Starting a career as an IT Consultant
Today’s market for IT workers is getting ever larger and one route you may chose to take is to become an IT Consultant. This article takes a look at what an IT Consultant does, the duties they take on day to day, what skills and education you need to get employed as an IT consultant and what you can expect to earn. All very useful information for high school, college, university graduates or people with a background in IT already wanting to change areas.
In essence an IT consultant offers technical advice to their clients who are looking to use some form of IT to improve or extend their company in some manner. IT is a confusing area for people who are not as familiar with it especially with its rapid advances that seem to happen almost daily! Most companies and organizations have some form of IT systems and how efficient the systems are and how they are used can have a direct impact on whether they succeed or fail in their endeavors. IT consultants will ensure each client gets advice that is tailored for their specific needs and goals, so that they are able to use their IT systems to meet them.
But as an IT consultant you would not just be responsible for offering clients advice. You would also need to offer practical support, helping with the implementation of new systems for example, training clients on its use, and giving feedback to management about how the system is performing. It is currently still a man’s world, with there being more male consultants than female. But there is no reason for women not to train and choose this career if it is something that you want to do. There are a number of organizations that actively encourage female applicants for all IT positions.
Duties of an IT Consultant
Unlike some of the more stressful jobs in IT, being an IT Consultant tends to be a more nine to five job. However that can depend on your client, their needs and their deadlines so some overtime may happen. The job will also involve traveling to clients with some need for overnight stays. Day to day you will spend most of your time in an office environment either your own or your clients. There can be stressful times when clients have tight budgets to work with and strict deadlines that make it hard to achieve what they need. The general kind of tasks you will cover include;
- Choosing what clients to consult with
- Meeting with your clients to make clear to all involved what the goals and needs are
- Looking into your client’s business so you understand the different areas
- With your knowledge of IT systems thinking how the business could be improved
- Looking at the existing IT systems in place and assessing current staff knowledge and skill
- Assess with the hardware currently being used needs to be replaced
- Design training programs for staff
- Train the client
- Make sure all staff understand any technical issues using language that is clear and simple
- Making a timetable of action and keeping to budgets
- Meeting with clients to check the timetable and budgets are acceptable
- Design either improvements to the existing system or a new system
- Implement either the improvements or the new system and explain actions taken to the client
- Researching technologies that are new and innovative like cloud hosting and discussing options with the client
- Make sure the improvements or the new system is running well and staff are able to use it
- Creating written and if necessary oral reports for clients at the end of a project
Qualifications and skills required
There is a lot of competition for the positions that are out there so be prepared for it being hard to get the job. What would help you is having the right education and skills on your C.V. A relevant degree in math, computer science, engineering for example and doing well in that degree is a big boost though not always required. Some applicants may be hired even if they have just a HND because of how well they perform in the interview process. You may have tests to pass during the recruitment process that will cover things like numerical exams.
Once you have a position you will start some formal training. The type of training you do depends on the company you work for, there are a number of options out there. They will likely include training in systems analysis and project management. You can choose whether you want to work towards a formal qualification as an IT consultant but it may improve your career prospects and your salary.
Salary and career opportunities
The pay of an IT consultant is usually a healthy one, with a starting wage of around $36,000 to $47,000. Pay does vary from employer to employer as well as from region to region. In a big city the average pay for an IT consultant with a few years experience is between $80,000 to $160,000 a year. Keep in mind pay is linked to how you perform and that is you do well your bonuses will reflect that.
After you have gained some experience as an IT consultant you may choose to advance your career by specializing in one area of consultancy like web development. Other options are to move into an area of IT that is completely different if you want to take on something new such as becoming a system analyst or IT trainer. It is good to know that the skills you develop as a consultant stand you in good stead for any other role in IT should you want to branch out. It also gives you great preparation for entering a managerial role.