The best known way to break into consulting is through an undergraduate or MBA degree. However, that is by no means the only path. These days, consulting firms are much more amenable to hiring candidates from outside these two traditional paths. Today, we’re going over how you can break into consulting with a non-MBA masters degree.
Why Is It Hard to Break Into Consulting as a Non-MBA Masters Student?
It sounds odd right? Even non-MBA students at top programs and Ivy league schools often have trouble successfully recruiting for consulting jobs. There are a few reasons for this.
First, human resources teams like to be efficient. HR teams are usually structured at each firm to focus on one or various schools at the undergraduate and MBA levels. This means that they are responsible for the candidates within their assigned schools, and anybody outside of that is outside of their typical workflow. Any students coming from other programs lie in a recruiting’s no-man’s land.
HR teams have to collect candidate resumes, host on-campus info sessions, and organize interviews specifically for the schools they are assigned. Any students outside of their jurisdiction (AKA non-MBA masters students) will often need a special recruiting process. A final round spot designated for MBA students can’t just be given away to a non-MBA masters student.
Another reason breaking into management consulting as a non-MBA masters student is challenging is because consulting firms already know they are going to get quality candidates from undergraduate and MBA programs. MBA programs in particular are big feeders into consulting . With so many qualified candidates from the two pre-defined pools, there aren’t too many spots left for non-MBA masters students.
How to Break Into Consulting with a Non-MBA Masters
With all this said, it’s still very possible to break into consulting with a non-MBA masters degree – we’ve helped thousands of candidates do it! Our most important tips.
Network Your Butt Off
Networking is by far the most important thing you can do. Networking will help you get in front of consultants who could be swayed by your story and passion. Of course, make sure that your story makes sense, run it by any friends you have in the field before reaching out.
It’s always harder to reject a candidate if you have had an engaging thirty minute conversation with him or her. At the very least, consultants will be able to provide valuable preparation advice or guide you to programs that best fit your background. Check out more on networking for consulting to learn how best to do this.
Apply for the Right Position
As a non-MBA Masters student with <3 years of work experience, you fit in a pre-MBA role. Apply for the wrong role, and your application is automatically discarded.
Have 5+ years of professional experience? That’s when you apply for the equivalent of a post-MBA role. Not sure which position titles at each firm mean? We break them down in the Consulting Firm Directory.
Gain Consulting or Brand-Name Experience
We don’t mean that you should gain internship experiences at McKinsey, BCG, or Bain. Instead, showcasing internship experience at a boutique consulting firm (either summer or in-semester experience) can demonstrate your real-world use of consulting skills.
If you don’t have consulting experience, pursue brand-name experience. At this stage of your career, brand-name matters more than function, so don’t be too picky. Consulting firms love to see that you’ve been through a competitive interview process before, and that you know how to operate in a fast-paced corporate environment.
Gain Expertise in an Area
Most consulting firms are organized into different practice areas or industries, such as healthcare, technology, or TMT. Consulting firms may value your expertise in a particular field if they are trying to build out specific practice areas, and this could be your path to breaking into management consulting.
If you are interested in a specific practice area, make sure you network with folks inside of that practice area. Just be aware that working inside of a specific practice will limit your industry exposure, and thus your exit opportunities down the road.
Breaking into management consulting with a non-MBA masters is not easy, but then, breaking into consulting from Harvard Business School isn’t easy either. If you spin your story in the right way and network effectively, there are opportunities that will be available. Work hard, send those cold emails, and do not give up!
If you want expert help, start here.