This industry is the fastest growing and one of the highest paying. Job competition will be keen; the most educated and experienced workers will have the best job prospects. About 21 percent of all workers are self-employed. About 74 percent of workers have a bachelor’s or higher degree; 60 percent of all jobs are in managerial, business, financial, and professional occupations.
Often working behind the scenes, these firms offer technical expertise, information, contacts, and tools that clients cannot provide themselves. They then work with their clients to provide a service or solve a problem.
Usually, one of the resources that consulting firms provide to clients is expertise—in the form of knowledge, experience, special skills, or creativity; another resource is time or personnel that the client cannot spare. Clients include large and small companies in the private sector; Federal, State, and local government agencies; institutions, such as hospitals, universities, unions, and nonprofit organizations; and foreign governments or businesses.
The management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry is diverse. Almost anyone with expertise in a given area can enter consulting. Management consulting firms advise on almost every aspect of corporate operations. This includes marketing, finance, corporate strategy and organization, manufacturing processes, information systems and data processing, electronic commerce (e-commerce) or business, and human resources including benefits and compensation. Scientific and technical consulting firms provide technical advice relating to almost all nonmanagement organizational activities, including compliance with environmental and workplace safety and health regulations, the application of technology, and knowledge of sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics.
Industry organization. Larger consulting firms usually provide expertise in a variety of areas, whereas smaller consulting firms generally specialize in one area of consulting. Administrative management and general management consulting services firms, for example, offer advice on an organization’s day-to-day operations, such as budgeting, asset management, strategic and financial planning, records management, and tax strategy. A manufacturing firm building a new factory might seek the help of management consultants to determine in which geographic location it would incur the lowest startup costs. A family opening a new restaurant might hire a management consulting firm to help develop a business plan and provide tax advice. Management consulting firms also might advise clients in the implementation and use of the latest office technology or computer programs that could increase office productivity. Some clients might turn to management consulting firms to manage the financial aspects of their business. Management consultants also may provide insight into why a division of the company is not profitable or may recommend an investment strategy that meets the client’s needs.
Effective management of a client’s human capital is the primary work of consulting firms that offer human resources consulting services. Firms that focus on this area advise clients on effective personnel policies, employee salaries and benefits, employee recruitment and training, and employee assessment. A client with high employee turnover might seek the help of a human resources consulting firm in improving its retention rate. Human resources consulting firms also might be asked to help determine the appropriate level of employer and employee contributions to health care and retirement plans. Increasingly, firms are outsourcing, or contracting out, the administrative functions of their human resources division to human resources consulting firms that manage timekeeping and payroll systems and administer employee benefits.
One human resources consulting specialty is executive search consulting or executive recruiting. Firms in this industry often are referred to as “headhunters.” Executive search consulting firms are involved in locating the best candidates for top-level management and executive positions. Clients hire executive recruiters in order to save time and preserve confidentiality. Executive search firms keep a large database of executives’ resumes and search this database for clients in order to identify candidates who would likely complement the client’s corporate culture and strategic plan. Information on these candidates is then submitted to the clients for their selection. Executive search consulting firms also might conduct prescreening interviews and reference and background checks. Some executive search consulting firms specialize in recruiting for a particular industry or geographic area, while others conduct general searches.
Marketing consulting services firms provide assistance to firms in areas ranging from product development to customer service. They may advise on new product marketability, new and existing product pricing (to maximize sales and profit), forecasting sales, planning and implementing a marketing strategy, and improving customer service to help the firm’s overall image. A pharmaceutical firm, for example, might seek advice as to whether it should remove a drug from the market, or a retail clothing chain might seek advice regarding the most effective way to market and sell its clothes—in a direct-mail or online catalog or over the telephone. Clients also might seek the help of a marketing consultant to set up business franchises or license their products.
Another specialty within management consulting is process, physical distribution, and logistics consulting services. Firms in this industry specialize in the production and distribution of goods, from the first stages of securing suppliers to the delivery of finished goods to consumers. Such firms give advice on improvements in the manufacturing process and productivity, product quality control, inventory management, packaging, order processing, the transportation of goods, and materials management and handling. A domestic manufacturing firm might hire a logistics consulting firm to calculate shipping rates and import duties for goods being exported or to determine the most cost-effective method of shipping products. Consulting firms in this segment of the industry also advise on the latest technology that links suppliers, producers, and customers together to streamline the manufacturing process. Finally, these consulting firms might suggest improvements to the manufacturing process in order to use inputs better, increase productivity, or decrease the amount of excess inventory.
While some management consulting firms specialize in a particular business process, others provide a range of business services specific to one industry, such as health care. Many professionals—for example, doctors—are highly skilled in the technical aspects of their job, but lack the business expertise to manage their practice effectively. Management consultants advise these clients regarding issues such as staff recruitment, compensation and benefits, asset management, marketing, and other business operations. Some management consultants offer advice on matters pertaining directly to the industry in question. For instance, management consultants for the health care industry may advise on compliance with biohazard removal and patient confidentiality regulations, avoidance of malpractice suits, and methods of dealing with managed care and health insurance companies. Industries such as legal services, telecommunication, and utilities also have consulting firms that specialize in industry-specific issues.
Scientific and technical consulting services firms provide services similar to those offered by management consulting firms, but the information is not management-related. One of the largest specialties in scientific and technical consulting services is environmental consulting services. Environmental consulting firms identify and evaluate environmental problems, such as inspecting sites for water contaminants, and offer solutions. Some firms in this segment of the industry advise clients about controlling the emissions of environmental pollutants, cleaning up contaminated sites, establishing a recycling program, and complying with government environmental laws and regulations. A real estate developer, for example, might hire an environmental consulting firm to help design and develop property without damaging natural habitats, such as wetlands. A manufacturing or utilities firm might hire environmental consultants to assess whether the firm is meeting government emissions standards, in order to avoid penalties before government regulators inspect the property in question. Finally, many government agencies contract work out to environmental consulting firms to assess environmental contamination in a particular geographic area or to evaluate the costs and benefits of new regulations.
[ Excerpted from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2008-09 Edition - Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services ]