Many graduates find their way into consulting jobs through graduate schemes. Learn more about consultancy graduate schemes - what's available, how to apply and where they lead

The increasing number of consultancy graduate programmes has opened up this competitive field, usually the territory of experienced business professionals, to those fresh out of university.

Early in their consultancy careers, graduates can now get to grips with analysing an organisation, and planning and problem solving in order to improve business performance.

Consultants are needed in most sectors, including education, IT and environment and agriculture - to name a few.

Why choose a career in consultancy?

You'll get the unique opportunity to gain an access-all-areas insight into how different organisations operate on a day-to-day basis, providing a depth of knowledge of and experience in your chosen industry.

'A career in management consulting lets you work with different clients and across different industries. Not only does it give graduates an experience and understanding of how different organisations make decisions and get work done, it ultimately makes you more well-rounded, as you're able to draw upon more experiences than peers who have worked in the same company,' explains Nick White, head of junior talent at Fujitsu.

'What's more, as a consultant, you'll learn how to quickly build relationships and develop your problem solving, stakeholder management and communication skills, which are all invaluable in any type of career that you chose,' continues Nick.

You won't need a business degree to start a career in consultancy - many consulting firms welcome graduates from a range of disciplines, to bring together different skill sets and approaches to problem solving.

If you want the opportunity to make a difference, often working with the most high-profile client organisations, then consultancy should be high on your list of careers.

What consultancy graduate schemes are on offer?

Formal consultancy graduate schemes are provided by a number of large, well-known organisations such as Accenture, ATOS, Deloitte, EY, Fujitsu, IBM, HP, KPM and PwC.

As a graduate business consultant at Fujitsu, you'll help clients to use digital technology, develop client strategy, analyse data, drive effective change and optimise business processes. You'll need a strong interest in technology and a willingness to travel, as projects could take you across Fujitsu's European business.

'We advise organisations on how technology can solve their core business challenges and make them more efficient. One week you may be advising a client on how wearable technology will enhance the productivity of their workforce and the next week you may be working on developing an automation solution package, which will help to reduce a client's cost base. On our graduate programme, you'll get exposure to many different projects during your two years with us,' says Nick.

As a Fujitsu graduate you'll receive a £1,000 joining bonus, an annual salary of £29,000 and 25 days' annual leave.

On the 15-month programme at Accenture, you'll work as part of a project team helping client organisations to address their most significant business issues. Early responsibility is a feature of the scheme as is learning through real, live, project-based experience. Other benefits of joining the programme include a competitive salary, generous holiday allowance, hotel and travel discounts, a personal laptop and private healthcare.

At EY, you'll spend two years on the Business Consulting graduate scheme working across a range of industries, including Banking & Capital Markets, media and technology and government and public services, depending on the team you join. You'll have the opportunity to study for a CIMA certificate in Business and Accounting in your first year, and will receive mentoring and training and development opportunities throughout the programme. You can apply to work in Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh and Leeds, and salaries start from £26,700 per year.

How do I apply?

The majority of consulting graduate schemes aim to attract high academic achievers. Typically you'll need:

  • A 2:1 undergraduate qualification - Some organisations may ask for a related degree but this is not always the case; Accenture, Fujitsu, IBM and PwC welcome applications from graduates of any degree discipline.
  • The right combination of soft skills - Fujitsu requires candidates with excellent analytical and communication skills, along with an inquisitive mind and a passion for learning and growth, while PwC look for commercial awareness, courage and integrity and flexibility.
  • A strong and demonstrable interest in your chosen sector/organisation - Being passionate and knowledgeable about the area you're working in can improve the quality of your work and strengthen your problem-solving abilities.
  • Language skills - Due to the international nature of many large companies, knowledge of a second language can be an advantage but is by no means essential.
  • A willingness to travel - Consulting careers usually require a fair amount of travel and it's possible that you may need to relocate, nationally or internationally, and work from home for extended periods.

Whichever sector you work in, you'll need to be an excellent communicator, highly organised and able to manage your workload - find out more about the skills that employers want.

Application processes can vary, but the majority of graduate scheme applications are made online.

The first step is to fill in an application form and attach your CV. Some companies may then automatically direct you to a situational judgement test, to be completed as part of your initial application. If successful, the next stage of the application process will likely include a telephone or video interview. If you pass the first interview you'll then attend an assessment centre, before moving on to the final interview. Depending on your preferred area of consulting and your employer you may also need to pass numerical or psychometric tests.

With the rising popularity of consulting as a graduate career, competition for places on graduate schemes is fierce - so to stand out to employers you'll need a high degree of commercial awareness and to have an understanding of the organisation you've applied to. Avoid sending generic applications; they're unlikely to prove successful. Instead, take the time to really demonstrate your suitability to the role by providing real-world examples of required competencies.

Remember to include any extracurricular activities and relevant work experience in your application. Think about the transferable skills you possess, e.g. are you part of a sports team, showing long-term commitment and teamwork? Have you organised a charity event, showing creativity, leadership and responsibility? All of these skills are of interest to employers.

Find out how to write a successful job application to beat the competition.

What career can I go into?

Gaining a place on a graduate scheme usually opens the door to permanent employment. You could work in business, management, strategy or technology consulting, depending on your training.

'A grounding in consultancy is useful for any type of career. The skills that you develop, along with the experiences, are an excellent foundation for pretty much any type of role,' says Nick.

'Many people progress their careers into senior managing consultant roles, but some branch off to do more delivery and strategy type roles. A good understanding of how you solve a problem and communicate well with stakeholders will set you up for a fantastic career in any area,' he adds.

Find out more

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