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Managing Consultant vs. Principal Consultant: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in consulting can be both rewarding and challenging. If you’re interested in this field, you may be wondering what the difference is between a managing consultant and a principal consultant. Both roles are important in the consulting industry, but they have different responsibilities. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between managing consultants and principal consultants. We also provide information on the skills and experience you need to pursue each position.

What is a Managing Consultant?

Managing Consultants are responsible for the day-to-day management of consulting projects. They work with clients to scope out projects, develop project plans and timelines, and assign and manage project teams. They also oversee the budget and finances for projects, ensuring that projects stay on track and within budget. Managing Consultants are responsible for the quality of the consulting work product and deliverables. They also manage client relationships, ensuring that clients are satisfied with the work being done. In some firms, Managing Consultants may also be responsible for business development and marketing activities.

What is a Principal Consultant?

Principal Consultants are experienced consultants who provide high-level strategic and technical advice to clients. They are often responsible for leading consulting engagements and managing teams of consultants. They develop relationships with clients and maintain contact with them between engagements to ensure satisfaction. Principal Consultants also develop proposals for new engagements and present them to potential clients. In addition to consulting work, Principal Consultants may also conduct research, write articles or whitepapers, and give presentations on their areas of expertise.

Managing Consultant vs. Principal Consultant

Here are the main differences between a managing consultant and a principal consultant.

Job Duties

Although both types of consultants perform similar duties, the tasks that a managing consultant performs are more administrative in nature. They’re responsible for ensuring that the firm operates smoothly and meets deadlines. This includes things like scheduling meetings, delegating assignments and providing feedback to team members.

Principal consultants have fewer administrative responsibilities because they spend most of their time working directly with clients. They conduct initial consultations with prospective clients and develop proposals for projects. After a client hires the firm, principal consultants work closely with the team to complete assignments and meet deadlines.

Job Requirements

Managing consultants and principal consultants typically need a bachelor’s degree in business administration, economics or another related field. Many employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Additionally, many consultants pursue certifications through the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) or the Project Management Institute (PMI). These organizations offer training programs that teach professionals how to use consulting software and other tools they might need on the job.

Work Environment

Managing consultants work for consulting firms and travel to client sites. They may also spend time in the office, working on projects with other employees. Principal consultants usually work for large companies or government agencies as internal consultants. They may have regular hours but often work long hours when needed.

Managing consultants typically work more independently than principal consultants because they’re not part of a company’s management team. However, managing consultants can still collaborate with clients and colleagues to develop solutions.


Both managing consultants and principal consultants need to have excellent problem-solving skills. They are often called upon to help companies find solutions to complex issues they are facing. This may involve anything from streamlining operations to increasing profits.

Managing consultants typically work with a team of consultants to provide guidance and support. As such, they need to be able to lead and manage people effectively. This includes being able to delegate tasks, give clear instructions and provide feedback. They also need to be able to build relationships with clients and maintain those relationships over time.

Principal consultants are usually more independent in their work. They may still work with other consultants on occasion, but they are more likely to take on projects alone. Because of this, they need to be even better at problem-solving than managing consultants. They also need to be self-motivated and able to work independently.


The average salary for a managing consultant is $114,503 per year, while the average salary for a principal consultant is $129,550 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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