Technical Consultant Job Description
Technical consultants come up with solutions to technical problems and spend much of their workday in front of computers. While some work in-house for individual companies, many tech consultants are self-employed, and clients seek their services on an as-needed basis. Oftentimes, technical consultants are part of a larger design team and work closely with other professionals. Technical consultants tend to work full-time but may need to put in extra hours to finish a project. Traveling to a client’s location is common.
Any industry that uses technology could benefit from the services of a technical consultant. The demand for technical consultants, as categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics under “Software Developers, Applications,” is expected to increase by 19 percent through 2024, with more than 23,800 job openings each year.
Technical Consultant Duties and Responsibilities
Providing customers with technology that can help them operate more efficiently is at the heart of a tech consultant’s position. Our analysis of job postings revealed the following as some of the core responsibilities taken on by technical consultants:
Assess Technical Operations
Technical consultants must have a solid grasp of the problem that needs to be solved in order to choose the appropriate software and hardware. By talking with clients, they learn about expectations and desired results. Technical consultants may even spend a few days observing a workplace to get a better idea of the operations and of where improvements can be made.
Design and Test Technology
Using their array of knowledge and coding ability, technical consultants develop what the customer wants. They may have to make modifications to get hardware and software to work together. At each step along the way, technical consultants conduct tests to verify that their plans are working correctly. They also keep an eye out for bugs and security challenges.
Implement New Technology
Once technical consultants come up with solutions, they do the necessary setup for the customer and work out any kinks that may arise. Additionally, tech consultants may design manuals for the employees as well as teach them to use the new technology. If unexpected problems come up over time, tech consultants may be called back to troubleshoot.
Self-employed technical consultants need to manage themselves as a business. Actions include marketing to attract new clients, networking, record-keeping, and paying/filing their own taxes.
Technical Consultant Skills
A strong technical background is necessary, and exceptional inductive and deductive reasoning skills certainly aid job performance. However, numerous other abilities can serve a technical consultant well. Among them are:
- Listening carefully to figure out what problem needs to be solved
- Communicating clearly so that even non-tech employees can understand what is being done or taught
- Keeping clients updated so that they have an accurate assessment of costs and timeframe
- Thinking critically to analyze the pros and cons of solving a problem in a certain way
- Collaborating well with other professionals in the design team
- Marketing one’s services effectively to attract additional clients
Technical Consultant Tools of the Trade
Successful tech consultants must be knowledgeable of various technologies, and the following are some of the most common tools used in this field:
- Program-testing software – Software such as Hewlett Packard LoadRunner, used to see how things are running and to identify problems
- Web platform development software – Software such as AJAX that’s used to build a website
- Database management system software – Software such as Apache Hadoop that contributes to storing and manipulating data
- Servers – The powerful hardware and software that is central to the operation of the whole computer system
- Operating systems – The software that supports the basic functions, such as LINUX
- Cloud computing – Using the Internet to store, manage, and process data
- Upgrades – Improvements to ensure the company’s technology continues to meet its needs, such as installing new software or purchasing more powerful hardware
- Computer hardware – The physical parts of the computer, including inside parts such as the motherboard and hard disk drive
- Big data – Very large sets of data that can be examined to determine patterns and trends
Technical Consultant Education and Training
Most technical consultants hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Common fields of study include computer science, computer engineering, and informatics. Professional certification may increase job prospects. As technology is ever changing, tech consultants should be prepared to be lifelong learners in order to stay relevant and employable.
Technical Consultant Salary
The median annual salary for technical consultants, categorized by the BLS under “Software Developers, Applications,” is $100,080. Technical consultants in the 10th percentile earn about $58,300 a year, and the highest paid make in excess of $157,500 a year. Technical consultants in Washington, California, and the District of Columbia make the highest median salaries in the U.S. – $126,140, $118,220, and $112,830, respectively.
Technical Consultant Resources
As you continue to consider a career as a technical consultant, the following sources can be of assistance:
Inside the Technical Consulting Business: Launching and Building Your Independent Practice by Harvey Kaye – This book provides the lowdown on everything technical consultants need to know before starting their own business, including step-by-step instructions on creating a personal strategic marketing plan and building client relationships.
Professional and Technical Consultants Association – This Silicon Valley non-profit professional organization helps businesses and independent consultants connect. From profiles of members to industry surveys on rates, this group’s website has plenty of relevant and useful information for technical consultants.
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