How to become a business consultant

A business consultant is a diverse role that offers many opportunities to specialise, but what exactly is a business consultant and what skills do you need for the role?

Rhiannon Philps Last updated on 30 November 2020.
How to become a business consultant

When looking at possible careers in the field of business, there are a number of roles available. A business consultant, or a business advisor, provides direction and guidance to companies to help them grow and be successful.

Read our guide to find out more about what the role of business consultant entails, and what skills and qualifications you will need for this career.

What is a business consultant?

A business consultant is an expert that acts as an advisor to businesses. Consultants can look objectively at a company, helping business owners to work out solutions to their problems and work out the best approach to advancing their business.

Business consultants perform an audit of a business to help resolve any specific issues and come up with solutions to grow their operations. A consultant will look at the company’s organisation, performance, and efficiency to identify what might be holding the business back and where they can make improvements.

Consultants can work with a range of businesses. They may help and advise start-ups, supporting them as they make their idea into a real business; struggling businesses that are looking for ways to overcome the challenges they face; or simply businesses that want to grow and expand their operations.

There are different types of business consulting jobs, depending on the type of consultant you are. Some positions will be more like the role of a teacher or coach, as you would share your knowledge with business owners so they can then go and implement their plans alone. Other consultants are more hands-on, guiding and working with business owners through a certain project, helping them to set and achieve their targets.

Consultants can work in different sectors, with some choosing to work more generally with businesses as a whole, while others choose to specialise in areas like marketing, accounting, human resources, and management.

Many consultants will work for a consultancy firm, but once they have the experience and network of contacts, a business consultant can become self-employed.

What duties does a business consultant have?

Business consultants will work with different clients and, in each case, will need to get a complete understanding of how the business operates and what it hopes to achieve in the long-term.

Day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of a business consultant many include:

  • Building a relationship with your business clients and their employees
  • Working with clients to develop business plans and strategies
  • Identifying any problems in a business
  • Advising on finance e.g. find ways to reduce costs
  • Analysing current data and business practices
  • Coming up with new ideas and fresh viewpoints to move a business forward
  • Improving productivity and efficiency
  • Helping to develop marketing strategies
  • Networking with clients and potential clients
  • Monitoring progress and development of your clients’ business- assessing how effective the changes have been
  • Running workshops and training

How much do business consultants earn?

According to Glassdoor the average business consultant salary in the UK is £41,000 a year. However, salaries are likely to depend on experience.

What skills are needed to be a business consultant?

Business consultants should be knowledgeable about how businesses work and what is needed to be successful. Much of this knowledge will come with experience, but there are some key skills that it will be useful for business consultants to have:

  • Business acumen and an interest in business
  • Good people/interpersonal skills.
  • Good verbal and written communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Able to analyse and understand data
  • Able to work under pressure and meet deadlines
  • Can work effectively in a team
  • Organised
  • Problem solver
  • Numerical skills
  • IT literate

Foreign language skills may be desirable, as several consultancy firms work with international companies.

How do I become a business consultant?

You can become a business consultant in several different ways. Because much of this role depends on your overall skills and experience, there is no set qualification that is essential to becoming a business consultant.

Some relevant A-Levels may include Business Studies, Economics, and Maths.

If you want to go to university, any business-related degree, such as business management or business enterprise, will give you a good basis to pursue a career as a business consultant, although it is possible for graduates of any discipline to move into business consultancy.

Many consulting firms don’t require a specialist business degree. They will accept applications from individuals who studied different disciplines, providing they can demonstrate they have the necessary skills.

Several consultancy firms offer graduate placement schemes. These will give you experience and insight into how organisations operate, and give you the opportunity to work with different clients and maybe different industries, depending on where you are placed.

Completing a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), either full time or part time while you are in employment, could help you to become a business consultant. Usually you would do an MBA once you have gained some experience in the workplace.

But university and graduate schemes aren’t the only route to becoming a business consultant as you could enter the industry via an apprenticeship. You could do an apprenticeship in junior management consultancy, business and professional services, or other related areas that will pave the way for a career in business consultancy. You would usually need 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C) to do an apprenticeship, and A-Levels or equivalent qualifications for a higher apprenticeship scheme.

You can also get qualifications from approved industry bodies, which will help to give you skills and knowledge in this area and confirm your position as a professional consultant or advisor. For example, you could complete a course and get a qualification from the Institute of Consulting and/or the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI).

Many business consultants may initially start their career employed in different work, whether that’s accounting, finance, HR, or marketing for example. They may choose to later become a business consultant, in which case, they may be able to become a more specialised consultant focusing on their particular expertise.

How do I get work experience?

Experience is key for a business consultant, but this does not need to be experience specifically in a consultancy firm. Any time you spend in a business will be valuable experience for a consulting role, as you will see how a company is organised, and understand how different business operations work.

For more specific consulting experience, there are graduate schemes and internships at major firms such as Accenture, Deloitte, PwC, and many more.

However, there are also small consulting firms across the UK that would be willing to offer work experience placements. These companies may also take on more permanent trainees and support you through the courses and qualifications that will help you to become a business consultant, so it is worth contacting consulting companies about the opportunities they can offer.

Where can I go for more information?

For more information on a career in business consulting, as well as information on other career opportunities, the National Careers Service and Prospects have many useful resources to help you make your decision.

About the author:

Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more

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