Consulting vs Advisory: A Comparison on Five Aspects

This article compares consulting with advisory career on five key aspects: Nature of work, Background, Salary, Work-life balance, and Career development. 

Compared to advisors, consultants are better paid with faster career development but work more hours. Consulting is more open to various backgrounds, different from the specialized background required for advisory. 

On the nature of work, an advisor typically works with clients long-term, providing advice for ongoing business challenges. Meanwhile, a consultant solves strictly defined, granular problems on a project basis, each lasting 2-3 months.

Consulting vs Advisory – Nature of work

Both advisors and consultants use their contacts and personal expertise to gather information and provide analysis, insights, and recommendations to their clients. 

However, an advisor usually has a deeper connection within the client’s firm and has more specialized knowledge in some fields. Meanwhile, a consultant usually has a wider supporting contact network outside the client’s firm and a more generalized understanding of many areas. 

Advisors work on long-term relationship

The deep connection with the client’s firm of an advisor results from a long-term relationship between that advisor and the firm. An advisor's job is to advise on ongoing, broad challenges to help the firm achieve its overall strategic goals. An advisor is deeply involved in the business’s long-term success.

Consultants work on short-term projects

A consultant, on the other hand, usually work on a short-term basis, with a duration of 2-3 months. Consultants are not involved in the overall operations of their clients. They solve strictly defined, granular problems and offer strategic advice for specific issues.


Consulting vs Advisory – Background

The great news is that both consulting and advisory are open to candidates from all backgrounds, so you can apply for consulting or advisory jobs without worrying about not being a business student.

The difference lies in when a client wants to hire any of them: Consultants are usually hired for their diverse backgrounds and experiences, while advisors are usually hired for their specialized knowledge.

Consultants are hired for their diverse background

The consulting industry, which used to emphasize business backgrounds in the past, is now welcoming to people of various backgrounds and experiences. 

Many junior consultants come from undergraduate or newly graduated backgrounds in non-business courses. Many consultants tend to study for more generalist MBAs to advance to senior positions.

Advisors are hired for their specialized knowledge

On the other hand, while open to various entry backgrounds, advisors are often pressured by having to achieve certain industry certifications to get promoted. 

The needed certification depends on the specialty you are involved in, for example, Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) for IT Advisory, or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for financial-related roles in the US. 


Consulting vs Advisory – Salary

Consultants usually earn more annually than advisors. 

For example, in the United States, the Big Four firms pay their consultants nearly twice as much as auditors. A junior advisor at Big Four has an average salary of $70,000/year. Meanwhile, Big Four’s junior-level consultants have an average salary of $120,000/year. 

MBB consulting firms (McKinsey, BCG and Bain) – the highest-paying consulting firms - offer even better salaries and perks for consultants than the Big Four.


Big Four Advisors

Big Four Consultants

MBB Consultants

















Average salary of Big Four’s advisors, Big Four’s consultants, and MBB consultants. 
United States, 2023. Source: Glassdoor.


Consulting vs Advisory – Work-life balance

Working hours

As a consultant, you will normally work whatever hours are needed to finish the job on time. It usually takes up on average 60-80 hours a week, and sometimes you will have to work on weekends. Although it depends largely on the client, the project, and your position, the work-life balance of a consultant is quite intense.

Meanwhile, as an advisor, you should have more easy-to-breathe working hours, with an average of 50-60 hours per week. Advisors do not have a busy season, and the hour is more flexible, depending largely on the clients.


Both consulting and advisory require you to travel to the clients’ bases, either in your homeland or overseas. However, as advisors usually work in the long-term, they would have less business traveling than consultants.

Meanwhile, while consultants have to travel more, they also have the flexibility to move on to new projects in many different places worldwide. Of course, this could only be done after that consultant earned some achievements and experience. 


Consulting vs Advisory  Career development

Exit opportunities

In general, consultants have better exit options than advisors.

Both fields are great springboards to get into other professions since they require consultants and advisors with deep expertise, highly differentiated skill sets and offer them many chances to widen the networks with top executives.

However, because consultants tend to work on higher-level problems and their work varies more widely in terms of industry and function, they have more flexibility and can access higher-level exit opportunities (such as C-level management on the client side).

For an advisor, some common exit options are specialized fields like finance, law, legal, corporate management, or freelance advisory.

Meanwhile, common exit options for a consultant include corporate management, banking and finance, public-sector work, NGOs, start-ups, and independent consulting. 

Learning skills

#1. People skill

Mastery in working with people is important for both an advisor and a consultant. Without such skill, you can never get far in your career.

As an advisor, you mostly interact with the client in a one-on-one relationship. Such closeness boils down to the ability to build trust and understand the client’s needs. A successful advisor does not simply give advice to their clients, but help the clients believe that you are a trustable referral source.

On the other hand, consulting work requires you to interact with many types of people in different circumstances, so proficiency in people skills/communication skills are also a must. You need to convince clients to work with you, navigate the conversation between different stakeholders in the right direction, especially in a complicated political scenario, communicate with people both directly and virtually, etc.

#2. Business acumen

As mentioned, consulting and advisory have to tackle business problems and provide organizational strategies for clients to overcome the issues. The nature of the jobs demands a great deal of business knowledge. To be successful in either consulting or advisory, you need to enhance the business acumen, develop a commercial mindset and think more strategically.

#3. Analytical skill

Both consultants and advisors have to excel at analytics – but the analytics consultants do are more widely applicable elsewhere.

For consultants, to solve a difficult business problem, analytics skills are a must. The ability to draw an issue tree and isolate the root cause requires the master of analytical quality. The hypothesis-driven approach of consultants is a tried-and-true, highly efficient and effective method of problem-solving that makes them successful in many fields after exiting.

Advisors also need analytical skills to bring the most value to their clients. For example, financial advisors need the ability to read data, analyze data to recognize trends, and anticipate the market so they can provide the most useful information for the clients.


In terms of broadness, consultants have a much wider network than advisors. On a daily basis, they interact with not only C-level executives but also staff with different positions, departments, and even other countries. Such diverse exposure offers many chances to build relationships with people from all backgrounds that can enhance their career life even after they leave consulting.

In terms of closeness, advisory offers the opportunities to form much deeper relationships. Advisors work very closely with the clients for a long period; hence, it is undoubtedly the bond between advisor and clients is strong.

With that said, the actual key to good networking is your own proactivity. Networking is important regardless of your profession. If you are a good networker, you can leverage your brand name to meet pretty much anyone you want to meet.

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