Is consulting the right career path for you?

  • Do you like to ask why?
  • Do you like to do new things and tackle new problems?
  • Do you enjoy working with a variety of people in a team environment?
  • Do you like solving complex problems?
  • Do you thrive in an intellectually challenging work environment?

You will succeed in consulting if you have:

  • A logical and structured approach to solving problems
  • A penchant to think strategically (big picture)
  • Highly effective communication skills (written and spoken)
  • Strong rapport skills
  • Comfort with ambiguity
  • Strong analytical skills
  • The capacity to synthesize new insights from research
  • Ability to translate new insights into actionable recommendations

Courses on campus

NBA 5690 (Management Consulting Essentials), 1.5 credits, Spring Meets twice a week, completed before Spring Break 

This half-semester course will help students learn about consulting and the skills required to be a successful consultant using a combination of lectures, case work, individual and team work. 

NBA 6590 (Management of Financial Institutions), OPI, Spring Meets once a week, second half-term 

This half-semester course examines contemporary management issues facing management of financial institutions. Current issues in consumer and corporate financial services are addressed from a business manager, CEO, and consultant perspective. 

Researching Companies & Postings

Mentors with consulting experience

Careers Beyond Academia has a number of mentors eager to speak with PhD students and postdocs. Please contact our office at gradcareers@cornell.edu to connect with the mentor that aligns with your interests!  Feel free to reach out to alumni and friends on this list to learn how they transitioned from their PhD to consulting roles. Careers Beyond Academia is also very happy to make warm introductions.

Bob Balk

Mark Bayer, strategic consulting

Scott Dillenback

Yue Geng

Alison Gerlach

Fiona Harnischfeger

David Hochman

Nick Horton

Colin Jermain

John McKain, higher ed and non-profit consulting

Mike Meador, management consulting

Yasamin Miller

Pamela Nasr

John Neuman, President & CEO 1492 Consulting (strategic)

Bobby Nijjar, life sciences consultant

Lev Perelman

Alberto Purwada, Healthcare Analyst

Sepehr Saroukhani, management consultant

Sri Vedachalam

Christopher Vredenburgh

Rick Wang, Boston Consulting Group[

Marcus Wilkes

Mark Wilson, business/idea consulting

Hansen Xu, Boston Consulting Group

Sylvia Yang

Xiaohua Yang

What is consulting?

There are two major definitional focuses for consulting - one which is focused on the profession and one which focuses on the process:

Broad functional view – any staff position

Fritz Steele  – “…any form of providing help on the content, process, or structure of a task or series of tasks, where the consultant is not actually responsible for doing the task itself but is helping those who are”

Peter Block  – “You are consulting any time you are trying to change or improve a situation but have no direct control over the implementation”

Professional services approach

IMC – “management consulting is the provision of independent advice and assistance about the process of management to clients with management responsibility”

Clients hire consultants to coach, develop alternatives, advocate, and lead. Consultants generally provide services pertaining to one or more of the following:

  • Strategy development
  • Operational improvement
  • Organizational change management
  • Development of coaching skills
  • Technology implementation

Additional resources for consulting

Tips to improve your resume for consulting roles

Best Companies to Work for

Top Consulting Firms by IvyExec

Finding Consulting Companies

  • LinkedIn Group –PhD to Consulting
  • Vault rankings of consulting firms
  • Inside Consulting
  • List of top management & IT consulting firms
  • Consulting magazine

Preparing for Case Interviews

In addition to the books below, consider these resources:

  • Vault Guide to The Case Interview – a book by Mark Asher and Eric Chung
  • Case Interview Secrets – book and website by Victor Cheng
  • Inside Consulting – from the authors of Management Consulting: A Complete Guide to the Industry
  • Interview prep advice on the BCG website
  • Interview prep advice on the McKinsey & Company website
  • Cornell Career Services has a guide on case interviews

Here's an example of a student and postdoc run consulting company

Cornell Tech grads launch Oystir, a free service helping PhDs find non-academic jobs. Create a 1min. profile and connect with jobs.

Article on consulting-the career path not (oft) taken

Case Questions & Interview Tips

CQ Interactive

Practice your case questions with CQ Interactive!

PhDs are sought after in consulting

Did you know strategic and technical management consulting firms specifically recruit PhDs? According to this Nature article by Peter Fiske, Bridge to Business, these are the top skills they seek:

  • critical data analysis to gain insights
  • resilience in the face of uncertainty
  • ability to operate with limited resources
  • ability to construct and test hypotheses, build and validate models
  • comfort with advanced statistical algorithms that analyze trends and identify important variables
  • coordination and scheduling of disparate resources and individuals
  • ability to critically reframe problems to identify novel solutions
  • describing complex ideas and methodologies

Clubs & organizations

Cornell Graduate Consulting Club (CGCC) - CGCC is the bridge between Cornell non-MBA graduate students and management consulting firms. For Cornell students, CGCC strives to build an on-campus consulting community by education, networking, and pro bono consulting practices. For recruiters, CGCC provided convenient access to Cornell talent and proudly presents the next generation of professional consultants.

Johnson Consulting Club - The Johnson Consulting Club is a student-run organization, with one of the consultants in residence as advisor. The club's mission is two-fold: to assist MBA student members in pursuing careers in consulting and to develop and nurture relationships with top consulting firms.

Consulting Club @Cornell Tech - The mission of the Consulting Club at Cornell Tech is to create a community of Cornell Tech students who are interested in Consulting and intend to invest time and energy in enhancing their relevant knowledge and in refining their skills so that they may better know the sector and be prepared by the time they interview for a position in Consulting.