In information technology consulting and management consulting, a grade aims to explicitly recognize a certain professional level, both within the organization and to customer organizations. A grade is separated from a place in the line hierarchy of a company, it underlines the very possibility of recognizing a person (top) level without being necessarily in a management functions.
The most commonly used system of grading consultants is the following:
Associate consultant: An associate consultant is at the beginning of their consulting career and will typically do work to support the consultants and senior consultants - data collection and analysis, workshop support, etc. An associate consultant can also refer to a day rate contractor at any level, differentiating them from an employee of the firm (e.g. associate managing consultant).
Consultant: A consultant is ‘learning the trade' within a specific domain of expertise. A consultant is developing in most competency dimensions and work in different roles on different projects in a specific domain.
Senior consultant: A senior consultant has developed a specialisation within a specific domain of expertise. A senior consultant is capable of working independently as well as in teams. A senior consultant is often responsible for the completion of a part of a project or activities for which he/she leads a small team. A senior consultant is more client oriented and explores sales activities.
Managing consultant: A managing consultant has started to excel in some of the competency dimensions. A managing consultant is known for domain expertise and is capable of generating his or her own work and that of others. As such the managing consultant is often responsible for business volume, through (add-on) sales and delivering a project. A managing consultant can act as a team lead or counsellor for other team members.
Principal consultant: A principal consultant has a strong business impact and is often part of the company's leadership. A principal consultant is capable of shaping a piece of business being the leader in a specific domain and in any other domains. A principal consultant develops high-level business relations and high-impact projects. A principal is capable of leading large teams and also generates new business ideas.