What is an Educational Consultant?
An educational consultant is a resource to schools who coaches educators through initial implementation and improvement planning. Consultants bring expertise that allows them to improve educational processes through feedback and advice. These experts specialize in areas of interest to districts, schools, and individual educators.
Educational consultant jobs consist of being paid fees to assist, support, and coach educators when outside advice is beneficial. While consultants mainly traveled to provide services in the past, many services are now provided through distance options working as part of a team or as an individual. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an education consultant salary being $64,450 annually.
Consultants provide professional development opportunities through keynotes or small-group breakout sessions. Further, many of these experts review data and strategic plans and offer advice to school teams. These individuals often support and coach entire districts or schools while providing larger-scale professional development. Educational consultants have substantial knowledge of best practices within the field of expertise. Most importantly, highly successful educational consultants have passion for their specialization and an authentic desire to help.
Educational consultants help educators, schools, and districts with both short-term needs and continuous strategic initiatives. Most consultants have experience as teachers and school leaders. Although this piece is not always required for success, experience and work in the trenches builds credibility. Consultants are not always limited to working with educational agencies, as some advise parents to navigate the educational system.
Types of Educational Consultant Jobs
There are several types of educational consultants, but two commonly found include:
Consultants are common in special education, as this field is constantly changing. A special education consultant can advise schools regarding writing effective Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and Behavioral Intervention Plans (BIPs). Further, special education consultants often provide professional development regarding co-teaching, explicit instruction, and goal setting. Some consultants also advise parents of students with disabilities. In this field, knowledge of state and federal regulations is imperative.
An educational technology consultant advises schools about possibilities with the use of new products. In addition, these professionals train staff about the effective use of technology and help to monitor progress with new initiatives.
Best Practices in Specific Subjects or Grade Span
Many consultants advise and train educators regarding specific subject areas or grade spans. These individuals often work with curriculum development and implement effective teaching methodologies. These consultants must stay current regarding state and federal policies in addition to research-based best practices.
Behavior, Classroom Climate, and School Culture
Climate and culture offer many possibilities for consulting services as research continues to reaffirm strong connections to student achievement and engagement. In addition, services related to ways to maximize positive behavior are in strong demand.
School Improvement and Strategic Planning
Schools and districts continually focus on ways to improve. Educational consultants frequently assist educators in developing sound goals, research-based initiatives, and aligned measures of data. Further, consultants help schools reflect upon both formative and summative data.
How to Become an Educational Consultant
Prerequisite skills for developing a sound name as a consultant include dynamic communication skills, critical thinking with an eye for potential solutions, relationship skills, and strong strategic and financial-thinking skills. Of all the necessary skills, strong communication skills are likely the most important. A consultant needs to be an authentic and captivating public speaker while also possessing professional and timely written communication skills.
Examine an Area of Interest
With almost limitless potential specializations as an educational consultant, a person wanting to enter the field needs to examine areas of interest. While deciding on a specialization that you are passionate about, set incremental goals. It is okay and somewhat advisable to start part-time. If you continue with your primary full-time job while refining your skills as a consultant part time, it can be less stressful having less engagements, and you will be able to start with smaller fees.
An excellent way to start part time is to have an agency manage bookings, such as speaking agencies. In addition, many colleges have teaching centers that promote professional development services. Another way to build connections is through providing services to regional organizations by developing resources, assisting in conference development, presenting, and simply attending. District task forces, regional assessment committees, curriculum development groups, and state testing review boards offer many opportunities to build connections. Joining and actively participating in these and other professional organizations make connections. As you build your clientele, you might decide to jump in full time and start your practice.
Establishing a Name for Yourself
Once a specialization is selected, an aspiring consultant will need to establish a name as an expert within the field. There is no one way or a consistent set of steps to become a known consultant. While entry into the field can have varied paths, some typical milestones are often similar. Being viewed as an expert does not usually happen overnight but rather takes commitment, strategic planning, and initiative. No specific degree is required to be an educational consultant, but a person who has earned a master’s degree or doctorate within the field of specialization will often be viewed as more credible.
Building a Following
Next, a person needs to build a following. In today’s world, a following is normally built through connections on social media. Gone are the days when a successful educational consultant would make an established practice solely through word of mouth or mailers. Today, successful consultants often have larger followings on Twitter and other platforms. These followings are built through actively engaging in professional development and building connections within the expertise area. Following and conversing with other consultants within the field and attendees seeking professional development will help build a valuable base. Follow educators you met at educational consultant conferences on social media, and in turn, these individuals are likely to follow you back. In addition, search out current educational hashtags and use them to promote yourself.
Being a published author within the field helps establish a reputation as an expert. While writing a successful book would undoubtedly be a milestone for an educational consultant, aspiring consultants can start small with articles and blogs.
Teaching a college class based on your ideas and research is also an excellent foundation piece. As the individual builds this foundation of work samples, they should invest time and resources into developing a user-friendly website that showcases articles and blogs. Your website should showcase your relevant and valuable knowledge related to the specialization; the site needs to be professional and speak to your expertise. Contact information needs to be easily found so that a prospective client can ask questions.
Like most other aspects of education, building strong relationships and strategic connections is essential. Investing the time necessary by responding to prospective clients and those simply interested in the topic and making it a point to respond to social media comments and questions is very beneficial in being successful. Further, follow up with districts, schools, and individuals after the service has been provided. All of these efforts can lead to recurring work and referrals to other schools and districts.