In July 2000, we offered readers the results of an IT consultant career survey. To see whether there have been significant changes in the past year, we ran a similar survey in November 2001 and asked past participants to retake the survey along with new TechRepublic members.

Despite the radical changes in the economy, the results were very similar. However, several figures could suggest that consultants are having to work harder to lure and retain clients. We’ll compare this year’s results to the 2000 survey.

Firms vs. independents
The percentages of consultants working for firms vs. working independently did not differ significantly. Among the respondents who are currently working as consultants, half work with a firm. Figure A shows there was a small drop—to 17 percent in 2001 from 21 percent in 2000—in the number of consultants who work both for a firm and as an independent concurrently.

Figure A

Areas of expertise
For the most part, consultants are focused on the same areas of specialty as they were last year. Figure B illustrates a slight decrease—to 12 percent from 16 percent—in the number of consultants specializing in support, and a 5 percent increase—to 14 percent from 9 percent—in consultants whose specialty fell into the “Other” category.

Figure B

What do you need to advance your career?
A June 2001 TechRepublic poll revealed that 83 percent of respondents had between one and four certifications. Yet once again, the highest number of respondents in the consultant career survey, 32 percent, said their greatest need in advancing their career was “Obtaining additional training and certification.” (See Figure C.)

Perhaps as a reflection of tougher economic conditions, there was a 5 percent increase—to 23 from 18 percent—in the number of consultants who said “Finding clients” was their biggest challenge, along with a 3 percent increase—to 9 percent from 6 percent—for “Developing business partnerships.”

Figure C

Clients per average month
Another indicator of a more difficult economic climate was reflected in the response to our question, “How many clients do you serve in an average month?” Figure D shows an 11 percent increase in the number of consultants who serve fewer than five clients in an average month, along with a 7 percent drop in the number who serve twenty or more.

Figure D

What do these results say to you?

While this is an unscientific survey, we think the results give a good snapshot of the IT consulting business. But what do the results suggest to you, an IT consultant? Send us your opinions, and we’ll publish them in upcoming articles, or discuss your thoughts below.