This post is based on the reply I gave to a question on Quora. The original question was: Is it possible to get a consulting job without a college degree?

There’s three ways to get a consulting job (I am looking at strategy/ management consulting here) without a college degree:

  1. Be incredibly lucky.
    For the overwhelming majority of cases, not having a good (!) college degree disqualifies you in the first step of the application process. Every respectable consulting firm requires it and checks for the degree. Heck – even as a young professional, when switching firms, I was questioned about the detailed grades in my high school diploma!
    But there will be rare cases, for example the founder of the company does not believe in college education, etc., when it is indeed not required. In ten years in the industry, I have never seen this.
  2. Be a very senior hire.
    As has been mentioned in other answers, there are cases when people get hired out of industry positions. When your professional working experience fills up the CV, and you are joining either as a very seasoned industry specialist or from a CxO role – then chances are that nobody cares about a missing college degree. But I can’t stress that enough: be a VERY senior hire. A few years of working experience count for nothing here.
  3. Start your own business.
    Sure, this goes outside the scope of your question. This job won’t be given to you, you will create it yourself. Still – there’s no rule against starting a consulting company/ freelancing as a consultant without a degree. You have to convince your potential clients with other things than a degree anyways. If you deal your cards right, the question will not come up even once. But be aware – if you want to get hired through another consulting firm, you’re directly going back to point 1!