A consultant’s work depends largely on one thing: what the client wants. A consultant must have knowledge or capabilities that the client doesn’t have and must be able to use them to solve a problem for the client quickly, accurately, and cost-efficiently. Consultants are hired by chemical or technology companies, law firms, government
agencies, insurance companies, venture capital firms, individual researchers, and many other entities.
In most cases, in-depth technical consulting requires significant chemical expertise and experience in a specific field. Consultants may work on-site at the client company, providing a particular service or educating employees in a new method, or they may work off-site, gathering information and writing reports and recommendations.
Typical Job Duties
- Expert witness services.
- Intellectual property (patent searches, licensing, technology transfer).
- Laboratory techniques.
- Market research.
- Product or process design and development.
- Regulatory compliance—inspections and audits.
- Consultants must have a depth or breadth of knowledge in a particular topic that is valuable to a number of organizations.
- Consultants must be able to research and gather information independently, including conducting interviews with subject matter experts, processing information, and usually providing a written and/or oral report.
- They must have the ability to work well with others, inspire confidence, and market their expertise.
- They must be flexible in order to respond to client demands and changes in the business environment, and they should keep their skills and expertise current.
- Consultants must also be able to focus their work and be able to refer projects that are outside their area of expertise.
- They need business acumen in order to manage cash flow, invoices, accounts payable and receivable, payroll, taxes, and all aspects of running a small business.
It is unusual for a recent graduate to specialize in chemical consulting. If they do specialize, it would often be in management consulting or working as an analyst for a large accounting firm, engineering firm, environmental management company, and so on.
Consulting can be a flexible part-time career to supplement other income, while allowing you to remain intellectually active. Many chemists begin consulting later in their career or after leaving more traditional careers, so new consultants must be able to compete with their expertise, reputation, and network.
Compensation varies widely and depends on degree, credentials, competition, full-time vs part-time work, and many other factors.
Original content at acs.org