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Consultants provide advice and recommendations to other organisations. In some cases, they help their clients implement their suggestions in a hands-on way. They work in teams of mixed experience levels, and early roles usually involve desk research and data collection.

Projects usually operate on tight deadlines and can involve long hours. Output includes presentations, reports, workshops and shared working.

Where to start

Our ‘Careers in Consultancy’ playlist on YouTube is a valuable resource. These videos provide insights and guidance on getting started.

The Careers Service also provides targeted careers information about Consultancy through a weekly round-up in term-time. To receive notifications, select ‘Management Consulting’ in your career/sector interests when you sign up to Handshake.

You can also learn about Consultancy careers at Inside Careers. Consultancy UK presents the latest news and trends in the sector, while the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) is the representative body for UK management consultancy firms. 

There are five key areas of consulting:

  • Strategic Consultancy: covers issues such as planning and corporate strategy (eg the maximisation of shareholder value might be a company objective, as might future positioning in the marketplace).
  • Operations Consultancy: concerned with business process improvements; which might include manufacturing processes, purchasing, logistics, financial management, personnel functions. Can involve benchmarking processes against other organisations.
  • Product Development & Innovation: relates to the introduction of new technology, as well as information support and IT strategies. Can also cover important areas such as outsourcing, business continuity and security of systems.
  • Public Sector Consultancy: consultancy for public sector clients in central, local government, health authorities, non-departmental bodies and the for-more-than-profit sector.
  • Management Consultancy: sometimes used as an umbrella term to include all types of consultancy.
How to know if you’re suited to this sector

You should enjoy working in a team and be ready to deal with a lot of desk research, data collection, and Excel modelling in your early career. Consultants at all levels interact with clients to some degree, so you should be willing to work on your communications skills, including giving presentations, and potentially leading workshops.

High pressure and tight deadlines will be a part of the job. You must be able to cope with this, as well as working long hours.

How to get the experience to be credible

Consultancy is one of the most competitive fields to enter and so refining your skills and experience is paramount. Try to get the following types of experience:

  • Intern at a firm – summer internships in consultancy firms are not common or expected for a graduate entry but are sometimes available for undergraduates in larger firms. There are also some internship opportunities available for graduates and advanced degree candidates. You will normally need to apply up to nine months in advance, although graduate or advanced degree opportunities can be immediately available. You can also approach a firm speculatively.
  • Do things outside your course – extra-curriculars are vital to a successful application. Grab any chance to build new skills, sample new experiences, and make an impact. This includes, sports, societies, charity work, pro-bono work and setting personal challenges. Consultancies are attracted to diverse, high achieving candidates with a flair for problem solving. Data and software skills are valuable to any type of hire, so utilise any downtime to learn digital and software skills.
  • Get some consulting-relevant experience – vacation work is one route, but you can also do consulting projects during term with the Cambridge Consulting NetworkCambridge Consulting Society180 Degrees ConsultingiTeams or the Cambridge Hub’s Social Innovation Programme.
How to find employers or training courses

Download our A-Z directory of consultancies who have interacted with us (e.g. attended events, published vacancies) over the past couple of years - includes introductions to each firm and web links for ease of reference

Cambridge holds a Consultancy Fair each October, hosting around 60 firms who are looking to recruit. See Handshake for more details.

The Financial Times has a list of prestige firms which is updated every year, and is normally listed by industries that the firm specialises in. Sign up for Handshake notifications to look for consultancy jobs and/or vacation opportunities

Other worthwhile sources include:

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

Apply early: applications open up to 12 months in advance for graduate roles. Tailor your application for every role and ensure your application documents are of high quality, contain no mistakes, and highlight your achievements across a wide range of activities.

You should demonstrate the following:

  • A commitment to consulting
  • Impressive extra-curriculars
  • A strong analytical approach
  • An ability to positively articulate and defend your approach.

Be prepared for virtual interviewing and testing, including a computer-game style recruitment round for larger firms. Practice your numerical drilling and case interviews early. Leave 6 weeks to practice if you can, and practice around 25 – 30 cases before the real thing.

Check individual consultancy firm webpages for potential practice tests or sample questions. You can practice numerical reasoning tests on our Psychometric Tests pages. We subscribe to Profiling for Success and Job Test Prep which both have numerical tests.

Watch our YouTube videos: Recruitment Process, Writing CVs for Consultancy, Interviews 

You can hear advice from other Cambridge students who have been successful in their journey here.

Hear from a McKinsey Assocate about preparing for and passing Case Interviews' here.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career
Other things you should know

Learn more about the Consultancy industry, its sectors and market share, from the following sources: