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Computer Consultant Job Description, Career as a Computer Consultant, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

consultants consulting according independently

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$85,904 per year

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

The widespread use of computers in businesses of all sizes has created a need for computer consultants. Companies that are large enough to computerize their operations but too small to need a computer specialist on staff usually hire computer consultants on a contract or retainer basis.

Most computer consultants work independently, although some are employed by consulting firms. Their duties vary according to the needs of their client companies. A computer consultant might spend only a few hours helping a dentist select and learn to operate a small office system. For a larger company, the consultant might spend several months establishing a complicated database, creating a network of small and large computers, writing user manuals, designing a Web site, or conducting computer training classes. Consultants also may recommend and design security features for a computer system. Computer consultants can be software programmers, hardware system installers, networking specialists, database specialists, systems analysts, or a combination of the above.

Education and Training Requirements

Most computer consultants are college graduates. They may have degrees in computer science or data processing. Experts recommend that aspiring consultants gain experience as staff computer specialists before working independently.

Getting the Job

Interested individuals can apply directly to computer consulting firms. If someone wants to work independently, he or she can advertise in computer magazines or send a resume directly to firms that potentially require the services of a computer consultant.

Self-employed computer consultants enjoy independence and diversity in their jobs, but they may not have a steady flow of work. (© Royalty-Free/Corbis.)

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

According to the 2004–14 employment projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of computer and other technical consultants was expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Both the use of computers and the need for sound computer advice are expected to grow. However, computer consultants face competition from computer manufacturers and salespeople as well as from other consultants. Moreover, many computer stores are starting to offer free consulting services to attract buyers. Consultants who remain alert to trends in computer use and are flexible enough to adjust their services accordingly will have the best chances for success.

Working Conditions

Consultants may have to work long hours, because clients usually need their systems installed or upgraded quickly. Assignments may last from several days to several months. Self-employed consultants enjoy independence and diversity in their jobs, but they may not have a steady flow of work.

Computer consultants must have good communication skills so that they can identify their clients' needs quickly and explain their recommendations clearly.

Where to Go for More Information

Association for Computing Machinery
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
(212) 626-0500
http://www.acm.org

Independent Computer Consultants Association
11131 S. Towne Square, Ste. F
St. Louis, MO 63123
(314) 892-1675
http://www.icca.org

Earnings and Benefits

Computer consultants' earnings vary greatly depending on experience, the complexity of their task, and specialty. According to the "Computerworld Salary Survey 2005" (Computerworld, October 24, 2005), the median hourly rate for consultants was $61 in 2005. The median annual base pay rate for consultants working at a consulting firm was $85,904.

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