The business, consulting and management sector provides a wealth of career opportunities for skilled graduates. Early responsibility is easy to come by and high starting salaries are the norm

What areas of business can I work in?

According to the House of Commons Library, Business Statistics Briefing Paper there were more than 5.7 million businesses in the UK in 2017. Employment opportunities in this vast sector can generally be split into two main areas: business management and consultancy.

You don't need to restrict yourself solely to the business sector as the majority of organisations across all industries require managers and consultants in order to operate effectively. Because of this, graduates have plenty of job opportunities to choose from.

Business managers usually work in general management or hold specific responsibilities for a particular area of an organisation, such as marketing, strategy planning, human resources (HR) or information technology (IT). Some roles lean towards people management, while others focus on project management, but most managers need skills in both areas.

Meanwhile, consultants offer advice to organisations to help them solve problems and enhance performance. They either work in large companies or consultancy firms. Firms can be general, specialise in strategy or offer advice to a specific industry, such as:

Work in this area is highly competitive, with firms looking for bright, high achievers. However, you may find it useful to first move into a role where you can build up business knowledge and maturity before heading into consultancy.

Alternatively, consider other business jobs that offer specialist information, advice and support to companies, such as data mining or market research, or specific roles such as business adviser, economist, risk manager and operational researcher.

For examples of jobs in this sector, see graduate jobs in business and management.

When researching potential areas of work it's likely that you'll discover some overlap with the accountancy, banking and finance sector. Professionals from both sectors work together to ensure the best outcome for the client and the lines between the two industries can sometimes become blurred.

Discover what you can do with your degree in business and management studies.

Who are the main graduate employers?

The majority of large companies across all sectors recruit graduates to business management roles.

In this capacity you can work within the public sector, for employers such as the Civil Service, the National Health Service (NHS), which recruits candidates for its Graduate Management Training Scheme, and local government, which operates the National Graduate Development Programme.

When it comes to consultancy, large companies, particularly those in the financial sector, offer a variety of opportunities. In fact, the 'big four' accountancy firms - Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC - are among some of the most well-known organisations offering graduate consultancy roles.

The Guardian UK 300: Top consulting employers 2017/18 also lists companies such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, IBM, Accenture, Bain & Company and PA Consulting Group as some of the best consultancy organisations to work for.

Other notable consultancies that recruit graduates include:

  • FTI Consulting
  • Hymans Robertson
  • Oliver Wyman
  • Roland Berger.

Consultants can be found in other sectors too, including healthcare, retail, and energy and utilities. However, these roles are often for those with expertise and experience in the specific industry, rather than entry-level graduates.

While large organisations in the sector often offer impressive graduate packages, over 99% of the 5.7 million UK businesses are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), so it's worth sending a speculative application or enquiry to discover what these companies can provide when searching for work.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering business, management or consultancy can expect:

  • jobs to be available in a number of locations across the UK, with the majority of the work centred in big cities such as Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds and London
  • tough targets and tight deadlines
  • a varied working life that involves a substantial amount of travel, with time spent at client sites and periods away from home
  • high starting salaries of £25,000 to £35,000 excluding bonuses, rising quickly to around £50,000
  • to work in a high-pressured environment, where quick decision making and confidence in your abilities is essential
  • long working hours with a focus on meeting deadlines and completing projects
  • an immediate high-level of responsibility and opportunities for rapid career progression
  • self-employment or freelance work to be an option within several years.

To discover what to expect from specific roles, see our job profiles.

What are the key issues in the business sector?

One of the main concerns within the business and management sector is uncertainty about the future, brought on in part by Brexit. According to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), one in four managers feel a declining sense of job security since the Brexit referendum.

Rapidly advancing technology also poses a challenge to businesses as they're continually expected to keep up with new and emerging technologies in order to stay competitive.

The CMI believes that the ill-preparedness of graduates is a real concern for the management industry. Their 21st Century Leaders 2018 report states that the UK economy needs 1.9 million new managers and that employers are struggling to fill the roles they have available. According to the report, 70% believe that management, enterprise and leadership modules should be built into all degree subjects to boost employability, while 66% of employers want to see graduates achieve professional qualifications as well as a degree. To find out more about the professional qualifications on offer within management, see management courses.

Similarly the CMI's annual Future Forecast 2018, has found that managers are worried about a talent shortage, but aren’t currently prioritising skills development, instead choosing to focus on controlling costs. The forecast revealed that 78% of managers are struggling with recruiting skilled talent, while 83% are having difficulty hiring new leaders.

Find out more