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Top 5 Consulting Careers for Contractors Today

There are plenty of options for contractors. With the changing nature of the workforce, more contractors are looking for steady, flexible work with long-term sustainability. Contractors have found themselves with a plethora of options ranging from the lucrative, to the cringe-worthy. The Department of Labor has estimated that an 82% growth will occur in consulting services across a growing number of fields as soon as 2018. While career options for contractors are numerous, consulting agreements can offer a guide to current career options available.

While certain career paths are more in line with specific personality traits, the following consulting careers offer flexibility and exciting job prospects for the consultant on the hunt. The top five trending consulting careers are in the areas of:

  • computer and information systems,
  • human resources,
  • management,
  • accounting, and
  • marketing/public relations.

While such careers have been gaining momentum in the last 10 years, there are pros and cons to look out for in each sector.

Computer and Information Systems Consulting

Computer and information systems careers have taken freelance options to another level. Computer software engineering is one of the fastest growing fields in the area of computer and information systems and seems to show no sign of slowing down. For beginners in consulting hoping to get their feet wet in the area of computer and information systems, this growing field can provide convenience and flexibility in terms of compensation, geographic location, and skill set.

For experienced freelancers, computer and information systems can allow them to consult in the areas of cyber security, networking, banking, investments and finance, troubleshooting, and general IT services. Computer and information systems is a field that requires a knack for technology, along with innovation.


While many consulting careers in these fields require certification, there are some sectors that only require basic experience in the field and the skills to carry out the task.

One of the most common areas for computer and information systems includes IT. Whether it is a small or large firm, a consultant can expect to work from home, resolving computer or network issues for the firm. Sometimes the position may require the consultant to answer the phone to provide live help for employees of the company or customers with support issues. The beauty of IT consulting is the ability for further development.

For instance, many IT consultants are cross trained in several areas of IT. Generally, a consultant would be trained in and familiarized with the company’s specific servers, computers, networks, and remote equipment configurations. The other grand factor in considering a consulting job in IT is that there is a never-ending need for consultants in this area. Firms and larger companies are always on the lookout for IT experts who can offer advice in the areas of websites, including:

  • domain management,
  • web page development,
  • email hosting,
  • servers, and
  • networks, to name but a few.

One tactic that may give an IT consultant a leg up from other IT consultants is knowing the playing field well. A business-savvy consultant knows that thinking outside of the box in a way that best serves a client’s strategic needs is the best way to get ahead. With more options available, clients are looking for companies with technology capabilities that can meet their long-term goals.

The other way an IT consultant can stay competitive in the area of IT consulting is to ensure that he or she can compete with international IT consultants, who often have varying levels of exposure to wider global markets. Global experiences that IT consultants can draw from are those that involve complex technology-related challenges that have recently cropped up in the digital age.

IT consultants should be able to assist companies in transforming themselves to grow their businesses, align the company’s technology with its business needs along with those of the client, and develop and implement blueprints for long-term development. Hiring a consultant who has a track record of proven and successful IT strategies will mean you have greater chances of being able to negotiate favorable consulting agreements, which results in greater career options.

Human Resources Consulting

For quite some time, larger companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—also known as the “Big 3”—have been leading the way for sought-after jobs in human resources consulting. The latest player in the game, Google+, has offered a lucrative option to consultants in the HR field, throwing the Big 3 companies for a loop.

Most human resource positions require a certificate and training in HR or business management. The great part about human resources is that consulting work allows one to get to know the inner-workings of the company he or she is working for. For instance, a career in human resources requires understanding high-level detail such as the organizational structure of the company from the CEO down to entry-level employees.

Working Knowledge

A consulting position in HR also requires a working knowledge and understanding of employment law and practices.

Furthermore, an avid knowledge of labor laws is required to ensure the company’s practices are up-to-standard in regards to state and federal laws.

When it comes to HR consulting, the consultant who knows a fair share about employment law compliance is a godsend to all employers. Employers like to be reassured that the consultant they are hiring is equipped to handle employment issues and disputes with strict adherence to law and internal procedures. Non-compliance can cost an organization significantly. Some of the areas in which HR consultants need to be familiar with include compliance, audits, policies and procedures development, affirmative action, and complaint investigations.

One great thing about HR consulting is that new consultants in the HR field need not feel intimidated by more experienced consultants. Everyone goes through the same training, and a well-seasoned HR consultant can expect to be trained (or have training) in the following areas:

  • Staffing and hiring
  • Benefits administration
  • HR administration
  • Education and training
  • Time off and leaves of absence
  • Health and safety
  • Performance management
  • Compensation
  • Terminations

Management Consulting

Similar to HR consulting, this growing area of consulting involves knowledge of employment practices and organizational structure. A consultant in management is responsible for conducting interviews of management personnel as an impartial representative for the employer as well as investigating employer-employee disputes.

Another area that a management consultant would be responsible for is the development of policies and practices for supervisors and employees to ensure standardization. Other skills that may take an average management consultant to the next level is a commitment to protecting the employer’s workforce.

Take Pride In Your Work

If an employer can determine that the consultant truly takes pride in his or her work on a personal and ethical level, that management consultant is more likely to be re-hired and hired for other companies and firms so long as there is no conflict of interest.

Other areas in which this trendy area of consulting can lead to newfound success is in mediation and negotiation for dispute resolutions. If a consultant has a good knack for resolving disputes, this type of work would be right up their alley. Mediation can offer a guide to resolving disputes in meaningful ways. When situations have not risen to the level of an outright legal dispute, mediation can also ensure that talks and negotiations take place without any hiccups along the way. Part of the mediation process involves providing recommendations for company-wide changes to minimize future risks. Many management consultants will take a proactive approach in reviewing current policies and practices of the company to ensure that no gaps are present in the company’s procedures.

The last area of knowledge that a management consultant requires is working knowledge of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A management consultant must be able to ensure that all employees are correctly classified according to the FLSA; otherwise, the National Labor Relations Board may rule against a company, and an employer could face major fines.

To provide a little background information on how a management consultant can determine whether an employer is exempt from classification, the work must pass the three “tests” of FLSA regulations:

  • The salary level test
  • The salary basis test
  • The duties test

Although the rules are clear on classification, the difference between exempt and non-exempt positions can be confusing, and a management consultant must ensure that he or she does not misclassify an employee, as it can lead to hefty fines for the company. For instance, misclassification can cost an organization in many kinds of ways, such as back pay, compensation adjustments, moral issues, and even legal defense fees if suits are filed by employees.

Thus, a consultant who expects to thrive in the field of management consulting will assist an employer in ensuring that the requirements of the FLSA are met along with keeping up-to-date with the most current regulations.

Consulting in Accounting

A consultancy accounting position has become the dream job for many consultants in the area of accounting due to its straight-forward nature and its great payout. While consulting in accounting requires a formal accounting education, it also requires time to build a strong foundation of knowledge in the area of finance. Public accounting is a great field to gain broad experience in accounting, and once a consultant has had some exposure to public accounting, a consultant can gain more experience in niche areas of accounting.

Since accounting entails exposure to a variety of industries, new assignments should be seen as opportunities to add to one’s knowledge base. For instance, consultants should spend time with various clients, getting to know the ins and outs of the businesses, along with any nuances that each client has.

Build A Client Base

A great way to build a client base is to join a trade association in the accounting industry. A trade association is great for enhancing one’s skills and networking.

You never know when you will meet someone in the industry that may connect you with someone that requires your skill set. That very connection can end up in a meaningful employer relationship.

Consultants in accounting should also familiarize themselves with accounting software programs. A successful accounting consultant will be able to recommend programs that best suit their client’s needs.

Market Yourself

Another tip to succeed as a consultant in accounting is to read books and take courses on selling. For instance, a good consultant will be able to market themselves in the competitive industry of accounting.

While marketing one’s skill is required in all forms of consultancy work, it is more so in accounting due to fact that a lot of accounting work is gained through word of mouth. There is a common saying that an accountant is only as good as his reputation. If you provide great work as a consultant for accounting services, your work will create a long-standing impression for many potential clients to come.

Consulting in Marketing and Public Relations

Along with the perks of rubbing elbows with the famous (depending on how well connected one is), consulting in PR management can be a fun and exciting field. It can also prove challenging when working for the bigwigs in terms of meeting expectations and outcomes. However, for the most part, marketing and PR consulting can lead to a rewarding partnership.

If a consultant is new to the field of marketing and public relations, there are a few things that need to be considered. For instance, a public relations consultant acts as a communicator between organizations and the public. Since public relations consultants disseminate information about the company to the public, a good grasp on public speaking and writing is required. While some formal education is required for a consultancy position in PR, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for employment in this field.

Job duties in PR consulting can include writing press releases about a company’s issues and events. Once press releases are created, they are distributed to various media professionals to broadcast or publish. Some additional duties of a PR consultant can include writing and editing:

  • newsletters,
  • reports,
  • brochures,
  • speeches, and
  • other communications material.

Since forging relationships is the key to success in this industry, a consultant who is a people’s person will thrive on that basis. The overall factor to keep in mind is that knowing your strengths and weaknesses and working with them is the best way to stay on top of the consultancy game. If a consultant is better at writing than they are at public speeches, they should focus on clients who require written material more so than public press speeches.

Until such a consultant can become better-versed at oral material, it is best to work with his or her strengths rather than to take on a task that may leave a client unimpressed or dissatisfied with the work submitted.

Consultants Can Be Valuable Assets

Also see our 5 Advantages of Hiring a Consultant article to better understand how consultants can become valuable assets to the companies they work for.

Overall, it is best to keep a positive attitude and understand that a consultant creates their own opportunities. The sky is the limit in this industry.

When you do finally land that dream job, We are here to help you iron out fair contract terms with our consulting services agreement template.