SAP might not be a household name, but the software it develops helps behind the scenes at many of the world's most familiar companies. Because the global software developer holds more than a quarter of the market share for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, teams that rely on SAP solutions require skilled consultants in growing numbers.
The German software company maintains a large presence in North America, where companies embrace its complex and highly customizable database and data analysis tools. SAP consultants help businesses design and implement solutions that can include:
- Accounting and cash management
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Inventory and production forecasting
- Insurance modeling
- Oil and gas pipeline monitoring
- Profitability analysis
- Supply chain management
Each of these critical systems requires design and ongoing maintenance by professionals with both broad SAP training and deep industry-specific knowledge. With major advances in mobile computing, SAP project managers and system administrators must work even harder to ensure their company's data remains accurate and easily accessible.
SAP consultants often work for consulting firms that build and deploy complex tools for their clients. However, a growing number of North American companies are growing new, in-house jobs for SAP consultants. In turn, new opportunities for long-time employees willing to add new technology skills for their portfolios are starting to appear across the country.
What is the salary for SAP consultants?
SAP consultants can play a variety of roles in an ERP project, making specific salary statistics hard to pin down. Likewise, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't measure the differences in wages between professionals working with various software platforms. However, government research indicates that many SAP consultants in the early stages of their careers enjoy compensation packages similar to those of computer support specialists who often earn between $33,000 and $55,000 per year. Specialized certifications and industry experience can qualify SAP consultants for roles that include project planning, deployment, and analysis. Government researchers report that these jobs often pay between $58,000 and $96,000 annually, depending on an employer's industry and location.
Independent salary surveys validate government salary estimates for SAP consultants. Users of business networking website GlassDoor.com report that most companies pay around $70,000 for qualified SAP consultants. However, some companies and projects demand advanced certifications and management experience, resulting in compensation packages that can top $150,000.
According to ERP software expert Jon Reed, it takes more than just basic training to become a SAP consultant in today's job market. Via his blog, Reed and other IT career coaches advise job seekers to build soft skills that complement the technical learning offered by comprehensive certification courses. SAP professionals with previous jobs in human resources or project management can command as much as two times the average salary for IT workers.
What is the job outlook for SAP consultants?
More than a quarter-million new computer systems administrators will join the workforce in the coming decade, according to BLS estimates. Given SAP's grasp on the market for high-end ERP installations, the slice of this market for certified SAP professionals will continue to grow. The company itself posted job gains of as much as 40 percent in recent years, with annual filings revealing that more than half of the firm's recent hires work outside of Germany.
When Foote Partners posted its 2011 list of employer demands for top technology skills, SAP consulting remained one of the few information technology niches that maintained long-term salary growth throughout the recession and recovery of the past decade. Although Foote Partners' research indicates that some SAP consultants can earn high-paying jobs without certification, targeted technical training and project management experience helped the industry's top earners avoid salary erosion through the economic downturn.
SAP consultants also enjoy entry into the otherwise stalled job market for government employees. As some state and federal agencies adopt ERP software to manage public infrastructure projects, other oversight bodies require SAP consultants to help regulate the financial and health care industries. Government workers may get smaller paychecks than their private sector counterparts, but they enjoy some of the best perks and retirement programs of all IT professionals. Increasingly, government programs call in many of the same consulting firms that Fortune 500 companies use, growing the market for technicians who can flex their skills to meet client needs.
What training and/or certification is needed to become a SAP consultant?
Though some employers hire SAP consultants without certification, most newcomers to the profession can't gain significant hands-on experience with the software platform without completing a degree program or a certification course. SAP makes it easy for both emerging and experienced information technology professionals to earn certifications that communicate skill levels clearly to prospective employers:
- SAP Associate: This credential assures employers that candidates completed the basic training necessary to become a SAP consultant or a project team member.
- SAP Professional: Experienced professionals use this certification to validate their project portfolios and to qualify for the highest-paying jobs as system architects and project managers.
According to analysts at Foote Partners, a handful of SAP certifications and focus areas showed the most consistent job growth in the past few years, including:
- SAP Composition Environment
- SAP Corporate Finance Management
- SAP Customer Service
- SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio
- SAP Public Sector Management
- SAP Plant Maintenance
- SAP Project Systems
- SAP Service Management
- SAP Warehouse Management
Though SAP faces continued competition from Microsoft, Oracle, and a host of upstart competitors, its footprint among Fortune 500 companies and other major employers ensures solid opportunities for SAP consultants in the years to come.