Academic consulting is an important and effective means of knowledge transfer between the public and private sectors. It offers opportunities for research application but also raises concerns over potentially negative consequences for academic research and its dissemination. For a sample of social, natural, and engineering science academics in Germany, and controlling for the selection into consulting, we investigate the effect of consulting with public and private sector organizations on research performance. While previous research suggested that consulting activities might come at the cost of reduced research output, our analysis provides a more nuanced picture. Public sector consulting comes with lower average citations, particularly for junior researchers. Moreover, engagement in consulting increases the probability to cease publishing research altogether, particularly for private sector consulting. The probability of exit from academic research increases with the intensity of consulting engagement for those at the start or towards the end of their academic career and in fields for which the public–private wage gap and opportunities for engagement in duties outside academia are higher. We draw lessons for research institutions and policy about the promotion of academic consulting.