How to Become an IT Consultant

Become an IT consultant by determining the in-demand industries, getting business skills experience and setting up an online storefront.

IT Specialties

IT is an enormous field and the most in-demand specialties can fluctuate depending on need and the development of new technologies. CIO Zone has identified six sub-specialties of IT that are currently in-demand: database administration, enterprise architecture, enterprise resource planning (ERP), internet architecture, project management, and web application programming. All of these currently hot specialties are rely mainly on software and programming skills, but they also all require business skills to succeed.

IT Business Skills

An IT consultant is selling their IT skills and knowledge, but the consultant also needs to develop business skills, such as leadership, supervision and project management. Leadership skills can be developed by taking the team lead on IT projects. Supervision means looking for opportunities to train newcomers and direct the work of subordinates. Project management requires managing all of the deliverables, including the people involved, to getting a project done on time. As an IT consultant, business skills in these areas will also help you sell your services.

Salary

According to the SimplyHired Salary Search, IT consultants can make an average salary of $73,000 per year. Depending on the sub-specialty of the IT consultant, salary can range as much as 12,000/year; for example, a project manager makes, on average, $70,000 per year, whereas a database manager makes $58,000 per year. The area that the consultant lives in and the number of consultants they are competing in can drive down the prices for projects, especially if the project can be outsourced out of the US.

Getting Started

However, almost all companies need IT to survive, so they will need either in-house staff or a consultant. It is possible for both new graduates and experienced professionals to become consultants. However, prospective consultants need to develop a body of work, of completed IT projects, that build their professional reputation. This is a problem for new grads who have been so overwhelmed by school work that it is difficult for them to work on IT projects. For experienced professionals, an IT professional could have spent many years as a subordinate, contributing to projects but not acting as project lead.

Get started by taking on independent projects where you are the primary project lead. Projects don't have to be big, or with Fortune 500 companies--in fact, there is an enormous market for IT services to smaller firms and indie shops--but it is important that you are the team lead. Volunteer opportunities with non-profits that need IT assistance can also provide an opportunity to act as the main project lead. Some non-profits are also enormous corporations with the potential for many different IT projects. Work in a non-profit, either paid or unpaid, can lead to many networking opportunities.

A consultant should also have their own website with information about their services and how to purchase them, sample projects and links to articles written by the consultant. Some consultants rely on their profiles on contract work job boards, or on LinkedIn, and those services do have their place to find and bid on work, but a consultant also needs their own storefront, and for an IT consultant, that storefront should be on the Internet.