Do I Need an MBA for Consulting?

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  • Most of the top management consulting firms recruit MBA-holders from top business schools.
  • Any type of MBA can help prepare you for a career as a consultant.
  • Most business schools house consulting clubs to help students make connections.
  • Management consultants are among the highest-paid business professionals.

When companies work on projects requiring specialized expertise and experience they don't have in-house, they often seek guidance from outside consultants — usually at a very high fee. Management consultants can be among the highest earners in the business world.

While you don't need an MBA to become a consultant, this degree can provide major advantages. If your career goal is to become a highly paid management consultant working for a major consulting firm like McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, or Bain & Company, your chances of getting hired without an MBA may be pretty slim.

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Additionally, if you plan to start your own consulting business in marketing, finance, operations, technology, or another related field, an MBA can prove very helpful. Earning an MBA through an accredited program can provide the skills and experience you need to succeed. An MBA also signals to clients that you possess a level of expertise in your field.

Why Get an MBA for Consulting?

As a consultant, you will likely interact with diverse clientele. You will rely on a combination of management, analytical, and people skills. An MBA program can help you develop both the hard and soft skills needed to succeed as a consultant.

Necessary abilities typically include leadership, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. You can also develop skills in strategy, analytics, operations management, marketing, economics, finance, technology, international business, and risk management.

In addition, most MBA programs allow you to choose a concentration or specialization. Consulting firms may prefer candidates with an MBA concentration over a general MBA. Some business schools offer specific concentrations in consulting or management consulting, although these programs are uncommon.

Most MBA graduates who enter consulting do so after earning an MBA with a concentration in strategic management, project management, global management, product management, organizational management, marketing, information technology, or business management. Many of these concentrations include coursework specifically relating to consulting.

While there are several advantages to getting an MBA if you want to pursue a career as a consultant, it may not be the best solution for everyone who is planning to enter the field. Decide for yourself by reviewing some of the pros and cons listed below.

Pros of Getting an MBA for Consulting

Pros

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    You can improve your chances of landing a lucrative job straight out of graduate school by earning an MBA. According to the 2020-2021 Best B-Schools Covid-19 Online Learning Survey, MBA graduates who entered consulting after completing programs at Dartmouth, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford earned a median annual salary of $165,000.
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    On-campus recruiting programs are especially strong for MBA graduates who want to work for major consulting firms. Management consulting positions are highly coveted among MBA students, and competition for open positions is strong. On-campus recruiting allows you to bypass the traditional job search where you are lumped in with hundreds of other candidates.
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    Business schools can help you make connections by hosting consulting clubs and organizations. You can hear from guest speakers and learn more about the industry.
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    You can apply your expertise to a variety of industries and business sectors. If you eventually decide to switch careers, an MBA can make the transition much easier.
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    Most MBA programs focus on developing leadership, collaboration, and communication skills. You must tap into these skills when working with clients and cross-functional teams representing different backgrounds, job functions, and industries.
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    Some MBA programs provide opportunities to work directly with companies on consulting projects, which allows you to gain valuable experience.
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    Most of the top business schools offer opportunities to earn an MBA online from anywhere in the country. This could allow you to continue working while pursuing a degree.
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    MBA programs help you form relationships with students, faculty, and business leaders. Business school alumni connections can be especially helpful when seeking consulting opportunities.
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    Some management consulting firms will help pay for your continuing education if you're a top performer.

Cons of Getting an MBA for Consulting

Cons

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    An MBA is not a requirement to enter the field of consulting unless you plan to work for a top management consulting firm. Several years of work experience in your field is often enough to showcase your expertise as a consultant.
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    Your chances of getting a job in consulting through on-campus recruiting may be lower if you don't attend a top business school.
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    An MBA requires a significant amount of time and financial resources. If you've already entered the consulting field with a bachelor's degree, you may be better off building your skills and credibility by earning a certificate in consulting or a closely related field.
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    You may need to put your professional career on hold while you pursue your degree if you plan to go to graduate school full time.
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    An MBA doesn't guarantee that you will land a position as a consultant. Although business schools prepare you for the process, it's still up to you to do the legwork.

Alternatives to Getting an MBA for Consulting

  • Earn an accredited small business consultant certification or accredited SME consultant certification through the Association of Accredited Small Business Consultants.
  • Become certified in another business discipline like project management, human resources, accounting, marketing, sales, economics, analytics, operations management, supply chain management, or information technology. Being certified in any of these subject areas can help you prove your qualifications as a consultant.
  • Earn a certificate in consulting from an accredited business school. Certificate programs are less expensive and faster to complete than an MBA program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting an MBA for Consulting

Do I need an MBA to be a consultant?

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An MBA is not a requirement to enter the field of consulting, but the degree can improve your chances of landing work and earning a higher wages.

Is an MBA worth it for consulting?

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It can definitely be worth getting an MBA if you plan to work for a large management consulting firm. Most top consulting firms recruit heavily from top business schools.

Which MBA is best for consulting?

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Just about any type of MBA can help prepare you for a career as a consultant. If the school you plan to attend doesn't offer an MBA with a concentration in management consulting, a general MBA or an MBA with a concentration in any business field can help you achieve your goal.

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Krystal Covington, MBA

Krystal Covington, MBA

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients with foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships.

Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills, and connect with other high-achieving women. Covington received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Image Credit: Getty Images | Five | Moment

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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