a different field, it is common for you to have concerns. The most typical of which are:

  1. Insufficient business experience on your resume.
  2. A lack of essential knowledge about the consulting industry.
  3. Recruiters may assume you lack people skills as your primary strengths are  numbers and analytics.
  4. No experience with case studies, which is an integral part of any consulting interview.

Why Consulting Firms Hire Applicants with Engineering Experience

Although it may not seem like a natural fit, most engineering students and graduates possess critical skills that are applicable in the consulting industry. This is why big firms consider engineering graduates as eligible candidates for management consulting positions. These skills include:

Strong quantitative ability Engineers are highly skilled in mental math. They are  comfortable with numbers, which makes it easy for them to interpret large volumes of quantitative data. This skill is indispensable if you’re an aspiring consultant.
Determined and ready for challenges Engineering programs are generally difficult to complete. The admission requirements are tough, the academic content is complex, as well as the licensure examination. Hence, graduating with an engineering degree, plus having an impressive GPA, indicates determination and hard work—something a consultant must possess.
Technical knowledge Trained engineers know how to back-up their opinions with technical analysis. Aside from their logical reasoning and problem-solving capabilities, consulting firms benefit from their technical knowledge when generating advice, particularly for clients within specialized technology or equipment.

Tips for Engineers Who Want to Pursue Management Consulting

Here are some valuable tips to help you successfully break into business consulting:

Experience Gain some business experience. As you’re aware that you lack the required business exposure, you need to find ways to compensate. If you’re still in school, you can start by finding business-related internships or part-time jobs. Of course, make sure you’ll be able to manage the workload.
Consulting Knowledge Learn about management consulting. Address your insufficient understanding of consultancy by checking out credible materials, both on and offline. There are many  books about the consulting industry. Take the time to learn as much as you can. Refer to online career development sites such as ConsultingFact.Com to help you in your preparation.
Networking Network, network, network. Many successful consultants without an MBA or business background have proved their worth through vigorous networking. When you connect with people, express your desire to start a career in management/strategy consulting. Convey your interest in the field by giving the impression that you actually understand business consulting. Network with consultants and consulting company recruiters to gain leverage.
Preparation Thoroughly prepare for the case interview. Study as many cases as you can until you are comfortable with them. Read credible resources and take online practice cases. Additionally, find a trusted friend in consulting and perform a mock case interview. By doing this, you will learn how to confidently solve the case and efficiently handle the pressure.
Resume Tailor your resume to focus on your consulting skills and experiences. Make sure your application is targeted to the consulting position you are after. Defy recruiting biases against engineers by highlighting your proven people and leadership skills, as well as your excellent communication skills.
Education Show off your academic credentials. Make sure you flaunt your awesome SAT score, impressive GPA, and Ivy League degree in your application. Consulting recruiters find these very attractive.
Skills Be aware of your strengths and transferable skills. The key to a successful career shift is understanding how this new industry is a better fit for your skills and strengths. This is necessary in order to present yourself in a more compelling way to prospective firms.


These guidelines will help you succeed in your new career endeavor. Many engineers have already joined top-tier firms and found consultancy the perfect platform for leveraging their technical training and achieving professional and personal growth.

You Might Also Like...