It sounds like a career with such limitless possibilities: consultant. Someone has a problem, they contact you, and you get paid big bucks to offer up your opinion on potential solutions.
Do You Need a Degree to Become a Consultant? Probably, but there can be exceptions. While many firms require their consultants to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, it is possible, with the right experience and connections, to carve a career as a consultant without a degree.
A degree can give candidates a leg up in the race for consulting gigs, but in the fast-paced world of business, a track record of results can trump a fancy piece of paper. It’s all about thoroughly understanding your niche area of expertise and getting clients to believe in you.
Can I Be a Business Consultant Without a Degree?
Business consultants, also known as management analysts, are some of the most well-compensated professionals in the world. And, not surprisingly, compensation is directly correlated to competitiveness in landing a position.
Most business consultants check the following boxes:
- A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field
- Outstanding connections
- Minor in a niche sector of business (environment, human resources, accounting, etc.)
- Excellent performance during the interview process
- Once in the field, they work toward certifications and advanced degrees.
Quite frankly, becoming a business consultant is one of the most difficult areas of consulting to get into without a degree. Let’s look at five sub-sectors of business consulting and determine the degree of difficulty in entering sans degree.
5 Business Consultant Types
#1 Strategic Management Consulting
Strategic management is some of the highest-paying, senior-level consulting work that a person can do. This type of consulting involves influencing the uppermost decisions of a company, with decisions often having a trickle-down effect on every level of firm operations.
A few of the most important examples of the decisions charged to the strategic management consultant include:
- How to allocate company funds
- Opening and closing of company branches and departments
- Entrance into new sectors for operations
The education level of strategic management consultants is often very high, with many large firms drawing on the talent pool of the Ivy League institutions.
As such, becoming a strategic management consultant is extremely difficult without a degree.
#2 Operations Management Consulting
Operations management involves the day-to-day decisions that affect company processes. The operations management consultant will help answer the question: How can we do our job better?
A few of the important decisions the operations management consultant may have to consider include:
- Inefficiencies and improvements to the supply chain
- Scheduling and shift optimization
- Purchasing of technology and machinery to improve day-to-day functions
Operations management consultant positions are generally very competitive, with most applicants having extensive experience in company operations.
While the majority of operations management consultants have degrees, it is less difficult to get a job in operations management consulting without a degree due to the valuable understanding gained through experience.
#3 Financial Advisory Consulting
Financial advising deals with how to get the most out of company assets. The financial advisory consultant will creatively and ethically seek ways to protect and grow valuable assets while trimming and re-appropriating liabilities.
The financial advisory consultant seeks to answer a wide array of complex questions, which may include the following:
- How can we get the best rate of return on company dollars not used for operations?
- What real estate markets would be ideal to enter as our company expands?
- How can we reduce tax liability while maintaining the ethical standards of the firm?
In addition to needing a number of required certifications, it is extremely difficult to get into financial advisory consulting without a degree, with most in the field holding an MBA with an emphasis in finance or capital management.
#4 Human Resources Consulting
Human resources ensures that the company can effectively and efficiently recruit and maintain talent, while ensuring that ethical standards of a fair and safe workplace are enforced.
Human resources consultants often deal with a wide array of complex and sometimes sensitive problems that may include:
- Ensuring that all employees and applicants are given a fair opportunity for employment and promotions
- Implementing training sessions to keep the workforce informed of emerging threats and issues within the workplace
- Navigating employee complaints and concerns
- Protecting workers rights and administration of workers’ compensation
Most human resources consultants have a degree in an HR-related field. However, human resources consulting may be viewed as one of the easier business consulting sectors to enter without a degree, as experience at the lower levels of a human resources department can help professionals ascend to senior-level consulting positions.
#5 Risk and Compliance Consulting
Risk and compliance consulting seeks to ensure that the firm does not violate any laws or corporate governance policies. This branch of consulting has expanded into a field of its own as governance of the aforementioned areas of business has increased.
- The risk and compliance consultant will report to all areas and departments of a company and may deal with some of the following issues:
- Ensuring that Title IX is properly enforced in government organizations
- Protecting the firm from potential sanctions and fines
Identifying risks and malpractice within company operations
Due to the comprehensive understanding of law and legislature needed for a career in the field, it is nearly impossible to get a job as a risk and compliance consultant without a degree.
Can I Be Another Type of Consultant Without a Degree?
While the prospects of becoming a business consultant may seem grim without having a degree to take to the interview, take heart–there are DOZENS of related consulting careers where a degree may not present such a significant barrier to entry.
Entrepreneur magazine offers up many possible consulting careers, and we will take a look at several where a degree isn’t likely to be a hard prerequisite.
#1 Social Media Consultant
Many kids know how to build a social media following and monetize their social media accounts by doing everyday things like playing video games or doing a funky dance at their high school prom. On the same token, many senior-level executives with advanced degrees in business have seen this phenomenon pass them by.
If you are a creative person, a whiz with smart devices, and have a proven track record of strategically building social media followings, you can be a valuable consultant to companies who lack a social media presence.
#2 Computer Consultant
Here’s the thing about the world of computers: It evolves faster than college curriculums can be updated. Many computer science majors have dropped out of school because they realize they can make plenty of money solving IT problems without putting themselves into further student loan debt.
While you have to be willing to be a lifetime learner to stay relevant in this rapidly evolving field, computer experts, thanks to the ubiquitous presence of technology in the business world, will have no trouble finding very lucrative consulting work.
#3 Editorial Consultant
In the Information Age, there is extreme pressure to get content out there FAST. Many businesses simply don’t have the time to produce their own material, let alone make sure it is properly edited.
A college degree may seem necessary to “learn the rules,” but remember, the rules are constantly changing in this fast-paced world. If you can make content aesthetically pleasing across all mediums (written, audio, video), firms will not want to wait on a degree to obtain your services.
The Verdict: Can I Be a Business Consultant Without a Degree?
While the majority of business consultants, especially those whose niche is in finance and capital management, have at least a bachelor’s degree, there is plenty of reason for optimism if you do not and dream of a career as a consultant.
If you are an expert in a specific area, a whiz with technology, and know-how to market yourself, there is every reason to believe you can be a highly successful consultant, regardless of degree status.