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How to Become an Organizational Development Consultant

Find out how to become an organizational development consultant. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in organizational development consulting.

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Should I Become an Organizational Development Consultant?

When a business is troubled, organizational development consultants, sometimes called industrial-organizational psychologists, are brought in to research and analyze corporate environments through observing and interviewing management and employees. Once they discover the trouble plaguing the company or institution, they recommend changes to improve employee morale and the organization's productivity. In addition, these independent experts offer strategic planning and development advice as well as leadership. Recruiting and training personnel may be part of the organizational development consultant's job as well. Travel between multiple offices is often necessary.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Typically a master's degree or doctorate
Degree Field Industrial-organizational psychology, business administration, human resources management, organizational development, among others
Certification Voluntary; Society for Human Resource Management PHR/SPHR certification encouraged
Experience Some employers may prefer as little as three years of experience, while others require 5-10 years of experience with a master's degree; leadership positions may require a minimum of ten years of managerial experience
Key Skills Strategic thinker, project management abilities, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Office, Outlook and Excel, Enterprise resource planning software, Scientific Software International TESTFACT and Winsteps, data analysis, needs assessment
Salary (2014) $78,800 (Annual mean salary for an industrial-organizational psychologist)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine

Step 1: Complete an Undergraduate Degree Program

The minimum requirement for entry-level organizational development (OD) positions is usually a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While students may be able to locate some OD courses, very few programs are offered at the undergraduate level. Aspiring OD consultants are more likely to find individual courses within business programs or programs in behavioral or organizational psychology.

Step 2: Complete a Graduate Program

Organizational development consultants tend to have a variety of educational credentials; most have earned a master's degree. At the graduate level, students may enroll in organizational development, organizational psychology or human resources programs.

Step 3: Earn Industry Certifications

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that while certification is not required, some employers prefer or require certified job candidates. In order to operate as an independent consultant, OD consultants may benefit from a reputation verified by industry credentials. Although graduate programs in organizational development are available, students who earned their degree in another field can still enroll in an organizational development certificate program.

Success Tip:

  • Explore online certificate programs. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) provides an extensive number of 2-3 day programs. In addition to a general certificate program, they also offer Master Trainer and Human Performance Improvement (HPI) and Certified Professional in Learning and Performance programs. Other resources include online workshops, on-site customized programs and conferences.

Step 4: Gain Professional Experience

Organizational development consultants provide advice related to changes in management, business mergers, succession planning and other business-specific topics. In order to offer the best advice on these topics, many consultants have experience working at one or more large organizations as on-staff organizational development consultants or human resources professionals.

Success Tips:

  • Obtain industry-specific work experience. According to the BLS, training and development manager positions usually require experience specific to the industry or company. This may include prior experience as a human resource assistant, a customer service representative or similar positions. Prior experience as a teacher or trainer may also be valuable.
  • Sharpen information technology skills. The BLS indicates that many companies seek information technology, or IT, experience. This may assist applicants who will train staff with synchronous and/or asynchronous e-learning platforms.

Step 5: Engage in Continuing Education Opportunities

OD consultants can find a number of opportunities to engage in continued learning. Colleges, universities, employers, OD and human resources (HR) organizations may all offer some type of workshop, seminar or certificate program. Desktop publishing, office administration, HR policies, leadership, personal development and Web development are a few of the skills that may be addressed. In addition, the continuing education opportunities may broaden the consultant's level of expertise and bring them a fatter paycheck.

Success Tips:

  • Explore OD certificate programs. Most OD consultants may have backgrounds in business, HR or psychology so it is important to find a certificate program that provides relevant material. Some of these programs may also be geared toward executive and training directors as well as performance consultants.
  • Explore HR certification options. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides a variety of certification preparation tools, competency courses, educational products and executive training. They also offer online learning opportunities through webcasts and e-Learning programs.
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