Human Resources Consultants
Education and Training Requirements
High school courses that will give you a general preparation for this field include business, psychology, mathematics, and computer science. Take English and speech classes to help develop your oral and written communication skills. Taking a foreign language, such as Spanish, will come in handy if you work with people who do not speak English as a first language.
A bachelor’s degree in human resources, actuarial science, mathematics, business, finance, management information systems, the humanities (English, history, etc.), or the social sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.) is the minimum requirement to become an HR consultant. Some large firms—such as McKinsey & Co. and Bain & Co.—prefer to hire consultants with an MBA (especially for strategic HR consulting jobs), or at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of appropriate work experience. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that approximately 28 percent of management consultants have a master’s degree.
The Society for Human Resource Management offers a directory of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in human resources at its Web site, https://www.shrm.org/academicinitiatives/students/Pages/HRProgramDirectory.aspx.
Colleges that offer degrees and concentrations in consulting include the University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Notre Dame, and the College of William and Mary.
The Association for Talent Development offers a Consulting Skills Certificate program online and in several U.S. cities. Contact the society for more information.
Georgetown University, University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Dallas, and other colleges and universities offer consulting certificate programs. Contact these schools to learn more.
Other Education or Training
Many professional associations provide continuing-education opportunities to consultants. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management offers seminars, on-site training, and webcasts on topics such as compensation essentials, employee development, current issues in labor relations, and leadership development for HR professionals. The Institute of Management Consultants USA offers a Mastering Management Consulting fundamentals course for those just starting a new consulting practice or re-focusing an existing one. Educational opportunities are also available in face-to-face seminars and online webinars, at its International Consult-Con conference, and through other media.
Other organizations that provide CE resources include the American Staffing Association, National Association of Executive Recruiters, National Association of Personnel Services, National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, and NPAworldwide. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Becoming certified is a great way to demonstrate to potential employers that you’ve met the highest standards established by your industry. Several professional associations provide certification programs for HR consultants. TheHuman Resource Management Institute offers the certified human resources consultant designation to applicants who successfully complete online training and meet education and experience requirements.The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers the SHRM certified professional and SHRM senior certified professional designations to those who pass an examination and meet other requirements. The Institute of Management Consultants USA offers the certified management consultant designation to those consultants who meet minimum educational and experience criteria in addition to passing a rigorous examination. The American Staffing Association, Association for Talent Development, International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, International Society for Performance Improvement, WorldatWork, and the National Association of Personnel Services also provide certification. Depending on their specialties, HR consultants may also earn certifications in accounting, actuarial science, finance, health and benefits, and compensation.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Try to get as much experience as possible in the field by participating in summer internships and working at part-time jobs while in college. It will take several years of on-the-job experience to become a consultant.
To be a successful HR consultant, you must have an analytical personality, enjoy solving problems, and be able to work well with people from a variety of backgrounds. You should be creative, confident, and a strong communicator, and you must be willing to continue to learn throughout your career. Willis Towers Watson, one of the leading HR consulting firms in the world, seeks “candidates who can demonstrate their academic achievement, intellect, problem-solving, and communication skills and team orientation [as well as those] who are self-motivated and achievement oriented, based on previous internships, extracurricular activities, charitable involvement, and other valuable experiences.”