How to Become a Business Consultant: An MBA Can Help

Expert business consultants are respected for their opinions and advice. Business leaders trust consultants with proven track records and backgrounds in advanced analysis and strategy development.

An MBA can help you break into the world of consultancy by giving you the knowledge, tools, and connections to become a trustworthy expert. The 100% online Master of Business Administration from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University is an option that focuses on real-world, practical education.

Equipped with the skills and knowledge gained in an MBA program, you can qualify for positions with an average starting salary of $76,000. Experienced consultants can earn upwards of $133,000, plus commissions and signing bonuses.

Business consultant is a broad classification, and there are many different paths an MBA graduate can take, depending on their skills, experiences, and interests. Salaries can cover a wide range, based on industry and region.

Many MBA graduates find consulting exciting because it offers the ability to choose a focus that best appeals to their personal tastes. Consultants can shape their careers based on personal preferences such as ideal work-life balance.

What Does a Business Consultant Do?

The core responsibility of a business consultant is to provide professional advice on a particular area. Some consultants are more generalized than others. In fact, one of the reasons that so many MBA graduates flock to consulting is the freedom afforded by the role. Individuals can pursue specific areas that appeal to their unique interests.

Some consultants work for companies as employees, while other start their own business. Likewise, businesses may call upon internal consultants by having someone from one department help out in another. Or, they may hire external consultants for temporary assistance.

Generally, the goal of a consultancy engagement is to provide deep insights that otherwise would not be otherwise. For example, if an organization faces a novel business challenge with which it has no previous experience, it might call upon a consultant for help developing a new strategy.

Some of the tasks a consultant might perform for a client include:

  • Fact finding: Consultants may review documents and conduct research to support the business decision-making process.
  • Strategy: Consultants may look at two or more proposed strategies and determine the advantages and disadvantages of each. This information can be used to develop an action plan.
  • Documentation: When consultants make recommendations for process changes, they are often asked to create documentation so the business can continue to act on previously identified best practices.
  • Analysis: Some consultants may look at the big picture of an organization to determine where resources are wasted or processes could be more efficient. In doing so, they may establish key performance indicators to track the progress of improvement efforts.

Business consultants with niche specialties may provide support to a specific industry or vertical, while more generalized consultants may move between different types of organizations. Additionally, freelance consultants may spend more of their time sourcing and nurturing new clients.

What Makes a Good Business Consultant?

A good business consultant needs to have a well-rounded background in the principles of strategic thinking. In addition, these professionals should have the communication skills to quickly understand problems and convey solutions.

Characteristics of a great business consultant include:

  • Flexibility: Successful consultants maintain a level head when they encounter a new challenge. They’re willing to try new things,interact with new people, and have the quick learning skills to adapt to their new environment. While consultants may settle into a routine while working for a specific client, they’re also happy to move on to something completely different.
  • Curiosity: Dealing with novel businesses challenges means that consultants often need to conduct research. For example, a consultant may need to review business reports to determine the root cause of a problem. They may also need to work with other experts to find the best solution.
  • Passion: At its core, consultancy is about helping others succeed. Great consultants are willing to put in the time and effort to meet their clients’ goals. In addition, they should cultivate communication skills and develop a love of creative problem solving.
  • Discretion: Consultants are often privy to sensitive information. Expert consultants are trusted for their ability to keep secrets.
  • Fortitude: Consultants need to be humble enough to acknowledge their mistakes and bold enough to continue on in the face of adversity. The solutions to complex challenges are often not immediately apparent. Successful consultants have the energy to keep searching for the right path forward.

Ultimately, a successful consultant is someone who is willing to put in their full effort toward solving the problems of others. It can be a highly rewarding position for professionals who want to see the tangible results of their efforts.

What Are The Most Popular Types of Business Consultant Roles?

Business consultants have many options when it comes to choosing a specific career path. Like many MBA degrees that offer unique concentrations, consulting roles typically focus on a specific niche.

Strategy consulting

When senior leaders at an organization need outside expertise, they call upon strategy consultants. For example, say a company wants to save money by closing a factory. The leadership team may call upon a strategy consultant to help them determine the best course of action. The consultant can support their decision-making process by helping to understand which factory should be closed, how much the cost-savings will be, and what changes need to occur to ensure the business can move forward.

Operations consulting

As companies try to reduce costs and generate efficiencies, they may work with operations consultants. These experts focus on procurement strategies, supply chain management and process assessments. They will often get involved in the implementation of a new operations framework.

Financial consulting

In the realm of finance, consultants often help companies find ways to reduce their tax burden and improve the organization’s cash flow. In some cases, consultants may look at investment opportunities and assess the risk posed by each one. Financial consultants may need certification, depending on the type of financial advice they offer.

Human resources consulting

Managing the modern workforce is an important part of running an efficient business. HR consultants help companies develop ethical policies that drive productivity and lower costs. They can identify training gaps, implement wellness programs, and build benefits packages. These professionals need a robust knowledge of labor laws.

Marketing consulting

Considering the sheer number of marketing channels available today, it’s clear why businesses value the input of marketing consultants. These professionals can analyze an organization’s market position and determine the best path toward growth. For instance, marketing consultants may choose digital channels in which to publish content.

Sustainability consulting

To ensure compliance with environmental laws, sustainability consultants help companies understand the impact their business has on the natural environment. They can look for ways to reduce the negative impact of an activity. Likewise, they ensure the company doesn’t violate any local or federal regulations.

There are many more types of business consultants. These examples show that consultants can benefit every aspect of an organization. When internal resources aren’t sufficient to overcome a challenge, consultants can lead the way forward.

Business consultants are valued for their trustworthy advice and expertise.

How Much Do Business Consultants Get Paid?

The nature of consulting can vary greatly depending on an individual’s specialty, years of experience, and other factors. Some consultants may spend their working hours in meetings with corporate leadership, while others are more likely to be found with the accounting team, going over reports and analyzing figures.

Due to this variety, which makes consulting so appealing to many people, salaries fall under a broad range.

According to Glassdoor and PayScale, here’s how consulting salaries can vary based on years of experience:

  • Entry level: $62,000 – $81,000
  • Mid-career: $80,000 – $116,000
  • Experienced: $86,000 – $133,000

Individuals interested in becoming consultants should also keep in mind the number of hours required of the position. Consultants who work for large firms are more likely to work long hours, compared with freelancers who get to set their own schedules.

When interviewing for jobs, consultants should make sure they ask about the average number of hours they will be expected to spend in the office each week. A high-paying job that requires a 70-hour work week may not be able to offer the work-life balance one would hope to have. Entry-level consultants should determine what their ideal work week looks like, and then pursue positions at companies where they’re likely to find a match.

Freelance business consultants set their own rates. Depending on their skill level and the strength of their professional network, they can have the opportunity to earn over six figures annually.

Independent consultants typically charge between $50 and $150 per hour, depending on their level of expertise. Ultimately, this depends on how much clients are willing to spend. Consultants with proven track records are likely to be in high demand, and therefore they can charge a premium for their services.

How do freelance consultants set their rates?

Consultants who choose to go the independent route set their own rates. Beginners often wonder how to set their rates so that they can earn what their expertise is worth, without scaring away clients.

Hourly rate

Consultants who charge by the hour usually determine how much value they can provide in an hour, and then create an estimate for each unique project. For instance, if a consultant decides to charge $50 per hour, he or she will estimate how many hours it will likely take to complete a project, and then multiply that number by the hourly rate.

Project fees

Consultants may also charge a flat rate per project. In these cases, consultants will typically analyze the problem briefly and determine how much value they can add. Then, they charge a percentage of that value. For example, if a consultant believes his or her work will add $50,000 in value, the fee might be $5,000, or 10% of the value added.


Clients that need ongoing work may pay a retainer to keep a consultant on hand. Generally, the organization will pay the consultant a flat fee each month for a set amount of work. For instance, a company might offer a freelance consultant $500 per month for 10 hours of work. This type of payment structure creates more stability for the consultant.

What Kind of Educational Background Is Needed to Become a Business Consultant?

Most consultant positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, though professionals with advanced degrees can typically earn more money. Employers may prefer job seekers with master’s degrees because they are likely to have more in-depth knowledge about their field of study.

Certain types of consultants may need to obtain certifications in order to practice their role. For instance, consultants that take on the role of a financial advisor may need to be certified by the state.

For many consulting positions, experience matters the most. In other words, clients want to work with consultants who have a proven track record of creating value. Therefore, the more success a consultant has, the more opportunities he or she is likely to have in the future. If you can prove that your expertise is genuine and valuable, your skills will be in high demand.

How Can an Online MBA Help You Become a Business Consultant?

An MBA provides a great path to consultant positions because it helps hiring managers identify you as a qualified candidate. MBA holders are trusted for their opinions and knowledge. Some of the ways an MBA can help you become a consultant include:

  • Recruiter visibility: Highlighting an MBA on your resume sends a clear signal to recruiters that you have the skills and experience to qualify for top consulting positions.
  • Networking: An MBA program gives you access to leading experts, educators and professional consultants who can help your career in many ways. Independent consultants also need strong professional networks to find new opportunities.
  • Business etiquette: Within an MBA program, you get to practice the type of work consultants do every day. You learn how to disagree with someone without causing conflict. Practicing the unwritten rules of etiquette can boost your long-term career prospects.
  • Credibility: An MBA from a top school shows other professionals that you can walk the walk and talk the talk. Your MBA ensures your reputation as a trusted expert proceeds your business encounters.

An online MBA offers unique advantages such as:

  • Flexible scheduling: The MBA program is based on an asynchronous model that allows you to work at your own pace while meeting deliverable deadlines
  • Intimate classes: Class sections are kept to fewer than 20 students. Small class sizes help to foster a peer network that will encourage discussion and challenge you.
  • Accessible resources: Resources such as the online library and access to current course materials are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round.
  • Individual attention: Your section instructors will engage and challenge you. In addition, they are available to provide support and coaching on a personal level that can be difficult to find in other MBA programs.

These and other tangible benefits are why hiring managers look for MBAs when filling internal consultant positions or when looking for external help. Likewise, an MBA can prepare entrepreneurs for starting their own consultancy business. Professionals who want to take full control over their professional trajectory can use an MBA to launch their personal businesses.

Importantly, an online MBA gives you the opportunity to enhance your skills and gain new knowledge while you continue to work. The flexibility of an online program is ideally suited to working professionals.

Check out the full business administration curriculum to learn more about how an online MBA can help you get closer to your dream of becoming a business consultant.



Business Consultant Salaries – Glassdoor

Average Experienced Business Consultant Salary – PayScale

How Much Do Consultants Make? – Foundr

Types of Consulting Careers –