Information Technology Consultants
Education and Training Requirements
If you are considering a career as an IT consultant, you should take a general high school curriculum that is college preparatory. Make sure you take computer science (programming, Web design, etc.) and business courses. You should also take courses that develop your analytical and problem-solving skills, such as mathematics (including algebra and geometry) and sciences (including chemistry and physics). Take English courses to develop the research and communication skills you’ll need for this profession.
A bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer engineering, computer information systems, computer science, database management, or another computer-related field is the minimum requirement to become a consultant. Some employers—especially major firms such as McKinsey & Company and Accenture prefer to hire consultants with a master’s degree in an IT-related field, or at least a bachelor’s degree plus several years of appropriate work experience in the IT industry.
Because consultants are usually responsible for marketing themselves, you should have good business skills, and knowledge of marketing and sales, in addition to your computer skills. Therefore, take business and management classes, as well as economics and marketing. The consultant with a broad educational background may have an advantage in certain situations. More and more clients are looking for IT consultants who can offer “value-added” services, such as business analysis and marketing assistance.
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 (CE) opportunities to IT consultants. For example, 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. It also offers educational opportunities via face-to-face seminars and online webinars, at conferences, and through other media. Many other national and state consulting associations provide CE opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Numerous certifications and designations are available in programming languages, software, Internet security, social media, and network administration. Some employers may require that consultants have certain certifications. To become certified, you will probably have to complete a training course and pass a written exam. Often the company that creates new technology, such as new software, will sponsor a training program.
Professional associations also provide certification programs. For example, the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals offers the certified computing professional and the associate computing professional designations, as well as other designations for different professionals in information technology. To become certified, you must pass various written exams and fulfill certain work experience requirements. CompTIA provides several cybersecutity certifications. The Institute of Management Consultants USA offers the certified management consultant designation to those consultants who meet minimum educational and experience criteria and successfully pass a rigorous examination.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Students should obtain as much experience in the field as possible by participating in summer internships and working at part-time jobs. It will take several years of on-the-job experience to become a full-fledged consultant.
IT consultants are lifelong learners. You should have the desire and initiative to keep up on new technology, software, hardware, IT security strategies, and social media. You must also have good communication skills, including good listening skills. Creativity and a good eye for graphic design are also desirable. Because IT consultants deal with many different people in various lines of work, they must be flexible and have good interpersonal skills. To be a successful consultant, you should be self-motivated and have the ability to work alone as well as with groups. You also need to have the patience and perseverance to see projects through.