All Things Political

Consulting Industry Job Outlook

supplemental resource: Job Outlook by Profession

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services is projected to be the fastest growing industry over the next decade. However, because of the number of people looking to work in this industry, competition for jobs is expected to remain keen.

Wage and salary employment in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry is expected to grow by 83 percent between 2008 and 2018. All areas of consulting should experience strong growth.

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Projected job growth can be attributed primarily to economic growth and to the continuing complexity of business. A growing number of businesses means increased demand for advice in all areas of business planning. Firms will look to management consultants to draft business plans and budgets, develop strategy, and determine appropriate salaries and benefits for employees. The expansion of franchised restaurants and retail stores will spur demand for marketing consultants to determine the best locations and develop marketing plans. The expansion of business also will create opportunities for logistics consulting firms in order to link new suppliers with producers and to get the finished goods to consumers. Finally, businesses will continue to need advice on compliance with government workplace safety and environmental laws. Clients need consultants to keep them up to date on the latest changes in legislation affecting their businesses, including changes to tax laws, to environmental regulations, and to policies affecting employee benefits and healthcare and workplace safety. As a result, firms specializing in human resources, environmental, and safety consulting should be in strong demand.

The increasing use of new technology and computer software is another major factor contributing to growth in all areas of consulting. Management consulting firms help clients implement new accounting and payroll software, whereas environmental and safety consulting firms advise clients on the use of computer technology in monitoring harmful substances in the environment or workplace. Consulting firms also might help design new computer systems or online distribution systems. One of the biggest areas upon which technology has had an impact is logistics consulting. The Internet has greatly increased the ability of businesses to link to and communicate with their suppliers and customers, increasing productivity and decreasing costs. Technology-related consulting projects have become so important that many traditional consulting firms are now merging with or setting up joint ventures with technology companies so that each firm has access to the other's resources in order to serve clients better.

The trend toward outsourcing and mergers also will create opportunities for consulting firms. In order to cut costs, many firms are outsourcing administrative and human resources functions to consultants specializing in these services. This business strategy should provide opportunities in human resources consulting for firms that manage their clients' payroll systems and benefits programs. At the same time, increasing competition has led to more business mergers, providing opportunities for consulting firms to assist in the process. Also, as increasing numbers of older business owners retire, consultants will be used to assist in the liquidation, acquisition, or restructuring of those businesses.

Globalization, too, will continue to provide numerous opportunities for consulting firms wishing to expand their services, or help their clients expand, into foreign markets. Consulting firms can advise clients on strategy, as well as foreign laws, regarding taxes, employment, worker safety, and the environment. The growth of international businesses will create numerous opportunities for logistics consulting firms as businesses seek to improve coordination in the expanding network of suppliers and consumers.

An increasing emphasis on protecting a firm's employees, facilities, and information against deliberate acts of sabotage will continue to create numerous opportunities for security consultants. These consultants provide assistance on every aspect of security, from protecting against computer viruses to reinforcing buildings against bomb blasts. Logistics consulting firms are finding opportunities helping clients secure their supply chain against interruptions that might arise from terrorist acts, such as the disruption of shipping or railroad facilities. Growing security concerns, rising insurance costs, and the increasing threat of lawsuits provide added incentives for businesses to protect the welfare of their employees.

Growth in management, scientific, and technical consulting services might be hampered by increasing competition from nontraditional consulting firms, such as investment banks, accounting firms, technology firms, and law firms. As consulting firms continue to expand their services, they will be forced to compete with a more diverse group of firms that provide similar services.

Economic downturns also can have an adverse effect on employment growth in consulting. As businesses are forced to cut costs, consultants may be among the first expenses that businesses eliminate. Furthermore, growth in some consulting specialties, such as executive search consulting, is directly tied to the health of the industries in which they operate. However, some consulting firms might experience growth during recessions: as firms look to cut costs and remain competitive, they might seek the advice of consultants on the best way to do so.

Despite the projected growth in the industry, there will be keen competition for jobs because the prestigious and independent nature of the work and the generous salary and benefits generally attract more jobseekers than openings every year. Individuals with the most education and job experience will likely have the best job prospects.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition

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