Professional services sound a bit vague, but it’s essentially an industry that aims to provide support, advice and guidance to organisations and businesses through a subset of professional skills and knowledge.
In Australia, there is a set of companies known as ‘The Big Four’ who are internationally known for the high level of quality expertise they bring to the professional services and consultancy industry, They are:
- Deloitte Australia
- Ernst & Young (EY)
- PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
These organisations act as consultancy firms and assist other businesses, government departments, and organisations across all kinds of other industries. Some of the core professional services they offer include:
- Financial services
- Audit and tax services
- Legal services
- Administration and human resources
- Project Management
- Data Research and analytics
While other smaller businesses offer these services, The Big Four have come to be world-renowned for their expertise and high-quality service and deliverables.
Professional services consultants work in numerous areas, including sales, agriculture, the arts, environment, tourism development, operations research, human resources, building and construction, public relations, events, and many more!
These organisations are also widely acknowledged for the quality graduate and early career programs they’ve developed, providing young people with exceptional experience and giving them a strong stepping stone into their future careers.
To become successful within top-tier professional services and consultancy, you’ll need exceptional analytical skills to evaluate the issues and solid problem-solving skills to resolve them efficiently. Effective communication and strong leadership skills are essential to implement positive changes for your clients.
You’ll be innately curious and proactive in expanding your own expertise in order to build upon the general and specific knowledge required to be effective in your role and keep your company at the forefront of the services they deliver.
Securing entry into these organisations can be competitive, but they’re an excellent starting point to a long-term and sustainable career for the right person.
What You Could Do
Roles across the industry are highly varied and include a mix of low-skilled, entry-level positions, highly-skilled roles, and professional roles requiring specialised knowledge.
Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:
- Research Analyst/Associate: Research analysts work as part of a team under the supervision of a more experienced consultant. They will usually be given a specific part of the project to take ownership of and contribute to the overall problem solving of the case. The role tends to involve researching and analysing data and engaging with industry specialists to gather information. Research analysts complete the groundwork in order to put together presentations for the client.
- Project Manager: Project managers are responsible for a team of analysts, directing ‘who does what’ and ensuring timely, successful delivery on a project. They primarily manage everyone involved in the project, resolve issues and liaise with the client to update them on developments and potential steps. Their aim is to build a strong relationship with the client while reporting on progress and presenting findings.
- Consultant: Consultants tackle more significant parts of a project, manage Consultants tend to be subject matter experts in one area of business, so they can use their knowledge and skills to provide top-level advice and guidance to clients and project teams alike. their work with less guidance and take on a mentorship role with junior employees. They will also increasingly take on roles where they manage relationships with the client and take responsibility for developing new projects and client relationships to secure new business for the organisation.
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO): The CEO is the head of the executive team and manages the day to day operations of the organisation, including its people, budgets, direction and resources. The CEO helps develop and implement strategies approved by the organisation’s board and ensures that processes meet the strategic and cultural needs of the organisation. It’s a role that generally requires a lot of experience and expertise in a core area and generalist business and strategy knowledge.
These job roles are only just scratching the surface!
The best way to learn more and help form decisions about the roles available and what you might be suited for is to conduct as much research as you can and build a profile from there.
Graduate Outcomes & Gender Split
For many roles within professional services and consultancy, a bachelor degree is required as a minimum, but there are also some entry-level roles that are accessible via early career and school-leaver programs.
The Graduates Outcome Survey tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors.
Many graduates in this sector hold business and management degrees. Here’s a look at graduate outcomes for these subjects:
- Business and Management Graduates in Full-Time Employment: 74.3%
- Business and Management Graduates in Employment Overall: 86.4%
Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for graduates working part-time and/or who may have continued to higher studies; these are promising percentages!
*Figures from 2020 survey results.
The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within.
The industry is relatively evenly split across males and females. Recent statistics indicate the split as:
Keep in mind there will be some areas where this might not always be the case, especially in leadership and senior roles.
Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:
- Research Analyst Roles: $67,600-$82,500
- Project Manager Roles: $98,000-$123,000
- Consultant Roles: $91,00-$128,000
- CEO Roles: $156,000-$220,000
Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:
- The segment of the industry you work within.
- Your job title and seniority.
- The amount of experience you have.
- Location, some rural areas may pay less than roles in main cities.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the professional services and consultancy industry has become one of Australia’s fastest-growing sectors.
Since the beginning of the decade, the industry has grown by 30% to become the fourth largest industry group in the country. There is also strong industry growth predicted over the next five years as business conditions improve.
The Australian Trade and Investment Commission has also advised that the industry is a significant contributor overall to the Australian economy, both nationally and internationally, with growth seen in the past decade across employment and productivity.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that employment in the industry has increased by 23.3% over the past five years and identified some key areas with the highest level of employment, including:
- Management and organisation analysts
- Advertising, public relations, and sales managers
Qualifications and Entry Pathways
For some professional roles, a bachelor degree can set you up well with the foundation of theory and knowledge to help you build a successful career in the industry.
Degree pathways you could pursue include:
- Bachelor of Business and Management
- Bachelor of Economics
- Bachelor of Accounting and Finance Management
- Bachelor of Business Administration
- Bachelor of Business Law
- Bachelor of Professional Communications
- Bachelor of Human Resource Management
Following a bachelor’s, many in this field complete A Master of Business Administration (MBAs).
For some pathways, vocational education and training (VET) courses can offer specialised and valuable springboards into the sector. – especially for ICT career pathways.
Relevant qualifications you could pursue include:
- Diploma of Business
- Diploma of Mass Media and Communications
- Certificate IV of Marketing and Communication
- Diploma of Business Administration
- Diploma of Project Management
- Diploma of Commerce
Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you do some research.
Whatever your circumstances, grades or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.
Best Places to Study
Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some universities are rated higher than others for specific subjects.
Some of the best-rated universities for business and management studies include:
- University of Melbourne
- The University of Queensland
- UNSW Sydney
- Monash University
- Australian National University
- Deakin University
- University of Western Australia
Where to Learn More
You can find out more about different pathways through professional bodies and organisations advocating for careers in the sector.
Some good places to start include:
And many more!
Each state will also have several professional organisations that can help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.