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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

The Careers Service Consultancy Directory provides an overview of consultancy firms by sector.

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.

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How to know if you’re suited to this sector

Consultants can see the big picture, use research to make informed decisions to support their client and will put a lot of hours into ensuring they meet targets and deadlines.  

Regardless of the type of clients you have (public sector, private) you might be working on multiple projects across the year, and you will learn fast and on your feet. High pressure and tight deadlines can be a part of the job. You must be able to cope with this, as well as working long hours. 

Roles usually involve presenting to colleagues and clients, travel to client sites and listening to the needs of your client.  

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. 

Not all consultancy firms are the same and this includes their working hours, environment, perks, team structure and role requirements. Don’t feel that to be a consultant you have to work for a very large firm to be successful – firms come in all shapes and sizes. Do your research into the types of firms available and speak to employees and careers fairs and events to find your match.  

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 consultancy 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. 
  • Intern somewhere you can solve problems – as formal internships in a consultancy firm are not widespread, you can prove just as much to your potential employer by taking an internship with an employer than enables you to solve problems. Perhaps you work for a charity for a summer helping to restructure their communications? Perhaps you start your own business or charity? You might be working in a lab and create a new process for undertaking research that saves everyone time. It is the impact that you make that will really stand out on an application.  
  • 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 Network, Cambridge Consulting Society, 180 Degrees Consulting, iTeams or the Cambridge Hub’s Incubation Project


Join consultancy communities at Cambridge (societies panel) to find out more about how you can be involved with consultancy projects whilst you study.

Hear from other Cambridge students who successfully secured a consultancy offer and what they did to get there in our ‘My journey to a consultancy offer’ series: 

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

Large firms 

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. 

Internships tend to be advertised in January and February, but it is useful to sign-up for any vacancy alerts 12 months in advance to ensure you don’t miss any opening dates.  

Boutique firms and Small-medium firms 

Applications can be more flexible in smaller firms who specialise in only a few areas of consultancy, such as economics, media, data and marketing. You may find they recruit for ‘immediate start’ positions in the summer or close their applications later in the cycle compared to the large firms (e.g. November – January). If you come across a firm you are particularly interested in you can also consider getting in touch with a speculative application. Though do ensure you have read their recruitment pages well first, for any indication of when they recruit.  

Making applications  

You should demonstrate the following in all application: 

  • A commitment to consulting 
  • Impressive extra-curriculars 
  • A strong analytical approach 
  • An ability to positively articulate and defend your approach. 
  • That you are outcomes and impact driven in all you do – even in your study 

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 Graduates First which both have numerical tests. 

Watch our briefing Consulting application success series.

Watch the 'My journey to a consultancy offer playlist' (insights from Cambridge Alumni and students, PhDs, Medics who have secured an offer).

Look at the Quick Guide to Recruitment 2023/24.

Interview resources 

  • Casecoach (practice fit and case interviews online) 
  • ShortlistMe (practice strengths & competency interviews online) 

Psychometric Tests 

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

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

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

Video resources on-demand 

You may be interested in accessing our video podcasts, giving you information at a time to suit you. 

Catch-up on past talks page  

If the links don't open, from the main website (go to > Which career > catch-up on past talks > consultancy) 

Guides to a career in consultancy 

Employer and society Panels 

Interview resources 

  • Casecoach (practice fit and case interviews online) 
  • ShortlistMe (practice strengths & competency interviews online) 

Psychometric Tests 

Connect with Alumni 

Through Handshake or LinkedIn.


Other things you should know

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

What to do next

Now you have looked at this page, think about your next steps. Everyone's journey is different. There are many ways to move forward. Here are some actions you could take now: