A strong engineering background at the bachelor’s level provides a fundamental basis for entering the consulting profession. It is difficult to advance in some areas without an M.B.A. from one of the top schools.
In the last three to five years there has been an increase in the number of consulting firms seeking to hire individuals with Ph.D.s or master’s degrees in engineering. Some of the world’s largest management consulting firms have recently begun to recruit and hire engineering Ph.D.s in the same manner as they recruit and hire M.B.A. graduates. These firms have found that Ph.D.s have been trained to identify problems, devise ways to solve them, and incorporate new information while thinking on their feet. These are exactly the characteristics that make Ph.D. hires a good match for the client needs of major management consulting firms. As a result, there are Ph.D. engineers who become strong and effective management consultants. Today, their starting salaries equal or exceed those of M.B.A.s. In fact, their salaries
are usually in the six figures, particularly for those who are fluent in foreign languages. There is also a new demand for the graduates of combined graduate programs of engineering and business administration, such as the programs at Northwestern University, MIT, Stanford, Michigan, and Carnegie Mellon.
There are many different areas of activity in consulting, and all of these areas require an understanding of both technical and operational problems. While a degree in engineering is a particularly useful background, experience
in industry is extremely helpful, particularly experience in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing industries represent a significant portion of consulting clients. Consulting firms of all types look for entry-level engineers
who have gained insight into the functions, needs, and challenges that face manufacturers. This type of experience is typically gained through undergraduate programs such as co-op, multi-summer internships, or full- or parttime work experience during college.
Industry experience helps entry-level engineers contribute to the formulation of more realistic recommendations that can be implemented by the client. In addition, the experience helps a consulting engineer to be sensitive to the problems associated with the operation of a profitable business. After all, the primary responsibilities of a consultant are problem solving and making recommendations. However, it’s important to remember that once the job ends and the recommendations are made, execution of the recommendations rests with the client.