If you are someone who enjoys working with Information Technology (IT), and you like to work with different people and solve unique problems on a daily basis, you may be interested in working as an IT consultant. If you take this career path, you can work for one of the many consulting companies in the UK (or around the world), or you can work for yourself. But do you have the attributes required to be an IT consultant? What qualifications will you need to attain? Read on to discover everything you need to know.
The responsibilities of an IT consultant
Firstly, it is important to understand the responsibilities involved in IT consultancy, so that you can determine whether this is a career that is suitable for you. As an IT consultant, you will be expected to…
– Meet with clients to determine their requirements
– Assess IT requirements and provide objective and independent advice
– Define network, hardware and software requirements
– Identify potential clients and maintain good relationships with existing clients
– Be involved in IT support and sales where appropriate
– Organise training for users
– Prepare documentation, including progress reports
– Design, test, install and monitor new systems
– Purchase systems where appropriate
– Help clients with activities pertaining to change-management
– Present solutions in both oral and written reports
– Develop agreed solutions and put new systems in place
– Communicate with staff at all levels of the business you are working with
– Travel to customer sites
– Clarify system specifications, understand the client’s business and the work they carry out
– Plan resources and timescales
– Produce project scopes alongside the client
What do I need to do to become an IT consultant?
There are a number of steps you will need to take to become an IT consultant, according to ProPC.tech. Firstly, you will need to attain a relevant degree, for example, a degree in engineering or computer science will be deemed acceptable. Of course, taking a degree in IT will be a massive plus. While a Bachelor’s Degree is seen as a standard, higher levels of qualifications are also commonplace and can help you to stand out from other candidates. Some employers will prefer a Master’s Degree. You will also be expected to have relevant experience. Often consulting firms will look for individuals with at least five years of specialist experience, although this is not always the skill.
Rather than being a jack-of-all-trades, most IT consultants will specialise in a specific area, while having exceptional all-round IT knowledge. For example, your area of specialism could be Oracle or SAP. There are a few other things that will give you an edge when looking for a job as an IT consultant, including your location. In the UK, 40 per cent of IT consultancy roles are in London and the South East, therefore you will have much greater opportunities as an IT consultant in London. You also need to have a number of personal skills and attributes, which we will discuss in the next paragraph.
The skills and attributes you need to be an IT consultant
In order to be a successful IT consultant, you need to be someone who has:
– The ability to meet deadlines and work within budget constraints
– Great people skills and can work with a variety of people at all levels in an organisation
– The ability to work well under pressure
– Great problem-solving skills
– Excellent communication skills
– The ability to analyse data and digest information successfully
– A high level of decisiveness
– Good listening skills
Salary and working hours
In the UK, the average salary for an IT consultant is £52,272 per annum. Of course, there are a number of factors that will determine the rate of pay you receive, including your specialist skills, the IT services you provide, your client base, and experience. There are a lot of consultants that can earn up to £90,000 per year. In terms of working hours, while you will generally work from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., you can expect to put in a lot of extra hours throughout the year in order to meet deadlines. You will also spend a lot of time travelling to and from your clients’ sites. There are not a lot of part-time roles available for IT consultants, but self-employment is an option.
Most often asked questions in an interview for IT support technicians
Technology evolves at breakneck speed, and as a prospective candidate for an IT support role, you will need to have a wide and varied knowledge of many different systems and provide evidence that you can support them. The job description is a great way to prime yourself on the questions you may be asked as it is likely that some interview questions will be focused on the software and hardware you will be supporting in the role. Here are some of the most common interview questions asked of potential IT support technicians:
– What is your troubleshooting process?
– What is DHCP and what is your experience in using it?
– Why is customer service an important part of IT support?
– What project management experience do you have?
– You have three support calls come in at the same time. How would you determine which to deal with first?
– Why do you want to work here?
– Do you have experience of using Citrix?
– Why is a change management process important?
Best books on IT support to get you started
There are many books available that will give you a good head start as an IT support engineer – some fact and some fiction. Many will give you the basics you need to enter the industry, while others will fast become your go-to manuals or “bibles” that you always keep to hand. Here are some of the best books on the market right now for IT support staff:
– For Dummies Series – There are many technical books in the For Dummies range and while their contents are simple by design, they really deliver when you need to memorise information or learn about new technology in layman’s terms. From TCP/IP for Dummies to Defensive Security for Dummies, these are books that even hardened professionals still turn to.
– O’Reilly Media – When you want to take your learning to a new level, O’Reilly Media books are the perfect solution. These are the books you will want to have around you in the dead of night when everybody has gone home and you have a complex server or network issue to attend to.
– The Cuckoo’s Egg by Cliff Stoll – While this book is a fictional story, it gives a thrilling glimpse into the role of the IT support technician. A story of computer espionage and cat and mouse action, this is a must for anybody in a tech support role.
Best university courses for IT support consultants, technicians and engineers
– BSc (Honours) Computing and IT (Communications and Networking)
– BSc (Honours) Computing and Information Technology
– BSc (Honours) Computing and IT (Software)
– Top-up BSc (Honours) Computing and IT Practice
Best online courses for IT Consultants
– IT Support Technician Diploma with CompTIA
– Microsoft Professional Program for IT Support
Best professional courses and qualifications for IT consultants, technicians and engineers
– Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)
– Cisco Networking (CCNA)
Professional bodies for IT consultants, technicians and engineers
Association of Computer Professionals
The Association of Computer Professionals (ACP) is a professional, independent examining body. Founded in 1984, this association’s members work in both the commercial and education sectors of the computer industry.
British Computer Society/Chartered Institute for IT
The British Computer Society was founded in 1957 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1984. The society’s aim is to promote the study of computing technology and communications and to enhance the education and understanding of IT in modern society.
The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) is an independent, global, nonprofit association that engages in the adoption, development and implementation of industry-leading practices and knowledge concerning information systems.
Where can I search for IT support vacancies?
Finding the right IT support engineer or IT technician vacancy is much easier today thanks to the many online job boards and recruitment agencies specialising in this field. Most job boards today allow you to create your own customised alerts for the job roles you are interested in, saving you time and ensuring you never miss a listing. Here are some of the most popular IT job boards:
What else should I know before embarking on a career as an IT support engineer?
Becoming an IT support consultant, technician or engineer is a challenging and rewarding career. Once you get on the job ladder, there is much room for job progression, whether you want to advance your technical skills or move into a more project orientated role. The most important aspect in any technical role is to keep your knowledge and skills aligned with the latest technology. A good way to do this is through real-world experience in your job role, subscribing to online IT publications and investing in some of the online and professional courses outlined above. The more you can demonstrate your ability to support critical systems, protect sensitive data and enhance system performance across the business you work for, the more chance you have of progressing within your current role.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding what it takes to be an IT consultant, as well as the responsibilities you will have if you do decide to go down this career path.