The largest consulting firms primarily engage Fortune 500-type clients, so the consulting firms’ work mirrors the challenges of major businesses around the world – profitability improvement and cost containment, strategic alliances and sourcing, strategy, emerging markets, technology and automation. Beyond the large multinational consulting firms, there are so-called boutique firms specializing in either an industry or business discipline/service line.
Consulting firms look for candidates who demonstrate strong problem-solving ability, logic, and the ability to communicate under extreme pressure. Consequently, most consulting firms expect to hire candidates with MBA degrees. Most consulting firms have a career track starting at the analyst level (college degree required), then often require even their best-performing analysts to get an MBA in order to be promoted. The post-MBA ranks include associate, manager, principal, senior manager, and partner or vice president. Promotion within a firm is often based on success in managing a project (or multiple projects), selling add-on work or new client work, and maintaining a healthy balance of billable time with clients.
Consulting firms (or "practices" within firms) tend to focus on one of the following areas.
This practice includes advisory, strategy, and planning services, but does not tend to include implementation projects.
Service Line (or Operations)
This practice includes turnarounds, customer relationship management, organizational effectiveness, enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, small business services, etc. These projects may have a strategy component as well as an implementation focus.
This practice includes health care, chemical and pharmaceutical, manufacturing, telecommunications, energy and utilities, and others. Projects in an industry practice may have a strategy component as well as an implementation focus.
This practice includes information systems sales, integration, and ongoing services/technical support. These projects may have a strategy component but tend to be implementation focused.
Source: adapted from http://www.mba.com