Pros and Cons of an Organizational Consultant Career
Organizational consultants use psychological principles and methodology to solve workplace-related issues and improve the quality of the workplace environment. The following pros and cons can help you begin deciding whether a career in organizational consulting is right for you.
|Pros of Being an Organizational Consultant|
|Much faster than average employment growth predicted (53% from 2012-2022)*|
|Higher-than-average earning potential (median annual salary of about $77,000, as of May 2014)*|
|Can work in a variety of departments (administration, marketing, human resources, etc.)**|
|Satisfaction of helping employees and companies reach their potential*|
|Cons of Being an Organizational Consultant|
|A minimum educational requirement of at least a master's degree*|
|Keen competition for jobs*|
|Considered to be a small, niche career (only about 900 new jobs predicted to be added from 2012-2022)*|
|Extensive training and experience may be required to stay competitive*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*Net Online.
Job Description and Duties
Organizational consultants, also referred to as industrial-organizational psychologists, use principles of psychology and psychological research to solve workplace-related problems, such as lack of productivity, low employee morale and issues with management styles. They may develop interview techniques and psychological tests to help human resources hire and promote the most appropriate workers. They could also analyze data about existing employees to ensure that they're in the most appropriate positions and to find ways to boost their morale. Consultants discuss their findings with managers or directors and help them improve their business policies, organizational structure or training programs. They may work for consulting firms or as independent contractors who find clients and set their own hours.
Career Outlook and Salary Info
The BLS predicted that jobs for industrial-organizational psychologists would increase 53% from 2012-2022, which is the largest growth percentage across all fields that the Bureau is projecting for that time period (personal care aides and home health aides have the next-largest projected growth, at 49% and 48% respectively). The growth for industrial-organizational psychologists is driven by more companies seeking help to improve hiring practices, as well as to increase employee production and job satisfaction. However, it's important to realize that this is considered a small and specialized career, and the BLS estimated that only about 900 jobs would be added over the same decade.
Industrial-organizational psychologists earned an annual median salary of about $77,000, as of May 2014. The middle half of these professionals earned between $66,000 and $106,000 per year. Those working in California, Minnesota and Virginia earned the highest salaries.
What Are the Requirements?
A master's degree in psychology is typically the minimum requirement to enter this career field, although many professionals hold a doctoral degree, and some only possess a bachelor's degree. The BLS indicates that those who use the term 'industrial-organizational psychologist' usually need a state license to practice. Common licensure requirements include obtaining a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Psychology, working under the supervision of a licensed psychologist and passing the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP).
However, if you are only planning to be called an organizational consultant, you probably won't need to be licensed. Many job postings for these specialized workers only requested a master's degree in a field that relates to organizational consulting, as well as previous work experience. In addition to meeting the basic education qualifications, however, organization consults are typically required to continually gain experience and update their knowledge in order to stay competitive in the field.
According to the BLS, organizational consultants typically have excellent communication and analytical skills. Since these professionals need to understand people and their motivations for work, organizational consultants should also have strong interpersonal skills. Other qualities or skills that these professionals often possess include the ability to:
- Study and analyze human behavior
- Have patience with all kinds of people
- Find new solutions that benefit both managers and lower-level employees
- Solve workplace-related problems
- Understand business operations and organizational structures
Job Postings from Real Employers
Employers usually looked for candidates who possessed a master's degree and some prior experience in a financial industry. Other desired attributes included previous work experience, strong communication skills and the ability to provide sound consultations. The following job postings found on CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com in May 2012 can provide an idea of the qualifications employers sought:
- A consulting company in New Jersey looked to hire an organizational consultant with a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience in consulting. The employer also required Development Dimensions International (DDI) certification. The employer, however, preferred applicants with a master's degree in industrial psychology or organizational development, Executive Coaching certification and Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification.
- A medical center in Michigan sought an organizational consultant with a master's degree and at least five years of experience in human resources or consulting. Applicants should also have strong communication, analytical, management, interpersonal, writing and presentation skills.
- An information technology (IT) company in Virginia needed an organizational change management/communication consultant who was proficient in Microsoft Office. Applicants must also qualify for top security clearance and be able to travel five days a week. The employer preferred a consultant with a bachelor's degree and at least two years of work experience in change management and consulting.
- A government operations consulting company in Illinois looked for an organizational change consultant with at least 3-5 years of experience in a leadership role, as well as 3-5 years' experience with a large-scale system implementation project. The employer preferred applicants who had experience with IT, change management and project management. Applicants should also be willing to travel.
How to Get an Edge in the Field
The BLS mentions that computer skills can be beneficial, and you may want to consider training in commonly used software programs. Familiarity with Microsoft programs, such as PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and Word, as well as other basic computer equipment like scanners can help you stand out to potential employers. O*Net Online also mentions that some consultants also have experience in Adobe Acrobat and Oracle PeopleSoft.
Join a Professional Organization
By joining a professional organization, you could gain access to members' only resources, training and networking opportunities. The Society for Industrial & Organizational Society is a membership organization affiliated with the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. It offers discounts on conferences and workshops, job placement opportunities, the potential to gain funding awards and networking resources, among other benefits.
Personal Financial Advisors
If you are more interested in the financial side of business but still want to help people, you might consider becoming a personal financial advisor. These professionals meet with individual clients to discuss their investments, monetary goals and tax advice. A bachelor's degree is usually required to enter the field, though some professionals hold a master's degree. Additionally, financial advisors who buy insurance plans, stocks or bonds on behalf of their clients need to be licensed.
As of May 2011, the BLS indicated that personal financial advisors earned a median annual salary of about $67,000. The BLS predicted that jobs for personal financial advisors would increase 32% from 2010-2020, but that these professionals would still face heavy competition for jobs.
Market Research Analyst
Individuals looking to use psychological knowledge to study market conditions and forecast sales trends might enjoy careers as market research analysts. A bachelor's degree in market research or a related area is the minimum educational requirement to enter this career field, though some employers may require a master's degree. Market research analysts can also pursue the Professional Researcher Certification, a voluntary certification offered by the Market Research Association.
According to the BLS, market research analysts earned a median annual wage of about $62,000, as of May 2011. The BLS predicted that these workers would see 41% employment growth from 2010-2020, which is considered much faster than average. However, the BLS indicates that individuals who only hold a bachelor's degree could face heavy competition when competing with master's degree holders for jobs.