My name is MF and I am a junior Chemical Engineering major at Clarkson University. I am trying to decide whether I should change my major to engineering and management or not. I know I want to get an MBA right after I graduate, but I was just wondering what advice you have. Which major would be more appealing for a consulting company to hire me? Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you!
Thanks for reaching out to me with your question. I apologize for taking so long to get back to you, but, given the volume of emails that I receive, it usually isn’t possible for me to give quick responses. Now that I’m reading your email, this message may be coming to you too late to be helpful, but I thought I should send it anyway.
Let’s get to your question about whether you should continue with your current Chemical Engineering major or switch to Engineering and Management as a major. I definitely have an opinion on this issue, but I want to precede it with some commentary to provide context.
At a high level, Consulting firms are looking for candidates who have the intellectual horsepower to solve hard problems and contribute to solutions for clients. It can be good to have completed a business major in order to have some foundational knowledge, but it isn’t a necessity. What’s most important is to show yourself as a problem solver with great intellectual capabilities…in some circles, this is referred to as “getting the best athlete” with the idea being that a great athlete can be taught to be good at any sport. In the case of Consulting, firms will look for candidates who have proven themselves to be strong thinkers and seem open to being trained on whatever they need to become successful Consultants.
So, why have I told you all of this? My recommendation would be for you to continue on the Chemical Engineering path if you have performed well academically and distinguished yourself with strong grades. Most people consider ChemE to be 1 of the 2 most difficult engineering disciplines (with Mechanical Engineering being the other) due to the need for understanding of both core engineering and chemistry. Given the reputation for difficulty, ChemE majors are immediately thought to have strong intellectual capabilities, which makes folks like you into distinctive candidates as long as you have a good GPA.
Also, since you’re currently a college junior, making a change in major may require you to spend an additional 1-2 semesters in school past your original graduation date and I’m not sure you’d get enough benefit from changing directions on your major to make it worth it. If you’re truly interested in pursuing Consulting after graduation, you can always take some management/business courses in addition to your ChemE classes without doing a full change in major. This way, you’d build your knowledge without having to fully divert from your current academic trajectory.
One more thing before I go…be sure that you don’t let yourself become pigeonholed as a techie if you choose to go into Consulting. If you submit an application to a firm that has both Management Consulting (i.e., business and strategy) and IT Consulting as offerings, they may try to slot you in for the IT Consulting stuff because of your ChemE major. That’s fine if you’re interested in IT Consulting, but, from the sound of your email, that’s not what you’re looking for. This may not be an issue if you pursue an MBA right after college and then do Consulting, but it could be a big concern if you get a job before going to B-school and firms look solely at your undergrad major. It isn’t an impossible thing to handle, but I want to make sure that you’re aware of the potential concern.
Take care and good luck with the remainder of your junior year.