How to Become an HR Consultant: Jobs, Salaries, Courses

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover more about an HR consultant career, including what it involves on a day-to-day basis, certification, skills, and details on HR consultant salary.

[Featured image] A female HR consultant, wearing a dark jacket and a blue striped shirt, is sitting at a table.

HR or human resources personnel work to support employees in an organization. An HR consultant is an outside specialist the organization employs to bring in particular knowledge to improve functions, processes, and strategies. If you are an HR professional looking to progress, an HR consultant role has excellent prospects and a competitive salary. 

What is an HR consultant?

An HR consultant is an outside specialist who provides HR knowledge and expertise to various businesses and organizations. HR consultants are usually hired to provide high-level recommendations and solutions. You will typically enter an organization, evaluate processes and inefficiencies, and implement strategies to improve functions and ensure best practices.

What does an HR consultant do day-to-day?

Day-to-day work varies for an HR consultant because the tasks depend on a company’s needs. Some HR consultants have a niche that they specialize in. This could be recruitment, business processes, policies, and procedures, or it might be a niche with the company you’re working for. 

Regardless of the type of business, HR consultants will start by meeting with the HR and management team to:

  • Understand the issues and requirements

  • Assess and evaluate the current process

  • Recommend solutions

  • Develop strategies and monitor progress.

Typical HR consultant job responsibilities

HR consultant responsibilities may depend mainly on why you were hired and what they need you to address. In general, you may cover the following:

  • Identifying workforce issues, goals, and specific requirements

  • Researching to assess current processes and inefficiencies and suggesting solutions to existing problems

  • Advising management on human resources plans and processes

  • Developing strategies tailored to the organization 

  • Managing the implementation of new HR strategies and monitoring changes

  • Ensuring HR agendas align with employment law issues

  • Formulating HR-related reports and presentations for management 

  • Acknowledging, suggesting, and overseeing any necessary changes to workflow following the implementation of new systems

  • Assisting with the recruitment and management of employees

  • Training staff on new procedures, policies, and direction 

  • Keeping up to date with industry trends

Contracting as an HR consultant vs. working for a consultancy firm

As an HR consultant, you can work independently as a contractor or at a consultancy firm. Both have pros and cons. Working as a contractor means running your own business and having flexibility. You also typically earn more because you’re receiving the entirety of the money rather than a salary.

Working for a company means you don't have to spend time and money on marketing, admin, training, and other business expenses since they cover them. While it’s possible to earn more money working for yourself, if you work for a consulting firm, you don't worry about finding more work while enjoying a consistent salary. 

Skills and qualifications for an HR consultant 

The varied paths to an HR career are through education, experience, and developing certain skills. The top levels, such as HR consultants, usually require higher qualifications, certifications, and on-the-job experience. 


The starting point for a career as an HR consultant is a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as human resources or business. A bachelor’s degree generally takes four years to complete. To advance to higher levels, you may want to consider a master’s degree in human resources management to give you the edge in this competitive field. A master’s degree in HR management will focus on strategic planning, pay equity, employee rights, and working at an international level. Typically it takes two years to complete a master’s degree. 

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Consider certifications.

To go a step further and boost your credentials as a consultant, you can earn several HR consultant certifications. These are designed to help develop or strengthen specific career skills. While there isn’t a specific certification that you must have, there are several popular certifications to consider:

  • SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

  • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)

  • Human Resource Information Professional (HRIP) Certification

  • HR Certification Institute (HRCI) certifications

  • ASA Certified Health Care Staffing Professional 

  • Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS)

  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

Required skills and experience 

To work as an HR consultant, you must have fundamental skills and experience.

Workplace skills:

  • Experience and understanding of HR policies, procedures, and legislation

  • Experience in recruitment methods and techniques

  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal

  • Analytical and problem-solving ability

  • Project management experience, ideally in an HR setting

  • Experience building strategy and formulating business plans

  • Ability to work under pressure and meet targets

  • Experience and in-depth knowledge in leading HR functions in a senior position  

  • Strong organizational skills 

  • Ability to work well in a team

Technical skills:

  • IT skills, including human resources technology, such as ATS, payroll, and HR management software

  • Understanding of HR evaluation and metrics models

Read more: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

What do HR consultants earn? 

According to Glassdoor, the average HR consultant salary in the US is $128,456, with a senior HR consultant earning an average of $146,302 [1]. HR consultants working as contractors charge between $99.39 and $186,67 per hour, with an average of $143.03 per hour [2]. 

Are there professional certificates I can take to improve my resume?

Investing in a certificate related to an HR specialization may be worth it to stand out amongst other HR professionals. These can include:

  • Certificate in Human Resources Management offered by HRCI

Looking to change careers and move into HR?

If you’re looking for a career change and feel that you have the relevant experience to move into the field, a great starting point is a foundation-level HR course. Consider taking Human Resource Management: HR for People Management Specialization offered by the University of Minnesota on Coursera.

You can also pursue a range of online courses to learn about the basics and specialist knowledge to start or progress your HR career. Try Hiring Practices or Human Resources Analytics, for starters.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “HR Consultant Salaries,,2_IN1_KO3,16.htm.” Accessed June 14, 2024.

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