Early responsibility, high starting salaries and rapid progression are just some of the benefits that come with graduate business, management and consultancy careers

What areas of business can I work in?

According to the House of Commons Library, Business Statistics Briefing Paper there were more than 5.5 million businesses in the UK in 2016. 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 will need skills in both areas.

Meanwhile, consultants offer advice to organisations to help them to 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 you could 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?

Business management and consultancy are expanding areas and the number of graduate vacancies continues to increase - great news if you're looking to enter these careers.

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 (2016) also lists companies such as McKinsey & Company, IBM, Boston Consulting Group, Accenture and Bain & Company 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 5.5 million UK businesses are small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) so it's worth looking into 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.

What are the key issues in the business sector?

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) believes that the ill-preparedness of graduates is a real concern for the management industry. Their 21st Century Leaders report highlighted employers' concerns about the workplace readiness of graduates. Four in five (80%) said that graduates have unrealistic expectations about the world of work, while nearly two thirds (65%) said that graduates lack the interpersonal skills necessary to manage people. Three quarters (75%) of employers believe more graduates should undertake professional qualifications since these provide evidence of practical skills. To find out more about the professional qualifications on offer within management see management courses.

The CMI's An age of uncertainty report also discovered that young people aged between 16 and 21 lack confidence in their leadership and management skills and that more needs to be done to develop these skills from a young age.

The CMI's annual Future Forecast 2017, also states that investing in skills should be on every manager's agenda. 74% of managers agree that advancing skills is more important than ever post-Brexit, while 20% said that they did not receive the training and development they needed in 2016.

This lack of on-the-job training for first-time managers is another challenge facing the sector. CMI's research found that 71% of firms fail to offer management training to first-time managers, meaning that graduates must either thoroughly research potential employers and enquire about professional training in advance, or seek out and pay for qualifications themselves.

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.