Over the past years the global consulting market has booked year on year growth, although growth rates differ between the more mature markets and emerging economies. With a total value of around $250 billion, the global consulting sector is one of the largest and most mature markets within the professional services industry.

An analysis of the past five decades shows that the development of the consultancy industry is closely tied to the developments of the global economy. In times of flourishing economic conditions, organisations enjoy higher revenues and budgets, a setting which paves the way for higher spending on consultants. Vice versa, economic downturns typically sees organisations shrink their spending behaviour, which leads to budget cuts of, among, others, consulting expenditures.

Between the 1970s up the 1990s the global consulting market grew every single year, despite the two recession periods (early 1970s and 1973-1975), fueled by high demand for strategic services and operational management. In 2002 the sector for the first time in decades faced a contraction, followed by an even larger downturn between 2009 and 2011, in the slipstream of the global financial crisis.

Size of the global consulting industry

In 2011 the consulting industry was valued at $205 billion, and since the market has grown with an average Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.1% to a value of $251 billion in 2016*. The largest segment is Operations Consulting, which accounts for nearly 30% of the market, followed shortly by the Financial Advisory segment. Strategy Consulting – the most prestigious segment in the industry – represents less than 15% of the market, and is, in terms of size, comparable to the HR Consulting domain. Technology Consulting, also referred to as IT Consulting, holds a 20% share of the overall market**.

For many years globalisation, consolidation, developments in laws and legislation, efficiency and technology have acted as the main growth drivers of the global consulting industry. More recently, digital and business model disruption has surfaced as the driving factor behind growth, in particular in the more mature markets.

Across the board, the North American consulting market is regarded as the most mature region globally, however, the EMEA region – Europe, the Middle East and Africa – lead in terms of market size, holding a 41% share of the overall consultancy economy. The US is by a distance the largest national consulting market, with Canada taking just a 7% share of the North American market. Asia and Oceania, with Australia as the most important consulting hub, accounts for around 16% of the industry.

Global consulting market by region

In terms of growth momentum, Asia Pacific leads the pack, together with other emerging economies, while the EMEA region and North America on average are booking CAGR growth rates of 3.6%

* See the page 'Consulting Market' for the methodology and definitions used for determining market estimates.

** The definition of Technology Consulting focuses on IT and digital advisory services, and excludes a range of IT implementation and managed services. See the page 'IT Consulting' for details on definitions used and the impact on market sizing.