Levels and roles in management consulting firms

Soon after you start your research on management and strategy consulting firms, you will notice that there is no common set of title across firms. Sometimes this makes it hard to understand where you would fit in and who you are talking to, especially if you are interviewing.

Although the titles vary, the tasks are similar and mostly you would meet people at six levels. The number of level may increase or decrease by one based on the size of the firm. Below is an attempt to classify the titles and their variations as well as explanation of their roles in the firm. Make sure to check out title variations by firm if the titles below do not make sense.

Analyst:

Analysts typically join the firm after graduating from an undergraduate program. This is usually one to two year position. Depending on the size of the firm, their staffing / pyramid  structure, the entering class size may vary greatly. Typical tasks are:

  • Collecting data for market/company overviews – interviews, surveys, market reports
  • Analytical modeling – analysts do most of excel heavy lifting, models vary from market segmentation to cost reduction

Senior Analyst:

Analysts get promoted to senior analyst after two years. The senior analysts perform similar duties to the analysts but they are expected to assume larger responsibilities e.g. larger interview campaigns, more complex models. Their tasks may involve more client interaction.

This is also a two year role on average. Depending on the career model of the firm they may stay on to become consultants or go back to school for advanced degrees, usually MBAs.

Consultant

One of the two most common points of entry to the firms is the consultant position. The most background for this role is an MBA. However some firms hire other advanced degrees in this role as well.

  • Consultants own a work stream (work module) in the project
  • Structuring the analysis
  • Creating the sections client presentation documents
  • Interacting with the client on a day to day basis on their level
  • Managing upwards to engagement managers and the senior team members in the firm

This is usually two year position. Firms hire large classes of consultants every year.

Engagement manager

Engagement managers typically have several years of post-MBA experience. They are usually specialized in an industry (e.g. auto, pharma, financial services) or a function (Marketing, IT, Organizational Change, Supply Chain).

Engagement managers have several roles in the firm:

  • Client work: Engagement managers own the overall responsibility of the project management, management of junior team, analysts and consultants. The senior team depends on them to get the work done according to quality the standards of the firm and in a timely fashion. They interact heavily with the client as the project leads.
  • Marketing: Engagement managers market firm’s services to new/existing clients, develop white papers about industries
  • People development: They participate in recruiting, screening candidates, campus presentations, informal meeting with candidates, interviewing

Principal

Principals are the bridge between managing engagements and partnerships. One can think of them as partners in training. They assume a variety of roles in the firms

  • Client work: Principals oversee client assignments part time or full time on larger projects. They deal with senior executives with clients, usually at Vice president or C-level (CEO, CFO, CIO, CMO, …).
  • Marketing: Principal usually are aligned to several key clients and develop a market position. They forge a niche and want to be known in the firm and in the marketplace with that niche. They demonstrate thought leadership to build firm’s offerings
  • Sales: Principal are often leads to write and coordinate proposals and participate in sell meetings. They are in active contact with their set of key clients to generate new leads. In some firms, they have sales targets
  • People development: They are active in all aspects of recruiting and may lead overall recruiting efforts

Principals to partner promotion is usually a critical stage in the firms and they duration for principal role may be anywhere between 3 to 5 years.

Partner/Director/Officer and Sr. Partner/Sr. Director

Partners are owners of the firm for the privately held firms and the senior executives in public firms. They are usually elected to partnership.

Partners are responsible for sales and leading service offerings, overall lead for recruiting, development of marketing materials.

For the client work, they are the ultimate authority to approve work and manage the relationship at the senior level.

There are different levels of partnership and promotions depend on performance, sales and service to the firm.

7 thoughts on “Levels and roles in management consulting firms

  1. Thanks for the information. It’s very helpful.
    I’m having issues posting on the forum though. Wanted to bring that to your attention.

    • Thanks for the comment, agree with the forum issues, we decided to focus on the blog for now and removed the forum from the site. Check back when you get a chance and let us know what you think!

  2. The terminology is different in US firms that include both accounting partnerships and non-accounting partnerships: Accounting licensing laws require that only CPAs can be partners in an accounting firm, so calling someone a “partner” in such a firm could be interpreted as claiming they are a licensed CPA. Therefore the consulting partners in such a firm are presented to the public as “principals” to clarify for the US market that they are owners, but not CPAs.

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