A rapidly growing small company needs a better system of control over inventories and expenses. An established manufacturing company decides to relocate to another State and needs assistance planning the move. After acquiring a new division, a large company realizes that its corporate structure must be reorganized. A division chief of a government agency wants to know why the division's contracts are always going over budget. These are just a few of the many organizational problems that management analysts, as they are called in government agencies, and management consultants, as career firms refer to them, help solve. Although their job titles may differ, their job duties are essentially the same.
The work of management analysts and consultants varies form employer to employer and from project to project. For example, some projects require several consultants to work together, each specializing in one area; at other times, they will work independently. In general, analysts and consultants collect, review, and analyze information; make recommendations; and often assist in the implementation of their proposal.
Both public and private organizations use consultants for a variety of reasons. Some don't have the internal resources needed to handle a project; others need a consultant's expertise to determine what resources will be required -- or problems encountered -- if they pursue a particular course of action; while others want to get outside advise on how to resolve organizational problems that have already been identified or to avoid troublesome problems that could arise.
Firms providing consulting services range in size from solo practitioners to large international organizations employing thousands of consultants. These services usually are provided on a contractual basis -- a company chooses a consulting firm specializing in the area in which it needs assistance and then the two firms determine the conditions of the contract. These conditions include the proposed cost of the project, staffing requirements, and the deadline.
Upon getting an assignment or contract, consultants define the nature and extent of the project. During this phase of the job, they may analyze data such as annual revenues, employment, or expenditures; interview employees; or observe the operations of the organizational unit.
Next, they use their knowledge of management systems and their expertise in a particular area to develop solutions. In the course of preparing their recommendations, they must take into account the general nature of the career, the relationship the firm has with others in that industry, and the firm's internal organization, as well as information gained through data collection and analysis.
Once they have decided on a course of action, consultants usually report their findings and recommendations tot he client, often in writing. In addition, they often make informal oral presentations regarding their findings. For some projects, this is all that is required; for others, consultants may assist in the implementation of their suggestions.
Management analysts in government agencies use the same skills as their private- sector colleagues to advise managers in government on many types of issues -- mostly of which are similar to the problems faced by private firms. For example, if an agency is planning to purchase several personal computers, it first must determine which type to buy, given its budget and data processing needs. Management analysts would assess the various types of machines available and determine which best meets their department's needs.
Management analysts and consultants usually divide their time between their offices and their client's operation. Although much of their time is spent indoors in clean, well- lighted offices, they may have to visit a client's production facility where conditions may not be so favorable. They must follow established safety procedures when making field visits to sites where they may encounter potentially hazardous conditions.
Typically, analysts and consultants work at least 40 hours a week. Overtime is common, especially when deadlines must be met. In addition, because they must spend a significant portion of their time with clients, they may travel frequently.
Self-employed consultants can set their workload and hours and work at home. On the other hand, their livlihood depends on their ability to maintain and expand their clientele, which can be difficult at times.
The constant pressure of deadlines and client expectations can be very stressful. Occasionally, consultants may face hostility from employees of the client's organization, especially when a reorganization or reduction in force is being considered. As a result, they must be able to deal with people diplomatically.
Management analysts and consultants held about 133,000 jobs in 1990. Almost half of these workers were self-employed. Most of the rest worked in management consulting and accounting firms and for Federal, State, and local governments. The majority of those working for the Federal Government were found in the Department of Defense.
Management analysts and consultants are found throughout the country, but employment is concentrated in metropolitan areas.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
There are no universal educational requirements for entry level jobs in this field. However, employers prefer to hire those with a master's degree in career or public administration or those with a bachelor's degree and several years of appropriate work experience. Most government agencies and some firms hire those with a bachelor's degree and no work experience as entry level analysts and consultants. In addition, many entrants are career changers who were formerly mid- and upper-level managers.
Many fields of study provide a suitable formal educational background for this occupation because of the diversity of problem areas addressed by management analysts and consultants. These include most areas of career and management, as well as a computer and information sciences and engineering. Experience in education, communications, marketing, distribution, architecture, and environmental design may also be sought by some employers.
Management analysts and consultants who are hired directly form school often participate in formal company training programs. These programs may include instruction on policies and procedures, computer systems and software, and management practices and principles. Because of their previous industry experience, most who enter at middle levels do not participate in formal company training programs. However, regardless of background, analysts and consultants routinely attend conferences to keep abreast of current developments in their field.
Management analysts and consultants must have strong interpersonal skills and be able to work on a variety of projects. They should be able to analyze and interpret data, draw conclusions, and make sound recommendations based on this knowledge. They also must be ale to communicate effectively orally and in writing.
In large consulting firms, beginners usually start as a member of a consulting team. The team is responsible for the entire project and each consultant is assigned to a particular area. After 1 or 2 years of experience on a variety of projects, the consultant may be promoted to team leader -- overseeing a project and supervising entry level workers. From there, consultants may advance into more senior positions; for example, they may be responsible for several teams of consultants. Those with exceptional skills may eventually become a partner in the firm. Others with entrepreneurial ambition may open their own firm.
Employment of management analysts and consultants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2000 as industry and government increasingly rely on their expertise to improve the performance of their organizations. Growth is expected to be concentrated in larger consulting and accounting firms. Most job openings, however, will result from the need to replace personnel who transfer to other fields or leave the labor force.
Increased foreign competition has caused American industry to take a closer look at its operations. In a more competitive international market, firms cannot afford inefficiency and wasted resources or else they risk losing their share of the market. Management consultants are being increasingly relied upon to help reduce costs and streamline operations. In addition, the trend toward acquisitions and mergers of companies is increasing the need for management consultants to help companies make the best fit after they merge. Federal, State, and local agencies also are expected to expand their use of management analysts. In the era of budget deficits, analysts' skills at identifying problems and implementing cost reduction measures are expected to become increasingly important.
Job opportunities are expected to be best for those with a graduate degree or industry expertise. Because many small consulting firms fail each year for lack of managerial expertise and clients, those interested in opening their own firm should have organizational and marketing skills.
Salaries for management analysts and consultants vary widely by experience, education, and employer. In 1990, those who were wage and salary workers had median annual earnings of about $36,300. The middle 50 percent earned between $25,900 and $53,100.
In the Federal Government, management analysts with a bachelor's degree had a starting salary of $16,367 a year in 1990. Entrants with a superior academic record could begin at $20,300, while those with a masters' degree started at $24,800. The average salary for management analysts working in the Federal Government in 1990 was $35,400.
Earnings of self-employed management consultants generally are considerably higher than those of salaried workers. Most self-employed management consultants charge a daily rate based on the type of project and its time requirements.
Typical benefits for salaried analysts and consultants include health and life insurance, a retirement plan, vacation and sick leave, profit sharing, and bonuses for outstanding work. In addition, all travel expenses usually are reimbursed by their employer. Self-employed consultants usually have to maintain an office and do not receive employer- provided benefits.
Management analysts and consultants collect, review, and analyze data; make recommendations; and assist in the implementation of their ideas. Others who utilize similar skills are managers, computer systems analysts, operations research analysts, economists, and financial analysts.
Sources of Additional Information
Information about career opportunities in management consulting is available from:
The Association of Management Consulting Firms, 230 Park Ave., New York, NY 10169.
The Institute of Management Consultants, 230 Park Ave., Suite 544, New York, NY 10169.
For information about a career as a State or local government management analyst, contact your state or local employment service.
Persons interested in a management analyst position in the federal Government can obtain information from:
U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 1900 E. St. NW., Washington, D.C. 20415.