Consultants are hired by companies to give them advice related to their business. There are consultants who work in every industry out there. Many companies hire consultants to help them assess business problems, issues or trends and look to the consultant to provide expert advice, analysis and solutions.
For example, in the movie Office Space, the company hired two consultants to come in and analyze operations at Initech, a software company.
There are large consultant firms that specialize in assisting Fortune 100 and 500 companies, or consulting firms that help businesses of 5 to 500 employees and more. Consultants work for large companies, small agencies and on an independent basis. Some of the top management consulting firms in the United States are McKinsey & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, Bain and Company and Booz Allen & Hamilton, for example. There are independent consultants and small agencies that work with companies and individuals in every industry out there.
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Many consultants have worked at a high level in their industry of expertise for years and because of this, they are able to transfer their industry expertise and knowledge and provide that information to the company that hires them.
Consultants can also be hired to train, and motivate employees, increase organizational performance and help provide market analysis among other tasks.
More and more companies are looking at ways to trim costs, increase production and essentially, do more with less. That is good and bad for consultants. The companies that are looking to streamline operations and want an outside group to analyze company operations will use a consultant or consulting group to help with that decision. However, in some cases, companies cannot afford to hire a consultant or company because the company is struggling.
While there is no one-size-fits-all education that fits a consultant, education, work experience and expertise in the consulting field one pursues is highly desirable. For example, a management consultant may have previously been a high-level manager at a Fortune 100 company, where he or she oversaw a few hundred people in a large department. Or, an IT consultant may have previously worked on large-scale projects that required large teams, processes and project management. A career consultant may have experience hiring and firing, or advanced training and education in the field of career management, backed by a degree in human resources.
A background in human relations, human resources, management, project management, leadership and training can help, but any degree backed by specific industry training can lead to success as a consultant.
Many who get into this field start their own consultancy and work as self-employed business person.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management consultants (aka Management Analysts) made about $78,600 as of 2013. This salary varies greatly by industry and type of business. According to the book Guerilla Marketing for Consultants, the average salary for a U.S.-based consultant was $148,000 with a high of about $226,000. Entry-level consultants make between $50,000-$65,000 while those who make partner status at a large consultancy can make between $200,000 to $300,000. Self-employed consultants set their own rates, which can be as much as $40 to $300 an hour or higher.
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Consultants are looked at as experts in their field and can make a good living. They can make additional money as a speaker, trainer or author, and the best of the best are considered leaders in their field. If one has the business savvy they can move up in a company or start their own successful consulting firm.