Consultancy careers open doors to a variety of sectors such as business, IT, HR and finance. Discover what graduate schemes are on offer and how to apply

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.

Why choose a career in consultancy?

In this line of work 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 and experience.

'A career in consultancy lets you work with a variety of 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, develop your problem solving, stakeholder management and communication skills, which are all invaluable in any type of career that you chose,' continues Nick.

'A year in consulting can be worth more than ten years in industry due to the fast-paced nature of projects and the need to be flexible and versatile to understand each client's industry and business,' says Joan Moore, entry-level recruitment manager at Accenture.

'Furthermore, you do not need a business degree to consider a career in consultancy. At Accenture we recruit graduates from a range of degree types as we want to ensure that our project teams bring together a diverse selection of skills and strengths.'

If you want an opportunity to make a difference, often working with the most high-profile client organisations, then consulting 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 to name a selection.

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.

According to Joan, as a graduate consultant at Accenture you'll 'explore a career at the intersection of business and cutting-edge technology’.

On the 15-month programme, 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, and three days paid charity leave, hotel and travel discounts, a personal laptop and private healthcare.

‘The consulting graduate programme enables you to acquire a range of commercial and business skills, develop deep problem-solving and analytical capabilities, and gain knowledge and expertise across more than 40 industries while working with ambitious and creative people,' adds Joan.

Search graduate jobs in business, consulting and management.

How do I apply?

The majority of consulting graduate schemes aim to attract high academic achievers. Typically you will 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-set 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.
  • Language skills - due to the international nature of many large companies, knowledge of a second language can be an advantage but this 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.

Learn 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 attached 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 will 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,' adds Nick.

Find out more