What Does a Consultant Do?

Consultants are paid to share their expertise and knowledge to help businesses attain goals and solve problems. Consulting is a wide-ranging field with positions in innumerable industries. Many consultants are hired by foreign businesses looking to operate in the United States.

A consultant requires little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Consultants are paid to share their expertise and knowledge to help businesses attain goals and solve problems. Businesses often hire consultants to supplement their staff and save the costs of hiring a full-time employee. As a person new to the company or organization, consultants view the situation from a fresh perspective. Because a consultant isn't beholden to any particular corporate culture, co-worker scrutiny or morale, consultants can act as the catalyst for change. While there are no degree requirements for a consultant, they do need to have vast knowledge and experience in a particular field. In addition to expertise, a consultant should have a track record of past accomplishments. Individuals with higher levels of education and experience will generally receive greater compensation for their services. Consulting is a broad area of interest, and, from businesses to personal services, there's a consulting opportunity for practically every industry.

Required Education Depends on field
Other Requirements Experience and previous accomplishments
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 7-19%* (depending on field)
Average Annual Salary (2015) $66,701-$85,971* (depending on field)

Job Duties

Job duties can vary depending on the industry in which a consultant is working as well as his or her specific field of expertise. Fixing or improving a particular component of client's business is the broadest duty for which consultants are hired. Consultants may sometimes be asked to teach a business' employees how to manipulate a new software program or some other skill that increases productivity or generates more revenue. They're also expected to provide advice, make recommendations and excel at problem solving. Consultants are often used prior to, and during, the start-up of a new business or to re-energize a flailing business. Consultants are also brought in when a business needs reorganization, including the termination of individual employees or entire departments. A client will retain a consultant's services until the goal or obligations of the particular endeavor have been met. The time period for consultancy can vary in length, depending on the needs of the client and on any unforeseen problems or additions to the project for which the consultant was hired.

Successful consultants derive their skill set from a combination of learned techniques acquired from higher education and, to a lesser degree, innate personality traits. These skills include the following:

  • Logical reasoning
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Ingenuity
  • Ability to work well with others

Job Outlook

Earnings vary depending on the field of consultancy and whether a consultant works for a large company or is self-employed. Earnings can be high for successful self-employed consultants, while company employees enjoy possible additional compensation such as profit sharing, bonuses, stock ownership and health benefits. Salaries for consultants also vary depending on area of expertise. For example, according to PayScale.com, in 2015, the average annual salary for human resources consultants was $66,701; for information technology (IT) consultants it was $71,427, and for management consultants it was $85,971. The BLS projected the number of jobs for management analysts will grow by 19% from 2012-2022, while jobs for human resources specialists will grow by only 7% in the same time.

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