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What Is a Computer Consultant?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Computer consulting is a growing and flexible field with a good starting rate and an almost infinite upside, depending on your skills, specialization, education, customer service talent and ability to market yourself.

Computer consulting includes a wide range of positions that include entry-level tech support and customer service, solopreneur PC laptop repair in a home workshop, and advanced cybersecurity work combating hacks, information theft and security problems in large companies and government agencies. An IT consultant can be anything from the proverbial greybeard in the hackerspace to the sharply dressed corporate strategist, outlining the framework for a billion-dollar computer network.

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Computer and information systems managers earned a median annual salary of $139,220, while computer repair workers earned a median annual salary of $40,140.

Job Description

A computer consulting career can provide a challenging environment or a stiflingly dull one depending on your field and skill set. Some workers are people persons who thrive working in small offices whwere they help people solve their technical problems one at a time. Some are loners and enjoy the freedom to work from home, puzzling away at complex logical problems or debugging an unpredictable program. If intrigue and research excite you, cybersecurity is a specialization that, thanks to the justified panic around hacking, is exploding and extremely well-paid.

Educational Requirements

You need at least a bachelor's degree in computing, cybersecurity, or information or records management for a start in this field. There's just too much competition to walk in straight from high school anymore. Certifications from corporations like Microsoft and other software companies are an important form of resume-dressing that help you stand out from the crowd. The myth of the hacker in the hoodie being offered millions to come work with the company he's hacked is just that: a myth. Today, that hacker would need a certification if he wants to work with corporations rather than against them. Credentials matter in this field.

Industry

With millions of people employed across the United States, generating hundreds of billions of dollars of value, the computer consulting industry is one of the cornerstones of the American economy. The annual growth rate is projected to be more than 3 percent over the next few years. There are currently nearly half a million IT consulting companies in the United States.

Years of Experience and Salary

Because the field is so hot, and growth so forceful, experience is less of a factor here than proven aptitude, such as a track record of problem-solving. Older job hunters in the field frequently leave information off their resumes if they feel it will identify their age. Age discrimination is a real thing in the youth-focused tech world.

Computer and information systems managers earned a median annual salary of $139,220 in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while computer repair workers earned a mean salary of $40,140. The mean salary figure is the point at which half of all computer consultants earned more, and half earned less.

At the top end of the scale, cybersecurity consultants who own their own companies rake in millions a year. Their staffers can average as high as $380,000 a year in some markets, not counting bonuses and perks. The difference is training and aptitude. It also makes a difference if you're working on your own or working for someone else. The former is riskier, but the potential upside is better. Working for a company like a computer consultancy is better if your primary motivator is security.

If you decide to go out on your own as a computer consultant, you need to set your rates high enough not only to cover your cost of living but also to make up for the benefits that a company would normally provide. That usually comes out to about 30 percent of a gross salary for things like extended medical coverage, insurance, car allowance, vacation and the like. Don't forget things like attending networking meetings, getting business cards designed and printed, and other basic costs of doing business.

Job Growth Trend

As the world becomes increasingly reliant on computers, independent consultants are in great demand. The projected growth rate for the field is almost twice that for other industries. Because of the move toward cloud computing and fewer centralized service providers, the future growth of IT consulting will largely consist of consulting to large corporations, rather than working with individuals or small businesses.

Computer consulting can be a rewarding and stimulating career. It can even be a glamorous one in the high-flying world of corporate consulting and cybersecurity. If your mind has a logical bent and you're a problem-solver, this could be the career of your dreams.

About the Author

Lorraine Murphy has been writing on business, self-employment, and marketing since the turn of the 21st century. Her credits include Vanity Fair, the Guardian, Slate, Salon, Occupational Pursuit Magazine, the Daily Download, and Business in Vancouver. She has been a judge and mentor at Vancouver Startup Weekend multiple times, and is an in-demand keynote speaker.

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