But an MBA is not the only way of breaking into consulting: the Management MSc at Cranfield School of Management is setting its students up for successful careers by putting an emphasis on real consulting experience at the heart of the curriculum.
40% of the 13-month course is taken up by an internship and subsequent project report or thesis, which students write individually and submit at the end of the year. This process is designed to give students a practical grasp of the kinds of challenges faced by high-powered consulting teams.
It is this hands-on element of the course that stood out to Cranfield Management MSc grad Aditya Pai.
Having studied economics at the London School of Economics (LSE) at undergrad level, Aditya wanted to learn more about finance and strategy, and felt that Cranfield offered an ideal blend of theoretical and practical learning.
Aditya undertook his internship with procurement consultancy 4C Associates, with whom Cranfield have been involved for a number of years.
It was a competitive process: 21 people applied for only two positions. The experience, Aditya says, lived up to his high expectations.
“It had by far the most added value [of my courses],” he says. “You learn all of these subjects during the master’s course, [studying for] one year, eight or nine hours a day—but where can you apply it, other than writing a report?
“That’s where the internship plays a big role. You still have to think about the theory, but you’re talking to clients and interacting with people way more senior than you are.”
The most significant outcome of the internship wasn’t just that it added value to Aditya’s education—it was that he added value to the organization.
When he submitted his thesis, Aditya says that the way that he had approached the problems he was presented with was something that his managers hadn’t seen before. “It [added] a lot of value for them. And the fact that it brought them value brought me value. Immediately, you could see an impact.”
Now, Aditya works in the finance department at Telia Company in Stockholm. The hands-on experience he gained with Cranfield's Management MSc was a positive factor during his interview.
“The practical experience definitely stood me in good stead for what I’m doing now,” Aditya confirms. “It’s given me a big personal advantage. It put me ahead of the game.”
The same can be said for Soufya El Kharbili, who graduated from the MiM at Cranfield School of Management in 2015 and is now working as a consultant at Stanwell Consulting.
Prior to her Management MSc, Soufya had studied for a Master’s in Engineering in France but wasn’t interested in pursuing engineering as a career.
She was drawn to the management program at Cranfield by the internationally-recognized teaching staff and the fact that its status as an exclusively postgraduate business school meant that she would be studying with experienced professionals.
Choosing an MSc program with an in-built internship program was also essential for Soufya, though she knew it wasn’t the norm for Masters degrees. When she saw that it was at the heart of the program at Cranfield, her application was sealed.
Soufya took up an internship at Deloitte in Milton Keynes. “It was the perfect match for me,” she says. “It helped me understand the reality of consulting, and it enabled me to apply the skills I have gained over my years of study.”
For Management MSc students at Cranfield, practical consulting experience isn’t limited to the internship section of the program. “The management consultancy module was [also] very insightful,” Soufya recalls. “We were working as real-life consulting teams, providing a company with recommendations on several topics they wanted help with.
“It was also organized as a challenge between teams—there was healthy competition between us to do our best!”
It certainly made Soufya a competitive candidate when she hit the job market—within a year of graduating from the Management MSc, Soufya had begun her financial consulting job in Paris.
Given the increasing premium being put on real-world experience by top employers, it is likely that she will not be the last alumna from Cranfield School of Management to achieve the same career success.