Becoming an IT consultant takes time, and a long history of stellar work. With the right skills, IT Managers can make up to $100,000 and beyond. You will help implement changes that increase productivity, protect data and solve problems. You’ll need to know how every aspect of corporate technology works, from the usual desktop support to more complicated concerns like database and customer management. Moving that data, and creating systems to access and modify it, takes a unique understanding of the technology involved.

Building your consulting firm starts with proper education. A Bachelor’s degree in computer science from 4-year university will satisfy most entry level requirements. You can use related principles like math and science with proper certification to also jump into the field. Certifications from junior colleges for networking tools or hardware repair may also help your chances at an entry level position. System administrators usually must possess at least a master’s degree, but often some form of graduate degree in order to qualify for those positions. Many in the field seek instruction online or in a flexible university setting, which is why advancement can take so long. There’s little use in seeking out online courses by unaccredited bodies – whilst they may go some way to boosting your resume, you’ll likely just be throwing away your time. Invest in yourself and go for the best courses from the best providers you can.

Start with entry level jobs in IT fields, running desktop support for companies. Microsoft offers certification for Windows that can be taken online to prepare you for these types of positions, and you can work your way up from there. After 5-10 years of experience in your field you might be ready for management and executive type positions where you can make decisions about the kinds of technology that companies use to do business. A CTO, for instance, makes decisions on whether to outsource technology so that in-house resources can focus on the job at hand. Be sure that you focus on the type of software and IT consulting you want to do. If you want to become a security consultant, you should target antivirus companies for employment and learn more about how to find entry level positions there.

The government is currently planning to launch a database of health information for the average citizen as part of the Affordable Care Act. This means there is a huge opportunity for consultants versed in this field.  Concepts like cloud computing aren’t going away. More companies are shifting data toward the cloud, where they have less responsibility for it and uptime is guaranteed. Outside applications handle much of an employee’s workload, such as using Photoshop as opposed to building an in-house tool.

An IT consultant usually travels, and so do the workers. No matter what level you’re at, get comfortable with meeting people in their zone. You’ll need to be able to assess things like office space and make recommendations on equipment that will see heavy use for anywhere from three to ten years or more. You’ll need a compelling website that teaches people about the technology you use in plain-English. If you can’t write your own copy, hire someone to write for you. Messaging is extremely important in creating a lasting relationship with your customers. Pay attention to cyber-security and be prepared to address it with the clients you meet. Respect that the data you work with is sensitive and ensure that there are safeguards in place to protect you and your employees.

Most importantly, work for yourself. Freelancing teaches you to stay current so you can stay afloat, and that makes for a good start to business. You’ll need to know your technology and create an atmosphere of trust between you and the person you are working for.

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