Our prehistoric ancestors knew a thing or two about survival – and sharpened their instincts acutely to avoid the risks posed by an often-hostile world. Fast-forward 10,000 years: Instead of assessing the risk of being injured or killed by the animal herds we stalk for food, today’s risk management consulting professionals might instead use sophisticated algorithms to calculate the likelihood of crop failures or manage operational risks throughout a corporation.

A career in risk management consulting offers good earning potential, strong career growth possibilities and the ability to make a positive impact in the business world.

Assessing risk, and making wise choices as a result of that assessment, takes both brainpower and leadership. Organizations that hire risk management consultants traditionally favor candidates with backgrounds in accounting, business administration, economics or mathematics. Increasingly, business schools are also offering majors or concentrations in risk management.

Skills needed for risk management consulting roles

Beyond the degree, the key characteristic firms seek is superior quantitative skills. Candidates for risk management consulting jobs must be adept at crunching numbers, then discerning nuggets of risk management wisdom from among the reams of business data.

The need is there: Six years after the 2008 financial crisis, financial institutions around the world indicate that while progress has been made in improving risk management capabilities, many still struggle with foundational elements such as resource limitations and integration of risk appetite into day-to-day activities, according to a recent study from The Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by Protiviti, a global consulting firm and subsidiary of Robert Half.

In a separate study from Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s ERM Initiative, Executive Perspectives on Top Risks Survey, executives cited regulatory changes and heightened regulatory scrutiny as well as economic conditions as the top risks facing businesses today.

Since the regulatory environment and economy – both critical ingredients in assessing corporate risk – are by no means fixed entities, lifelong learning is pivotal in risk management consulting. A variety of risk management trade associations and specialized websites are available to help you learn more about risk management trends and advancing your career.

Different paths in risk management consulting

The risk management consulting profession contains a variety of sub-specialties. Professionals can specialize in regulatory compliance, risk and corporate strategy, fraud risk, financial investigation or risk-management information systems. Certifications are also available, as well. For example, you could specialize in fraud examination, but you could also become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), who can earn up to 30 percent more than someone who may also be experienced and qualified, but not certified.

Seasoned risk management professionals who want to expand their expertise and advance might consider switching to a risk-related area outside their current specialty. For example, if you’ve always worked in the property-casualty arm of an insurance company, a move to life and health insurance might broaden your outlook and your options.