What Is Public Sector Consulting?

Management Consulting and the general consulting industry is often seen as a turn-off for many value-driven, ambitious individuals because it is equated with ‘making money for large corporations.’ The extent to which this is true is debatable. Still, for all those with this concern, there is an alternative career path with a more direct contribution to the broader society: public sector consulting.

This article is a comprehensive guide for anyone who is aspiring to start a career in public-sector consulting. We'll explore the various types of public sector consulting, its vast sectoral and functional coveragecareer opportunities, and essential considerations for those considering this career path.


What Are Different Types Of Public Sector Consulting?

Public sector consulting can be categorized into three primary types:

Public Sector Types
  • Public Sector Only: This category focuses exclusively on consulting within government entities, including infrastructure projects, government ministries, and regulatory agencies. Consultants in this space work closely with public sector stakeholders to address challenges related to governance, public service delivery, and policy implementation. Notable firms with a dedicated focus on this sector include BCG's Public Sector Practice. Different government ministries and agencies (across the globe) also regularly release consulting positions for similar work.

  • Social Sector Only: Consulting within the social sector revolves around addressing societal challenges in areas such as healthcare, education, and other philanthropy areas. Consultants in this domain collaborate with non-profit organizations, foundations, and international development agencies to drive social impact and improve the lives of marginalized populations. BCG's Social Impact Sector Practice is a good example of this category. Another excellent example is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, especially for their work in healthcare across the globe.

  • Public Sector & Social Sector together: Some consulting practices combine both public sector and social impact initiatives, recognising the interconnectedness of government and social issues. McKinsey's SHaPE (Social, Healthcare, and Public Entities) practice exemplifies this approach, offering integrated solutions to clients across these sectors. Consultants in this space tackle complex challenges ranging from healthcare reform and education policy to poverty alleviation and community development.

On Which Types Of Projects Can I Work In Public Sector Consulting?

Within public sector consulting, projects tend to run across two dimensions:

The first dimension is the sectoral coverage. Public sector consultants engage with clients across various sectors, including but not limited to healthcare, education, transportation, public finance, energy, environment, urban development, defense, and more. Each sector presents unique challenges and opportunities for consultants to address. These challenges change even within sectors across geographies (for example, within healthcare, the primary focus in advanced economies is to reduce the cost of care while keeping the quality of care the same; meanwhile in developing economies, the primary focus is on improving access to care).

The second dimension is the functional coverage. Within each sector, consultants provide expertise in a range of functional areas, such as strategy, operations, technology, human capital, and financial management. Consultants may specialize in specific domains based on client needs and project requirements, leveraging their analytical skills and subject matter expertise to drive impactful solutions. There is a good chance that a consultant in one sector may not have the full experience of all the functions even while remaining in the same geography.

What Type Of Firms Are There In Public Sector Consulting

The landscape of public sector consulting is diverse, encompassing firms dedicated solely to public sector engagements and those offering public sector consulting as part of their broader service portfolio:

  • Firms Specializing in Public Sector Consulting: These firms focus exclusively on advising government entities, public agencies, and related organizations. They possess deep domain expertise and a nuanced understanding of public/social sector dynamics, enabling them to deliver tailored solutions to their clients' most pressing challenges. Examples include relevant government ministries and agencies, Foundations.

    Here are some examples:
    👉Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    👉Mastercard Foundation
    👉Tony Blair Foundation for Global Change

  • Multidisciplinary Consulting Firms: Many leading consulting firms offer dedicated public sector consulting practices alongside their other service lines. These firms bring together expertise from various disciplines, including strategy, technology, and operations, to support government clients in achieving their objectives effectively and efficiently.

    Examples include:
    👉McKinsey & Company
    👉Booz Allen Hamilton

What Career Opportunities Do I Have In Public Sector Consulting?

Public sector consulting offers a wide range of career opportunities for aspiring consultants, characterized by meaningful work, diverse projects, and opportunities for impact. 

The career trajectory in public sector consulting parallels that of generalist consulting, with roles ranging from entry-level analyst positions to senior leadership roles. Consultants may progress through the ranks based on performance, gaining increasing responsibilities and opportunities for leadership and client engagement. Their performance rating and promotion criteria might differ from those of generalist consultants due to the focus on certain skills, which will be discussed in the next section.

Beyond consulting, public sector consultants usually transition to leadership roles within government agencies, non-profit organizations, international institutions, or private sector firms when exiting out of consulting roles. The skills and experiences gained in public sector consulting—such as strategic problem-solving, stakeholder management, and project execution—equip consultants with a wide range of career paths and opportunities for impact. There have been some instances where people have also transitioned into having successful political careers (e.g. Pete Buttigieg, a McKinsey alumni, went on to be Democratic member in the USA and is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana).

What Skills And Experience Do I Need For A Career In Public Sector Consulting?

Success in public sector consulting hinges on a combination of technical expertise, industry knowledge, and soft skills:

  • ⚙️Technical Expertise: Public sector consultants must possess a strong foundation in consulting methodologies, analytical techniques, problem-solving frameworks, and oral/written communication. This is similar to any generalist consultant.

  • 💡Industry Knowledge: A deep understanding of public policy issues, government processes, and regulatory frameworks, as well as knowledge of working under tight public scrutiny at all times and the sensitivities that come with it, is critical for navigating the complexities of the public sector landscape. Consultants must stay abreast of industry trends, emerging technologies, and best practices to provide informed advice and support to their clients.

  • 🫴Soft Skills: Effective communication, stakeholder management, and relationship-building skills are paramount in public sector consulting. In many instances, a major amount of work goes into communicating with various stakeholders, convincing stakeholders to take a particular course of action, or building their capacity. Consultants must be able to engage with diverse stakeholders, including government officials, community leaders, and subject matter experts.

How Can I Assess Whether Public Sector Consulting Is The Right Fit For Me?

Finding the right consulting path can be challenging. However if you consider the following points, this might help you gain more clearance on whether Public Sector Consulting could be the right choice for you. 

Firstly, assess your requisite experience: Do you already have the necessary skills and background to thrive in public sector roles? Researching professionals' profiles on platforms like LinkedIn can shed light on common career paths and educational backgrounds.

Next, determine your sector preference. Are you drawn to working primarily or exclusively within the public sector? This decision will shape the firms and sectors you target for employment and the types of projects you pursue.

Here are other specialized consulting areas that might interest you:

👉Financial Consulting
👉IT Consulting
👉Environmental Consulting

Identifying specific sectors or areas of focus within the public realm that align with your interests, expertise, and career goals is crucial. Tailor your job search and skill development efforts accordingly to position yourself as a competitive candidate in your chosen field.

Financial considerations are also important. Compensation in public sector consulting may differ from other consulting domains. Assess your readiness to potentially accept a lower salary in exchange for meaningful work, professional development opportunities, and opportunities for impact.

Geographic factors should also be taken into account. Certain regions may offer more abundant opportunities or unique challenges within the public sector landscape, which can significantly influence your career trajectory and growth prospects.


Public sector consulting presents a compelling career path for people that are passionate about driving positive change and impacting society and government.
Hopefully, this overview has given you insight into whether it is the right career path for you. Need help? Reach out to Coach Cristian Leata for a discussion.

About the Author


 #1 rated and most recommended McKinsey Coach | 97% success rate

       Professional Experience: McKinsey & Company, Writer & Entrepreneur
       Languages: English
       Location: Germany



After graduating from Oxford, Cristian gained several years of experience at McKinsey. Until today, he was working in eight different countries and nine different industries and founded his own consultancy, Writer & Entrepreneur.

Cristian is the highest rated McKinsey coach on this platform by both rating and recommendation rate. Though he specializes in MBB and particularly McKinsey, he is the perfect coach to help you apply to these companies.
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