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Principal Consultant vs. Director: What Are the Differences?

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

A career in management consulting offers many opportunities for growth and development. Two common roles in this field are that of a principal consultant and a director. Though these positions share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a principal consultant and a director, and we provide additional management consulting roles you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Principal Consultant?

Principal Consultants are experienced consultants who provide high-level strategic and technical advice to clients. They are responsible for leading and managing consulting projects, as well as mentoring and coaching junior consultants. Principal Consultants typically have in-depth knowledge of a particular industry or functional area, such as human resources or information technology. They use this knowledge to help clients solve complex business problems and improve their operations. Principal Consultants often work with clients to develop new business strategies, implement new technologies or enter new markets.

What is a Director?

A Director is a high-level executive who oversees the day-to-day operations of a company or organization. They develop and implement strategies to achieve specific goals set by the Board of Directors. Directors work closely with other executive staff to ensure that all departments are working efficiently and effectively towards the common goal. They also represent the company in external meetings and negotiations. Directors typically have a deep understanding of the industry and the company’s competitive landscape. They use this knowledge to make informed decisions that will help the company grow and succeed.

Principal Consultant vs. Director

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

Job Duties

Principals and directors often share similar job duties, like managing a team, creating business goals and overseeing daily operations. However, the specific tasks they perform can differ based on their department or company needs. For example, a director might oversee all marketing campaigns for an organization, while a principal consultant may evaluate the overall effectiveness of the campaign. Another key difference is that directors typically manage the business operations, such as ensuring employees are performing at a high level and completing projects on time. Principals usually focus more on consulting with clients to ensure effective implementation of products and services.

Job Requirements

Principal consultants and directors typically need a bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing or another related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Additionally, many principal consultants and directors pursue certifications through the National Association of Purchasing Management (NAPM) or the Institute of Supply Management (ISM). These organizations offer training programs that teach professionals how to use purchasing software and other tools they might need on the job.

Work Environment

Principal consultants and directors often work in different environments. A director may work in an office setting, while a principal consultant may travel to clients’ locations for meetings or events. This is because principals typically have more responsibilities than directors, so they need to be able to travel to meet with clients and employees.

A director’s job can also involve working from home or traveling to other offices within their company. They may also spend time at the office collaborating with colleagues on projects.


Both principal consultants and directors need to have excellent communication skills. They use these skills when they are presenting information to clients, leading meetings and training new employees. They also both need to be able to listen attentively so that they can understand the needs of their clients and employees.

Organizational skills are important for both roles as well. Principal consultants often work with multiple clients at one time and need to be able to keep track of deadlines, deliverables and progress reports. Directors usually oversee a team of employees and need to be able to delegate tasks, set goals and provide feedback.

Principal consultants also need to have strong research skills. They use these skills when they are evaluating a client’s current situation, researching best practices in their industry and developing recommendations for improvement. Directors need to be able to make decisions quickly and efficiently. They use analytical skills to evaluate data and make informed decisions about the direction of their department or company.


The average salary for a principal consultant is $129,550 per year, while the average salary for a director is $104,930 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the industry in which you work, your level of experience and the size of the company you work for.


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