Consultants fall into three main categories, who work with their clients on different issues and in different ways.
The good news is that as a student with good qualifications and skills, graduate opportunities in all of these areas of consulting are potentially open to you. The bad news is that competition for many consulting roles is intense – so the sooner you decide which branch you're most interested in, the better.
It's also worth bearing in mind that it can be hard to move from one branch of consulting to another once your career is underway, meaning it's an advantage to know before you start making applications which direction you think you want to head in.
Types of consulting: strategy consulting
Strategy consultants think about a business's future at an organisation-wide level, usually considering the potential impact of a significant change to a business's structure or its overall operations. The ultimate aim is usually to increase the client's revenues.
Strategy consultants might consider whether a business should expand into China, or take over a competitor. When working with a government body, they might think about what new services it should provide and whether any services need to be shut down.
Because the focus here is generally on increasing revenue, the work can be more numerically driven than that found in other areas of consulting. But you can succeed here with a good degree in any discipline, as long as you're receptive to working in a numerate way.
There are fewer roles available in strategy consulting than in management or technology consulting, so it's statistically harder (but not impossible) to get a job in this area.
Types of consulting: management consulting
Management consulting, also known as operational consulting, focuses on the way in which a client's organisation functions. The aim is usually to establish what it can do in the short to medium term to work more effectively, which often means reducing costs. Management consultants could potentially give advice relating to one or more of a number of different areas of a client's business, including finance, human resources and risk management.
Management consultants might consider whether a manufacturing company's supply chain could be streamlined, or whether a firm should outsource its recruitment processes.
Management consulting is often about looking in detail at the way a business currently works and deciding where improvements can be made. Working here is therefore very people-focused and being able to communicate well with the client's management team and employees is particularly important.
Getting any role in consulting is tough, but there are a wide range of management consulting graduate schemes.
Types of consulting: technology consulting
Technology consulting is all about using technology to enhance the workings of a business. A role here could involve thinking about the strategic use of technology to help a business achieve its long-term aims, or about how existing IT systems could be improved to make a company more cost-efficient or to increase its revenues.
Technology consultants might help a local council design an app enabling its residents to report graffiti online, thus saving the council costs. Or they might work with a retail company to create and implement the technology needed to set up a loyalty card scheme and use it to target advertising more effectively.
Graduates who want to get into technology consulting need a strong interest in IT and technology, but it's not necessary to have extensive technical knowledge when you start – you'll be trained in everything you need to know as you progress.
The competition is tough, as with consulting in general, but there are a large number of graduate roles in technology consulting available at industry big players and at technology specialists.