Consulting is a growing segment within the public sector that includes working for private-sector companies, including major consulting firms, and also for public organizations in every conceivable area, from transportation to education, health care, environmental policy, and technology. Consultants are professional advisors to organizations on an area in which they have a high level of expertise. They may be called upon to conduct research, evaluate issues, and help organizations develop solutions to existing problems. Though specific projects can vary widely in terms of subject matter and scope, a consultant’s main role is to help clients respond to challenges, make informed decisions, and carry out effective policy changes.
A Day in the Life of a Consultant
There is no typical day in the life of a consultant. Much of a consultant’s work life depends on what type of consultant they are and who they work for. Consultants for major private-sector firms are likely to spend up to 80 percent of their time traveling to work on-site with their clients. There are two basic ways in which consultants typically complete their work. In most cases, consultants are asked to assist with a project by providing their expertise in a certain field. They attend meetings, plan and execute research initiatives, and help a company or organization determine the best solution to a particular problem. In these situations, the consultant’s input provides a third-party perspective that can help pinpoint specific areas in need of change.
Another approach to consulting is a facilitative approach. This approach places the consultant in a position to evaluate the solutions created by the company or organization itself, which allows the company or organization to complete a majority of the work in-house. The consultant simply gives input on the solution and helps tailor it to best meet the organization’s needs.
Public-sector consultants typically specialize in areas that best match their individual interests. When a company, government agency, or other organization requires assistance, they are most likely to call on a consultant who possesses a strong background in a specific area to ensure they receive reputable expertise. Consultants in all fields typically work under tight deadlines, requiring long hours and many nights and weekends.
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Salary and Benefits
The median salary for someone working in management consulting is around $85,000, depending upon experience and the field in which the consultant works. Employees of major private firms make considerably more, with an average starting salary in excess of $130,000 per year. This salary is often supplemented with bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing. Consultants who are not self-employed usually receive a standard benefits package.
The education requirements of consultants are as varied as the areas in which they work, although an individual would typically have several years of professional experience coupled with a graduate degree such as a Master of Public Administration or Master of Business Administration.
Challenges and Opportunities
The need for specialized knowledge and information is growing rapidly in all areas, including private businesses, nonprofits, public-sector businesses, and government agencies. Because of this growing need, the demand for consultants is also increasing. Due to the high-income potential in this field as well as specializations that allow candidates to choose an area that interests them, competition is high. Growing international economies create new opportunities for consultants to build effective global strategies for both the public and private sectors.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that management consulting will grow by about 19 percent by the year 2020. Local, state, and federal government agencies have an increasing need to cut costs, a common task for management consultants.
One of the most common trends among management consulting today is for public-sector offices as well as private businesses to hire their own full-time consultants instead of relying solely on consulting firms. This provides organizations with easy access to a consultant for every issue they encounter. Internal consultants also possess an intimate knowledge of the organization in which they work, allowing them to tailor their work to meet the needs of the organization.