From English to Engineering: Consulting for Non-Business Majors

While management consulting is often the go-to career for business majors, your suitability in consulting is more a function of your skills than the major on your diploma, and there are many ways to learn key consulting skills outside of a business major. Sure, the business jargon associated with consulting may intimidate those unfamiliar with it, but many habits and skills developed outside of a business major have surprising applications in consulting. 

Here are a few unexpected ways diverse fields of study outside of a major in business can prepare you well for consulting.

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Engineering

It’s easier than you think to switch between a career in engineering and a career in consulting, especially if you enjoy the idea of working at a tech company but don’t want to code all day. Most consulting firms even hire technological experts who are leveraged particularly for their insights in engineering or technology. The quantitative analysis skills of an engineer are attractive to consulting recruiters because data analysis skills save consultant boatloads of time. Furthermore, given the shift toward digitization, the ability to tackle a business strategy problem while keeping numerous technological factors in mind can prove rare and valuable in consulting. Outside of the MBB firms, new digital consulting firms founded by big companies (e.g. IBM iX) have popped up to fulfill this demand. 

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The Humanities

How do all those essays prepare you for consulting? Well, one of the key principles behind an effective Powerpoint presentation lies in distilling insights into easily understandable points. The prolific written and verbal communication of complex concepts required of a humanities major is excellent preparation for the high-stakes communication and presentation skills necessary in consulting. Furthermore, consultants work on problems that require innovative solutions, so creativity and outside-the-box thinking - attitudes fostered in the study of the liberal arts - will serve you well. Proof of success? Tech mogul Susan Wojcicki studying history and literature during his undergraduate at Harvard before working at Bain and becoming a world-famous CEO

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Health/Sciences

Healthcare consulting is becoming more and more relevant as medicine, technology, and community become ever more interconnected. While a background in health may not be a requirement to be a healthcare consultant, it will certainly be a plus and a legitimizer in your interactions with the client. As social impact consulting gains traction and corporations try to stay socially conscious among heightened scrutiny, a biology major may be what consulting firms need to concretely ground their expertise. Needless to say, that’s set you up for an opportunity to impress and succeed.

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Finance 

Similar to engineering, finance is a field heavily reliant on data science and thus an excellent preparation for in consulting. Finance is always relevant in a consulting project, since even when the client’s questions doesn’t explicitly concern profit or investment, a consultant’s solutions must be aware of the financial cost and their effect on the company's balance sheet. A shrewd sense of the balance sheet and how companies operate financially gives you a step up in client dealings and collaboration with colleagues while consulting.

Long story short, don’t doubt your major. Entry-level consulting is one of the few highly competitive and highly paid positions where a technical degree is not necessary. Every day you’re learning the relevant skills that will help you succeed!

Carolyn Manion