IT consultants are great communicators and have excellent organisational skills as well as a sound knowledge and understanding of IT systems
Your role as an IT consultant is to work in partnership with clients, advising them how to use information technology in order to meet their business objectives or overcome problems. You'll work to improve the structure and efficiency of IT systems in various organisations.
You'll provide strategic guidance to clients with regard to technology and IT infrastructures and will enable major business processes through enhancements to IT. You may be called upon to provide guidance and technical expertise during other processes as well, such as selection and procurement and user training and feedback.
As an IT consultant you'll need to:
- meet with clients to determine requirements
- work with clients to define the scope of a project
- plan timescales and the resources needed
- clarify a client's system specifications, understand their work practices and the nature of their business
- travel to customer sites
- liaise with staff at all levels of a client organisation
- define software, hardware and network requirements
- analyse IT requirements within companies and give independent and objective advice on the use of IT
- develop agreed solutions and implement new systems
- present solutions in written or oral reports
- help clients with change-management activities
- purchase systems where appropriate
- design, test, install and monitor new systems
- prepare documentation and present progress reports to customers
- organise training for users and other consultants
- be involved in sales and support, and where appropriate, maintain contact with client organisations
- identify potential clients and build and maintain contacts.
- As a graduate IT consultant you can expect to earn £20,000 to £30,000.
- With significant experience, you can earn in the region of £32,000 to £40,000.
- At a more senior level, if you've identified a specialist area, salaries range from £40,000 to £80,000. The exact salary depends on the demand for your specific expertise.
Salary is dependent on location, size and type of employer and is usually performance-related. Contract work is possible and daily rates range from £150 to £550+ a day, depending on your experience and your area of expertise.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Although you'll generally work 9am to 5pm, the nature of the industry means that extra hours are often required to meet deadlines. You'll also spend a lot of time travelling to client sites, mirroring the client's working hours.
Part-time work is unlikely, but career breaks are possible as work is project-based. While many IT professionals are independent contractors, it's best to gain some experience and contacts in the industry by working for an employer before going down this route.
Self-employment is possible, where you can manage your own workload and hours.
What to expect
- The job is mostly office-based, working as a member of a project team. You'll often be based on clients' premises.
- There are more men than women working in the industry, however various groups exist to support women in IT and technology, encourage them into the industry and list available jobs, such as BCSWomen and Women in Technology.
- Jobs are available in many large towns and cities in the UK, with client sites located throughout the country, but most employers are based in London and the South East.
- The work may be stressful and fast-paced, particularly when client deadlines need to be met.
- Travel within the working day to clients' sites is often needed, and overnight absence from home is frequently required. Overseas travel may occasionally be necessary depending on the employer and client.
You can enter IT consultancy work with any degree, but in particular the following subjects may be useful:
- business studies
- computer science and software engineering
- electrical/electronic engineering
- information systems
- other science or engineering disciplines.
If you have an unrelated degree you might need to show your interest in, and knowledge of, information technology. A 2:1 degree, previous work experience and a genuine interest in IT and consulting increases your chances of securing work.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification - such as an MSc in IT - isn't required, but shows evidence of your interest and competence - particularly if your first degree is not in a related subject. Tech Partnership Degrees, with the help of some of the biggest employers, has designed the IT Management for Business (ITMB) degree. It aims to give students the valuable skills needed for the IT and business industry and provides networking events with over 80 industry employers.
If you want to enter the world of IT consultancy, you'll need to show:
- leadership ability
- communication and interpersonal skills
- teamwork skills
- a logical approach to problem solving and analysing
- the ability to learn quickly
- confident decision making
- presentation skills
- excellent customer service skills
- good organisational skills to prioritise heavy workloads
- the ability to communicate technical information to non-IT clients and colleagues
- flexibility and adaptability
- time management skills.
Finding IT-related holiday work or an industrial placement or internship may lead directly to graduate employment. As a first or second year undergraduate, you can apply for internships in the industry. Work experience gained in a commercial environment helps demonstrate your commercial awareness, client management skills and ability to understand and communicate the business benefits of IT.
Competition for vacancies is fierce, so it's a good idea to start making applications for jobs to larger firms in the autumn term of your final year. Graduate places fill quickly and competition gets stronger as time passes.
You can find work within management consultancies, software and systems houses and some large manufacturers of computing equipment and software. You may focus on a particular industry, or work across a range of sectors for your clients, including:
- financial services and global investment companies
- manufacturing - including automotive
- the public sector
Some companies and consultancies specialise in one area of IT services, such as web design and internet solutions, or they may produce software tailored to a particular market. You'll need specialist knowledge and experience in that area to apply, or they may offer the necessary training.
There are many big graduate recruiters who take on recent graduates into consultancy roles and companies range in size from small firms employing fewer than five people, to industry giants.
Globalisation, outsourcing, cloud computing and social computing currently drive opportunities in this sector. A rising interest in environmental innovation, in products and services, is also creating new demand for consultants.
Look for job vacancies at:
You'll develop technical and business skills through a combination of on-the-job training and in-house courses.
You may be given training in a variety of programming languages and be taught the principles of systems analysis, as well as how to use project management and specific business software. Other training may cover topics such as client interaction, communication, leadership, conflict resolution, and sales and presentation skills.
Formal training is more likely in larger companies. In some cases, mentoring schemes are available and training is tailored to the individual. Such schemes ensure that new members of staff are exposed to a variety of working environments and systems.
Professional qualifications, like those offered by the BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT, provide evidence that you have reached a certain professional standard and level of skill. As a member of the BCS you can also access information and guidance to help you meet your learning needs and develop expertise.
The IT industry is so diverse that you can develop your career in a number of different ways, in a variety of industries and sectors. As an IT consultant, your immediate prospects depend on the size and type of the organisation you work for. Movement between employers is common.
Most large consultancies have an established career structure for their staff, with frequent appraisals and an emphasis on individuals managing their own career. You might move from handling daily responsibility for a project to a more strategic role within team leadership.
Once you gain general experience, you may want to work as a senior consultant or specialise in a sector or a program such as SAP or Oracle. You may also take on greater responsibilities in another part of the organisation, such as training and recruitment, project management or sales.
Other ways to progress include developing specific technical expertise, possibly contributing at national and international technical conferences or moving into a more strategic business direction, either for a company or a management consultancy firm. You could also opt to work as a self-employed contractor.