The first management consulting firms were founded in the early 20th century due to demand by companies for experts to help them increase profits, improve efficiency, and streamline the financial operations of their organizations. Financial consulting is one of the main subspecialties of management consulting. Consulting professionals provide expertise and unbiased advice to businesses (ranging from mom-and-pop companies to multinational corporations), government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and wealthy individuals and families. Advice is provided on a wide range of financial issues such as transaction services, general tax issues, tax and treasury optimization, risk management, compliance with state and federal laws, capital budgeting, project valuation, financial information integrity, profit-and-loss reporting, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, and corporate restructuring.
Consultants, analysts, and consulting managers are the main players in the financial consulting industry, but there are also career opportunities in administrative services and executive support, business development, human resources, information technology (especially cybersecurity and the emerging fields of artificial intelligence and advanced data analysis), public relations, sales and marketing, and other areas.
Financial consultants work as salaried employees or as freelancers. (Approximately 15 percent of management consultants are self-employed.) Large management consulting and accounting firms offer the largest number of opportunities to financial consultants, but there are also many opportunities with small and mid-sized firms and in corporate consulting departments.
Many people want to become consultants. This career often makes “best job” lists in industry publications. In 2021, U.S. News & World Report ranked the career of management consultant as the 63rd-best job and the 10th-best business career in terms of “big growth, great pay, and satisfying work.” Consulting jobs are very lucrative. In 2020, management consultants earned an average salary of $97,580, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, much higher than the mean salary ($56,310) for all careers. Financial consultants at international consulting firms can receive annual earnings (salary, bonus, profit sharing, commission) of $200,000 to $500,000 annually.
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, financial planning, economics, quantitative finance, or a related field is required to work as a financial consultant. A few colleges offer degrees in management consulting. Some employers—especially large consulting firms—prefer to hire consultants with a master’s degree in business or finance, or a bachelor’s degree plus a graduate certificate in management consulting, finance, or business; certification (especially the chartered financial analyst credential from the CFA Institute); and several years of work experience. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to work in other positions, although clerical workers may only require an associate’s degree.
Financial consulting generates approximately 25 percent of all revenue in the global consulting industry. Revenue in the management consulting services sector in the U.S. will increase to $251.4 billion in 2024, up from $216.9 billion in 2017, according to Statista.com. The sector continues to evolve as a result of advances in technology such as cloud computing, blockchain technology, data analytics software, and artificial intelligence (including machine learning).