Core Courses for Consultants

Hello readers,

So things are wrapping up here at Stern. As I write this, I have less than three weeks until my graduation, which is insane. These two years have been amazing, but they really fly by.

For those of you who have applied this year and will be joining Stern in the fall, first of all, congratulations are in order. I’m going to try to do something I don’t always do with this blog and give actually useful advice.

So you probably all know I’m going back into management consulting after I graduate, so I’ve been preparing for that for the last two years – taking part in the Management Consulting Association (MCA), networking, interviewing, and that often-forgotten part of business school, called “classes.” Prior to business school, I hadn’t really taken business classes, so I wanted to take the full core (minus micro and macro economics, since I had done that in undergrad), but I wanted to also make sure I got to take the classes I wanted that would help me in consulting and beyond. So I’m going to give you a resource that I wish I had before I started. Here’s a list of all of the core courses, and how each one helps for life as a consultant, so you can determine which cores to take and when. This week I’ll go into the four core classes that are only offered during the fall semester. Next week, I’ll focus on the two classes that only take place during the spring, as well as three courses that are offered during either the fall or the spring.

1. Financial Accounting and Reporting

This is one of the two required core classes, so you’ll take this (like it or not) unless you have a CPA, accounting major, or can test out of it. This class isn’t like an undergraduate financial accounting class (I know – I took one back in college). Instead of teaching students how to write journal entries, and essentially training students to be accountants, this class focuses on getting students to understand financial statements in a way that is relevant to a manager. A lot of time is focused on how different financial statements relate and interact with each other, and how a manager should understand what is actually happening in a business based on this information. Why should a soon-to-be-consultant take this course? If you want to fully understand a client to help them, say, become more profitable, you should probably understand how their cost structure works, how their working capital has changed, whether they have cash necessary to take on new projects, etc. A lot of that understanding comes from reading financial statements, and that requires some knowledge of accounting.

Interesting follow up courses: Modeling Financial Statements, Financial Statement Analysis

2. Statistics and Data Analysis

This is the other required core course, so expect to take it. You’ll learn probability through multiple regression, and will learn to analyze real data sets to draw out conclusions. From my experience in consulting, an understanding of statistical methods can really bolster your ability to draw insights out of large data sets. Since getting a solid understanding of statistical analyses, I’ve realized that many of the projects I’ve done in business school, as well as during my internship, benefited from this understanding, and I’ve been able to find better solutions to complex problems by understanding how different factors influence an end result.

Interesting follow up courses: Regression and Multivariate Data Analysis

3. Strategy

This course is probably the easiest to relate to a career in strategy consulting. Core strategy helps you understand the high level choices that firms can make to create and capture value. You’ll learn about how to create firm value, how to evaluate industries, how best to allocate scarce resources, and how to think in ways you probably haven’t had to before. These skills all directly tie to things you’ll actually do as a consultant, so it’s recommended to not skip this one.

Interesting follow up courses: Advanced Strategy – Tools, Managing Growing Companies

4. Firms and Markets

This is the name for our core microeconomics course. The basics of microeconomics focus on the interaction of supply and demand, the different market structures that occur in various industries, and way that firms interact from a game theoretical perspective. These are the forces that drive businesses to behave the way they do, and to make recommendations about what a firm should do, it would be wise to understand the constraints that a firm faces.

Interesting follow up courses: Game Theory, Urban Systems

That’s all for this week, stay tuned for next week’s post on Foundations of Finance, Marketing, Competitive Advantage from Operations, the Global Economy, and Leadership in Organizations.