Musings on the Makeup of Consulting Analysts

Heidi wrote a very thoughtful post that profiles my blog. Her blog is currently oriented towards the research of the management consulting profession. Her investigation appears to be in part motivated by an investment banking friend that indicated, "... you should be a management consultant. You're a good question askerer and it suits your personality". She is trying to learn more about how to get an internship with one of the top firms. In my opinion, the Vault is a go-to source for information on careers in consulting.

Heidi's post made me realize that I have posted very little on analyst positions within consulting firms. Analyst positions are non-partner track positions within a firm. Often analysts are hired into a consulting firm with the expectation that after a couple of years with a firm that the analyst may return to get an MBA degree (after which, the analyst may choose to return to a consulting firm at an associate-level position [which is an entry-level, partner track position]).

To set some additional context, the most popular paths to becoming a management consultant fall into three categories:

  1. Get an MBA at a top school and get a decent shot at becoming an associate with a firm (this is the path I took into the field)
  2. Get a PhD and get a shot at becoming a consultant with a consulting firm that has a track record of hiring PhDs
  3. Get an undergraduate degree (e.g., business, economics, liberal arts, engineering) and get a shot at an analyst position with a consulting firm

Although analysts vary widely, the consulting analysts I have worked with strike me on a number of dimensions:

  1. Good to excellent at marketing research, combing the Internet, and finding sources of information - many of the analysts I have seen are better than the average associate, manager, principal, or partner within the firm in terms of obtaining factual business information to support a project, whether via press releases, research reports, company filings and financials, company knowledge base, questionaire, or even client secretary.
  2. Good to excellent vertical industry knowledge - it is not unusual for analysts to know more about industry trends, stats, happenings, etc. within a vertical (e.g., healthcare or mobile wireless) than 1st- or 2nd-year associates who may be more focused on project concerns and problem solving.
  3. Diligent, organized, and curious - based on a combination of having to both comb through tons of information and support numerous consultants working particular workstreams of a consulting engagement, analysts have to be diligent and organized. Curiousity is something else I've noticed in many analysts. Many are hungry to learn and to seek knowledge.

Analyst positions are great ways to enter the consulting area. Although I haven't performed a detailed numerical analysis, I would suggest looking at larger firms (e.g., Booz Allen, Accenture) for these types of positions. It is my feeling that smaller firms tend to have much fewer of these positions available proportionate to demand (which makes it hard to land a position from a pure probability pespective).

Update (1/25/07): Amaresh has another great point below, which I replicate here "One more point I will add is that most of the good analysts have atleast one very solid core skill (i.e. doing very good research,financial analysis, statistics etc.), which they have developed during their undergraduate project or course work."

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