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Principal Consultant Job Description

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Principal Consultant Job Description

Principal consultants serve as managers and client liaisons in consulting firms. Although substantial experience in a specific field is a key requirement, a principal consultant must also possess the ability to supervise employee teams, reassure nervous clients and manage budgets. The position is a good choice for people who thrive in high-pressure situations and enjoy creating strategies and solutions that help clients meet their goals.

Job Description

Consultants work in many types of industries and fields and are in employed in pharmaceutical, internet technology, marketing, scientific, engineering, staffing, management, finance, human resources and other consulting companies. A principal consultants who works for a large consulting may work in a supervisory capacity only, while senior consultants in small companies may act as team leads in addition to working directly on projects.

During the initial phase of a project, principal consultants review and analyze the company’s needs, prepare and present proposals, negotiate fees and set benchmarks. When work begins, they monitor the progress of projects and update clients regularly on the consulting team’s progress and potential issues. Principal consultants may oversee projects from the consulting company’s headquarters or might work at client sites. If the client is located in a distant city, state or country, travel may be required.

Hiring is often part of senior consultant roles and responsibilities. Principal consultants interview, select and assign team members, and also evaluate their performance. They are often called upon to intercede if on-site team members encounter difficulties or need additional resources. The consultants review daily operational data from the field and must act quickly to identify issues that could slow the team’s progress or cause budget overruns.

Principal consultants can’t turn off their phones at 5 p.m. and disconnect until the next work day. Clients and staff members rely on them to be available at any time to discuss problems or concerns. During the midst of a crisis, the principal consultant may be expected to work long hours to resolve issues to the client’s satisfaction.

A good sense of humor, the ability to defuse stressful situations and the confidence to make quick decisions are invaluable if you’re considering a career as a principal consultant.

Principal Consultant Education and Training

In most industries, principal consultants must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, although a master’s or doctoral degree may be the norm in some fields, such as healthcare or engineering.

Not surprisingly, clients prefer principal consultants with extensive experience in their fields. The principal job title is usually awarded to people who have held more junior roles in the consulting company in the past or have 10 or more years of experience. Ongoing training may be needed to keep up with technological advances and changes in regulatory requirements.

Salary and Job Outlook

As a group, consultants earn an annual mean wage of $80,630, according to May 2017 estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Top consulting executives can expect to earn an annual mean wage of $163,470.

The job outlook for principal consultants varies by field. The BLS notes that the job outlook for management analysts is expected to grow by 14 percent through 2016, while the demand for industrial engineers is expected to grow by 10 percent in the same time frame.


Holly McGurgan has a degree in journalism and previously worked as a non-profit public relations and communications manager. She often writes about career and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared online on Healthline, Working for Candy and other sites.

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Nick White/Digital Vision/Getty Images