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Did you know strategic management consulting firms specifically recruit PhDs? According to this Nature article by Peter Fiske, these are the top skills they seek:

critical data analysis to gain insights
resilience in the face of uncertainty
ability to operate with limited resources
ability to construct and test hypotheses, build and validate models
comfort with advanced statistical algorithms that analyze trends and identify important variables
coordination and scheduling of disparate resources and individuals
ability to critically reframe problems to identify novel solutions
describing complex ideas and methodologies

What is Consulting?

There are two major definitional focuses for consulting - one which is focused on the profession and one which focuses on the process:

  • Broad functional view – any staff position

–Fritz Steele “…any form of providing help on the content, process, or structure of a task or series of tasks, where the consultant is not actually responsible for doing the task itself but is helping those who are”

–Peter Block “You are consulting any time you are trying to change or improve a situation but have no direct control over the implementation”

  • Professional services approach

–IMC – “management consulting is the provision of independent advice and assistance about the process of management to clients with management responsibility”

Clients hire consultants to coach, develop alternatives, advocate, and lead. Consultants generally provide services pertaining to one or more of the following:

  • Strategy development
  • Operational improvement
  • Organizational change management
  • Development of coaching skills
  • Technology implementation

Is Consulting the Right Career Path for You?

  • Do you like to ask why?
  • Do you like to do new things and tackle new problems?
  • Do you enjoy working with a variety of people in a team environment?
  • Do you like solving complex problems?
  • Do you thrive in an intellectually challenging work environment?

You will succeed in consulting if you have:

  • A logical and structured approach to solving problems
  • A penchant to think strategically (big picture)
  • Highly effective communication skills (written and spoken)
  • Strong rapport skills
  • Comfort with ambiguity
  • Strong analytical skills
  • The capacity to synthesize new insights from research
  • Ability to translate new insights into actionable recommendations

Courses on Campus

NBA 5690 (Management Consulting Essentials), 1.5 credits, Spring Meets twice a week, completed before Spring Break 

This half-semester course will help students learn about consulting and the skills required to be a successful consultant using a combination of lectures, case work, individual and team work. 

NBA 6590 (Management of Financial Institutions), OPI, Spring Meets once a week, second half-term 

This half-semester course examines contemporary management issues facing management of financial institutions. Current issues in consumer and corporate financial services are addressed from a business manager, CEO, and consultant perspective. 


Cornell Graduate Consulting Club (CGCC) - CGCC is the bridge between Cornell non-MBA graduate students and management consulting firms. For Cornell students, CGCC strives to build an on-campus consulting community by education, networking, and pro bono consulting practices. For recruiters, CGCC provided convenient access to Cornell talent and proudly presents the next generation of professional consultants. For more information, visit 

Johnson Consulting Club - The Johnson Consulting Club is a student-run organization, with one of the consultants in residence as advisor. The club's mission is two-fold: to assist MBA student members in pursuing careers in consulting and to develop and nurture relationships with top consulting firms. For more information, visit

Additional Resources

Excellent list of resources via the Cornell Graduate Consulting Club

Best Companies to Work for: Top Consulting Firms by IvyExec

Finding Consulting Companies

  1. LinkedIn Group –PhD to Consulting
  2. Vault rankings of consulting firms
  3. Inside Consulting
  4. List of top management & IT consulting firms
  5. Consulting magazine

Preparing for Case Interviews

  1. Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation – a book by Marc Cosentino
  2. Vault Guide to The Case Interview – a book by Mark Asher and Eric Chung
  3. Case Interview Secrets – book and website by Victor Cheng
  4. Inside Consulting – from the authors of Management Consulting: A Complete Guide to the Industry.
  5. Interview prep advice on the BCG website
  6. Interview prep advice on the McKinsey & Company website
  7. Cornell Career Services has a guide on case interviews

Here's an example of a student and postdoc run consulting company

Cornell Tech grads launch Oystir, a free service helping PhDs find non-academic jobs. Create a 1min. profile and connect with jobs.

Article on consulting-the career path not (oft) taken