What Is It Like Working as a Human Resources Consultant?

human resources consultant smiling and shaking hands with a client
Category: Careers

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

As a human resources professional, you may have heard that working as a consultant can provide independence and variety in your day-to-day work. But what does an HR consultant do?

In this article, we explore HR consulting as a career and outline the typical duties, required skills, qualifications, work environments, and more.

What Is a Consultant?

First, it’s helpful to define what a consultant is in the overall business context. Management consultants – or management analysts as the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines them – recommend ways to improve an organization’s efficiency. Some consultants are employed by the organizations they analyze, but in many cases, they are brought in on a contractual basis by organizations who outsource certain business processes.

In the human resources sector, consultants provide high-quality services and offer advice to business leaders about HR policies and processes. These consultants help HR departments implement and improve their strategies and can work in a variety of industries or specialized fields. They may also offer HR services to small businesses or firms that don't have an internal HR team.

HR Consultant Duties

Human resources consulting can offer an ever-changing routine as you work with a variety of clients. Many consultants find success through specialization in a specific work area; in HR, this can mean offering services to clients such as:

  • Analyzing health insurance plans, retirement packages, and other employee benefits.
  • Auditing policies and procedures for legal compliance.
  • Revitalizing an organization’s approach toward staffing.
  • Developing internal communication strategies and tactics.

It’s also important to note that HR generalists – as opposed to specialists – can also be successful as consultants, especially when helping HR leaders approach big-picture problems.

HR Consultant Skills and Knowledge

Many HR consultants have prior experience working in-house for an organization, and they possess an advanced set of skills that helps them deliver results for their clients. Some of the most common and useful skills for HR consultants – across any specialization – may include:

  • Active listening.
  • Data analysis and reporting.
  • Knowledge of HR regulations and compliance issues.
  • Strategic planning.
  • Written and verbal communication.

HR Consultant Qualifications

To become a trusted HR consultant, you’ll likely need an extensive work history and a relevant educational background. All clients are different, of course, but a track record of success and academic degrees from accredited universities help support your case.

A bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field – such as business, communications or psychology – is a good place to start. Since consultants often work directly with executives, graduate degrees like an MBA or DBA can also boost your legitimacy to potential clients.

HR Consultant Work Environment

One of the most important considerations for any job is the work environment. As an HR consultant, your exact duties, schedule and environment can vary greatly depending on your exact role and whether you work independently or as part of a consulting firm.

Independent Consulting

As an independent consultant, you can establish your own schedule, timeline and clients. You meet with potential clients to decide whether you want to offer your consulting services to their businesses, and you can determine the time commitment and level of involvement you want with each client. This structure allows you to work at a pace that feels manageable and matches your skills and interests.

There can be drawbacks to going independent, however. Working as an independent consultant may require you to handle more responsibility and administrative tasks on your own or hire other professionals to help you with your business operations. There can be significant risk involved in working independently, along with many additional factors to consider.

Working for a Consulting Firm

If you work as a consultant and you're employed by a larger consulting firm, your schedule and control over your work may have more limitations. In this case, you typically receive work or client assignments from managers or supervisors, and your work follows the firm's schedule and priorities. Working for a firm can be a fast-paced and dynamic environment and may require multitasking to work with multiple clients at a time.


Working as a human resources consultant can provide you with a fulfilling career that combines your professional knowledge and skills with a passion for helping people.

If you’re interested in learning more about human resources and the business world in general, the online degree programs here at Columbia Southern University were designed with you in mind. We offer human resources degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, along with multiple business degrees with concentrations in HR.

For information about all our online degree programs, visit our website.

Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes. CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.

Columbia Southern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees and certificates. Questions about the accreditation of Columbia Southern University may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (www.sacscoc.org).

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