What Does a Consultant Do? Key Duties for Each Speciality

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 25 January 2023

Published 1 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

For businesses to be successful, company leaders constantly assess their performance and consider ways to improve operations. They often hire consultants to provide expert feedback on how to achieve specific goals for the business. Learning the scope of a consultant's role and reviewing the common responsibilities of consultants in different industries can help you determine if this job is right for you and start planning your career path. In this article, we explain what a consultant does, review their duties and discuss some of the main types of consultants and their role within a business.

Related: How to Become a Principal Consultant: A Complete Guide

What does a consultant do?

To understand what a consultant does, this individual is an expert in a particular topic who advises on how to make improvements in that subject area. Consultants collect evidence and analyse data to make recommendations for their clients on how to solve problems, increase productivity or improve their performance in a specific area. Businesses hire consultants to advise on many aspects of their operations, from how they manage their budget to the way they advertise to customers. There are a few key areas of responsibility for consultants:

  • Research: During the initial phase of a project, a consultant completes in-depth research on their client to learn about their current actions and behaviours. This establishes a performance benchmark and allows them to recognise areas for improvement.

  • Analysis: Consultants analyse data to identify problems within a business and determine the most effective strategies for resolving those issues.

  • Reporting: After completing their analysis, the consultant compiles their findings into reports and explains their recommendations to company leaders.

  • Implementation: Many consultants oversee the implementation of their recommendations so they can help make adjustments or provide ongoing advice.

Related: 9 Consulting Skills to Be a Successful Consultant

Types of consultants

Here are several types of consultants and the basic duties and responsibilities for each speciality:

Strategic consultant

Strategic consultants help business leaders make important decisions that affect every aspect of the company. They can specialise either in a specific industry or a specific decision, like completing mergers between two businesses. Strategic consultants focus on high-level decisions for company management and the long-term plans of an organisation.

Related: How to Become a Management Consultant in 6 Steps

Operations consultants provide businesses with advice on how to optimise their operations, including outsourcing, supply chain management and procurement. They may also make suggestions on how to adjust operations during economic downturns or management changes. An operations consultant focuses on increasing efficiency, improving quality control and reducing costs. Some operations consultants help implement the suggestions they make and oversee the deployment of operational strategy.

Financial consultant

Financial consultants help businesses make informed decisions about their finances and suggest ways to support their financial success. They're involved in financial restructuring, risk management, real estate and corporate finance. They determine ways to manage taxes, improve cash flow, recommend financial services for clients and decide which investments have the highest chance of returns.

Related: Q&A: What Does a Financial Advisor Do?

Human resources consultant

Human resources consultants advise businesses on how to manage their staff for long-term business success. They provide clients with processes for human resource affairs, like effective training, development, conflict resolution and employee benefits, engagement and satisfaction. Human resources consultants review how employees perceive a company and make suggestions on how to cultivate a better relationship between a business and its workforce.

Risk and compliance consultant

Risk and compliance consulting help companies adhere to regulations, ethical practices and laws related to running a business. Consultants who specialise in risk and compliance perform thorough analyses of their clients' current governance policies and operations to ensure they're meeting all expectations for their industry. They compile reports addressing any aspects of a compliance programme that the client needs to change, develop a timeline for making the adjustments and explain the consequences of noncompliance.

IT consultant

Information technology (IT) consultants use their knowledge and experience to help companies incorporate modern technology into their workflow. This type of consultant applies to every business because most companies use some form of information management as part of their operations. IT consultants work with technological components such as system integration, software management and data analytics. They review how a business operates to determine what kind of IT systems it needs, and then make recommendations on how to implement those systems.

Related: What Is an IT Consultant (With Tips and Steps to Become One)

Business consultant

Business consultants provide general advice on a company's practices, from employee training to the allocation of resources. Most companies hire a business consultant because they want someone with expertise to look at the business objectively and identify areas that may benefit from additional focus and improvement. Often, business consultants possess expertise on a specific subject and can provide detailed solutions to problems pertaining to it.

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Environmental consultant

Environmental consultants assess how business operations influence natural resources, wildlife and ecosystems. Large organisations can have a significant impact on the environment, particularly those within construction, waste management and city development industries. Before starting a development project, companies frequently hire environmental consultants to examine their proposed plan and determine how it may affect the environment. This helps them to comply with environmental laws and regulations and complete projects while preserving their local ecosystem.

Software consultant

Software consultants are professionals who share advice on developing custom software solutions for their clients. Many businesses require complex software fundamental to their operations, so they hire consultants to implement the software and optimise the processes related to software development. Software consultants help businesses with management systems related to topics like customer relations, content and human resources.

Sales consultant

Sales consultants focus on boosting the performance of a company by improving components of the sales process such as team training, workflow advising and customer relationship management. Businesses hire sales consultants to develop consistent sales strategies that align with the company's target audience and unique selling proposition. Sales consultants learn about trends in sales methods and share their knowledge with company leaders and members of their sales team.

Related: What Does a Sales Consultant Do? (With Tips on Becoming One)

Marketing consultant

A marketing consultant assists their clients with search engine optimisation (SEO), traditional advertising and content and social media marketing. They help clients plan marketing campaigns and improve and evolve them over time as the market changes. Marketing consultants review a company's current methods for spreading awareness of the company's brand and products and then assess their effectiveness. They conduct market research to make strategic recommendations on better ways to market the business and manage internal marketing processes.

Related: Marketing Consultant Resume Skills: Definition and Examples

Image consultant

Image consultants focus on their clients' appearance to influence how others view them, with the purpose of positively affecting their chances of accomplishing personal goals like a job or promotion. Image consultants address the overall presentation of their clients including physical appearance, wardrobe and grooming. They also provide advice to improve skills like communication, body language techniques and etiquette.

Social media consultant

Social media consultants share advice to help brands use social media to advertise their products, develop an online identity and connect with members of their target audience. They help clients understand consumer interaction, choose the correct channels to gain the highest return on investment and determine what to post to increase engagement. Social media consultants may recommend a certain voice or posting style for company accounts, suggest influencer sponsorships or evaluate current engagement levels through social media impressions.

Career consultant

Career consultants, also known as career coaches, work with individuals to determine what career path is best for their interests and abilities. They assess a client's personality, preferences and skills to get an idea of what jobs match their qualifications and goals. They usually work with individuals in the initial stages of looking for a career, but may also help those who need help getting through a career obstacle or switching industries.

How to become a consultant

Because anyone with enough industry experience can become a consultant, there are multiple career paths you can take to be successful in consulting. Although there are different qualifications you can pursue, here's a general guide:

1. Gain an education in your field

Start by earning a degree in the type of consulting that interests you. For example, if you want to be an IT consultant, you may want to get a bachelor's or a master's degree in computer science. If you're not sure what type of consulting you want to specialise in, getting a business degree can be a good way to get a background in consulting skills without having to decide on a specific path.

Related: How To Become a Consultant: Qualifications and Skills Needed

2. Seek leadership experience

When you enter the workforce, seek as many leadership opportunities as you can. By looking for roles where you can manage projects, you can learn how businesses operate and gain valuable experience in your field. Once you become a consultant, you can apply your leadership experience to similar projects and use your previous management positions to inform your advice.

3. Join a consulting firm

Applying for jobs at a consulting firm is a good way to get started in the consulting industry. Working at a firm can help you make connections in your field and work with multiple clients at once. You may even have the chance to participate in different types of consulting and learn which speciality you prefer.

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  • What Is a Consulting Cover Letter? And How To Write One

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