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21 Types of Consulting (+How to Choose One) 

If you’re considering starting a consulting business, you’re in the right place.

Here, you’ll learn how to choose your coaching niche – and the most popular types of consulting. 

Want to learn more? Read on!

We’ll cover: 

What is consulting?
21 popular types of consulting
How do you choose your consulting specialty?

What is consulting?

Consulting is when a company hires someone with specialized knowledge (called a consultant) for their expertise, objectivity, and collaboration.

They’re typically hired on a per-project basis to help businesses with things like problem-solving, process optimization, and strategy development. 

Companies of all types and sizes use consultants, including small businesses, large companies, and nonprofits. In fact, the Department of Labor has named it the second-largest industry, and it’s expected to grow by 1 million jobs by 2028.

But consultants can work with individuals, too. 

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For example, my student Mara runs her law school admissions consulting business to help people get into law school. 

Other personal consulting examples include consultants who help people invest in real estate or college consultants. 

However, consulting is not coaching (although, sometimes consulting can be similar to coaching if consultants work with individuals), training, educating, or a done-for-you service.

But what type of consulting business should YOU start? 

There are several types of consulting specialties. 

Read on to learn about them!

21 types of consulting you can specialize in

What are the most popular types of consultants? Here are some of the top consulting niches: 

Strategy consulting 

Strategy consultants help businesses make better decisions by analyzing goals and giving recommendations based on their expertise.

As a strategy consultant, you can help with things like: 

  • Strategy decisions 
  • Market research
  • Budgeting
  • Production strategy
  • Identifying new revenue opportunities

Your clients might include large corporations, startups, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, and more.

Typically, you should have industry experience – to work with bigger corporations, having worked in Big 4 can be a big plus. Some clients want to work with consultants who have an MBA, even though that’s not a formal requirement.  

Average salary: $149,923

Growth rate: $57.76 billion (2021-2026)

Management consulting

As a management consultant, you help businesses identify problems and develop and implement solutions. For example, you might look at what a client can do to increase their revenue and help them implement those steps. Management consultants often work in the technology, marketing, and finance industries. 

Areas that management consultants help with include:

  • Business management
  • Digital transformation
  • Employee productivity
  • Marketing
  • Supply chain 

Often, clients require a bachelor’s degree and industry experience. Certifications like Certified Management Consultant will help you stand out.

Average salary: $95,290

Growth rate: 10% (2021-2031)

Financial consulting

Financial consultants help clients understand their current financial situation and develop achievable goals. They work with individuals or businesses like banks, brokerage firms, and wealth management firms.

As a financial consultant, you might specialize in:

  • Business and financial strategy
  • Retirement planning
  • Tax planning
  • And more 

You typically need risk management and financial analysis experience, plus industry knowledge. Most have at least a Bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, or business.

Many also choose to get certified through programs like the Certified Financial Planner.

Average salary: $103,877

Growth rate: 12.8% (2022-2032)

Operations consulting 

An operations consultant uses data to help businesses improve their operational processes to improve their profitability. 

You can specialize in:

  • Organizational operations
  • Marketing
  • Supply chain
  • Business management
  • Research and development 

This is one of the most significant segments in the industry.

Most operations consultants have at least a Bachelor’s degree in business administration or a relevant field. You can also get a certification like Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence.

Average salary: $87,229
Growth rate: 11% (2018-2028)

Healthcare consulting 

Healthcare consultants help healthcare-related businesses find ways to improve processes and profitability. 

You’ll work almost exclusively with medical facilities and hospitals, but also with government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies.

You can specialize in several fields, including:

  • Marketing
  • Contracts
  • Technology
  • Legal affairs

Most healthcare consultants have a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree in healthcare management or administration. 

You don’t need a certification or license to be a healthcare consultant, but many, like the Certified Healthcare Business Consultant certification, are available.

Average salary: $94,242

Growth rate: 8.3% (2023-2030)

Compliance consulting 

A compliance consultant makes sure businesses follow government regulations or standards related to their industry by:

  • Performing compliance assessments and present findings
  • Implementing new compliance programs
  • Staying current on laws and regulations

You’ll work in several industries, from government agencies to financial services and healthcare.

As a compliance consultant, you typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree, though many have MBAs. Other important skills are critical thinking and a deep understanding of relevant regulatory guidelines.

Average salary: $100,445
Growth rate: 13.8% (2023-2030)

Legal consulting 

Working as a legal consultant means you act like a lawyer but provide legal guidance outside the courtroom.

Anyone can hire legal consultants. You can work in several industries, including real estate, financial law, business law, and foreign affairs. 

Legal consultants rely on skills such as:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Research

You must have attended law school, passed the bar, and have law experience. Many get certifications like Certified Legal Consultant or Certified Professional Legal Consultant.

For example, my friend Lisa Fraley is a legal coach for online entrepreneurs.

Average salary: $86,450

Growth rate: 6% (2018-2028)

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Marketing consulting 

Marketing consultants analyze marketing efforts and build new, better-optimized strategies for businesses. 

As a marketing coach, you might be hired by companies that can’t afford a marketing team. Or, you can work with businesses that want to implement a new marketing strategy. 

For instance, my first online business was managing and analyzing digital advertising campaigns for small business owners.

Marketing consultants can specialize in several areas, including:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • Google Ads
  • SEO
  • Content marketing 

You’ll need real-world experience and have marketing, media, communication, and business skills.

Average salary:$86,607

Growth rate: 19% (2018-2028)

Sustainability consulting 

Sustainability consultants help businesses find ways to promote sustainability and operate with as little environmental impact as they can. They handle strategy development, data reporting, efficiency management, and more.

You might work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Residential/commercial developments
  • Urban regeneration
  • Educational facilities
  • Industrial facility operation

There are no formal requirements to become a sustainability consultant, but most who work with businesses have an MBA. Useful degrees include environmental science, civil engineering, and urban planning.

Several certifications are also available, including Sustainability Excellence Associate.

Average salary: $93,202

Growth rate: 8% (2018-2028)

HR consulting 

As an HR consultant, you take charge of HR programs, identify issues, and provide solutions. For example, you might help a startup build a team or a small business optimize their team. 

Typically, they’re hired by businesses without an HR department. 

HR consultants can specialize in things like:

  • Compensation and benefits
  • Organizational change
  • HR functioning
  • Employee management
  • Systematization and processes

You should be skilled in communication, analysis, problem-solving, and business planning. They also need in-depth knowledge of HR principles.

You don’t need a specific degree (although many HR managers have a degree in human resources) but you do need experience of working in HR. Certifications like SHRM Certified Professional can in some cases help you stand out.

Average salary: $73,545

Growth rate: 7% (2021-2028)

IT Consulting 

IT consultants assess and align technology strategies with a business’ goals. They choose hardware and software, implement new security measures, and keep technology updated and maintained. 

IT consultants work for any business that needs help making technology-related decisions. 

You don’t need a formal degree, but you do need experience. Some get a certification like a Certified Information Security Manager, but your results are what matter. 

Average salary: $84,618

Growth rate: 4.72% (2024-2028)

Sales consulting 

Sales consultants develop new strategies to help businesses and individuals increase sales.

As a sales consultant, you might be hired by businesses or entrepreneurs.

There’s no specific degree required to become a sales consultant, just the right kind of skills. Listen to what my student, Sanae, says about her own sales coaching business.

Average salary: $66,210
Growth rate: 4% (2018-2028)

Growth consulting 

Growth consulting helps businesses accelerate and sustain their growth by scaling existing operations, finding new markets, and optimizing marketing strategies. 

Your potential clients include companies that want to grow, whether solopreneurs, a startup, or a well-established business.

They can help with:

  • Sales and marketing
  • Product development and innovation
  • Operations
  • Organizational development

You don’t need a specific degree as a self-employed growth consultant. 

Average salary: $99,275

Business processes consulting 

Business processes consulting is all about helping organizations analyze, improve, and optimize their core workflows and operations. 

You can help companies in several industries with things like:

  • Finance and Accounting
  • Human resources
  • Operations
  • Sales and marketing

Most companies prefer consultants with a Bachelor’s degree, but some require a master’s degree. Certifications like the Certified Business Process Associate are available.

Average salary: $105,943
Growth rate: 11% (2018-2028)

PR consulting 

Public relations consultants manage an organization’s reputation and build media relationships.

You help businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and individuals with:

  • Strategic planning
  • Media Relations
  • Content creation
  • Reputation management

Successful PR consultants are creative and strategic with communication, problem-solving, relationship-building, and digital marketing skills.

As a self-employed PR consultant you need experience. But if you work for an employer, you might be required to have a relevant Bachelor’s degree. 

Average salary: $67,440

Growth rate: 6% (2022-2032)

Construction consulting

Construction consultants help plan, manage, and execute construction projects from start to finish. You’re typically skilled in project management, communication, analytical thinking, and problem-solving.

You might help with:

  • Project management
  • Risk assessment
  • Building plan analysis
  • Dispute resolution

Clients include property developers or owners, architects, contractors, lenders, and government agencies.

In addition to relevant experience, most construction consultants hold at least a Bachelor’s degree. Certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) are available.

Average salary: $68,461
Growth rate: 6.43% (2022-2030)

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College consulting

College consultants help clients navigate applications for college, postgraduate, or graduate studies.

They work with all students and can help with:

  • School research and selection
  • Application coaching and support
  • Financial aid and scholarships

There are no specific requirements to become a college consultant, but you do need a proven method and the right kind of experience. 

For instance, my student Mara is a lawyer who helps students create the kind of application that gets them into their top law schools.

Average salary: $68,941
Growth rate: 5.37% (2022-2027)

Risk management consulting

Risk management consulting helps organizations identify, analyze, and mitigate potential threats to their operations, finances, or reputation. 

All types of organizations, including small businesses and corporations, are potential clients.

Some offer broad expertise, but you can specialize in things like financial risk, environmental risk, or cybersecurity.

A Bachelor’s degree in risk management, business, or a related field is typically preferred, though some clients prefer a master’s. Many get a certification such as the RIMS-Certified Risk Management Professional.

Average salary: $91,520
Growth rate: 4.8% (2023-2030)

Data analytics consulting

As a data analytics consultant, you help businesses use data to improve decision-making, optimize processes, and become more competitive. 

Corporations, small business, financial institutions, government agencies, and more hire data analytics consultants to handle:

  • Data acquisition, assessment, and analysis
  • Data modeling and visualization
  • Change implementation and management

You don’t really need a degree, as many data analysts learn by going through shorter programs. However, you will need experience. And you might also have industry experience and statistical, analytical, and programming skills.

Average salary: $108,873
Growth rate: 26.7% (2023-2030)

Social media consulting

Social media consultants are experts in social media who develop effective social media strategies for businesses looking to grow their online presence.

You typically work with educational institutions, marketing agencies, startups, and SMBs.

A social media consultant helps with:

  • Analytics
  • Client relationships
  • Content creation and strategy

You don’t need a degree or certification, but some have a Bachelor’s in communications or marketing. A certification from a program like HubSpot Academy will set you apart.

Average salary: $50,644
Growth rate: 6% (2019-2029)

Career consulting

Career consultants help clients set and reach goals at any stage in their career.

You help professionals of all levels with:

  • Setting goals
  • Finding the right career path
  • Improving skills
  • Updating resumes and cover letters

You don’t need a degree to become a career consultant, but you do need relevant experience and a profitable niche. 

For example, my student Anna turned her experience into a female-focused career coaching business.

You can get certified. Consider a program like the Certified Professional Career Coach.

Average salary: $88,249
Growth rate: 5% (2022-2032)

Fitness/health consulting

Fitness/health consultants help individuals set goals and help them reach them through expert advice.

Anyone looking to improve their health can work with fitness/health consultants, who can specialize in niches like:

  • Nutrition
  • Stress management
  • Wellness

Though specific niches require a degree, many of my students don’t have one. You just need relevant experience and a proven formula.

For instance, David teaches people how to use herbs to lose weight, Jamie helps women improve energy levels, and Lorisa specializes in plant-based nutrition.

Average salary: $29,817 (but you decide how much you make)
Growth rate: 19% (2018-2028)

The key to a successful consulting business is choosing the right specialty. Keep reading to learn how.

How do you choose your consulting specialty?

You don’t need years of experience and a degree from an Ivy League to be a self-employed consultant. 

You can use the skills you already have and build a business. 

You do need a niche, though. Here’s how to find one in three steps.

Solve a problem

Give some thought to the problems that people are already being paid to solve. For instance, what is your full-time job? What type of programs are people already paying for? 

Take a look online, too – what are people looking for help with? What questions do they have? That’s how I figured out that digital advertising consulting had great potential. 

Next, determine what people will pay for you to help them solve. Typically, it’s one of the following: 

  • To be the person they want to be
  • To have the kind of life they’re envisioning, whether it’s one with more money, a better career, or less stress
  • To feel a different way, whether it’s more successful, happier, healthier, or more confident

When you approach finding a niche with those three things in mind, you know you’ll find a profitable one.

Choose the most profitable market 

Speaking of, one of the most important parts of launching a consulting business is finding a profitable niche.

It differs for everyone. To figure out what will be most profitable for you, focus on what you have experience in and know how to get your clients results.

Then, ensure it’s something people will pay for (like we just discussed).

Over the years, I’ve found that some of the most profitable consulting niches are:

Find your special sauce 

Finally, figure out what makes you stand out. How, specifically, are you going to help your clients?

I always recommend this formula to figure it out: “I help ___ to ___ so that __.”

Why?

Because the more specific you are in what you offer, the more memorable you are. 

For instance, it wouldn’t be enough for me to simply say, “I help people build online businesses.”

For my special sauce to be effective, I have to dig deep and figure out who I work with, what I help them do, and why I do it.

For instance, mine would read, “I help aspiring entrepreneurs to build a profitable business so that they can break free of their 9-5 and live a freer, fulfilling life.”

If you need help figuring out where to start regarding your niche, I’ve put together a list of 100 profitable niches in this guide.

Next steps 

There you have it! Everything you need to know about consulting.

If you’re ready to launch your own online consulting business, I’ll show you exactly how to do it in THIS free guide:

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Read more:

How to Become a Successful Consultant

How to Start a 6-Figure Business While Working Full-Time

How to Grow Your Online Business

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

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