The path to your first SAP consultant job – what do studies, certification and practice count for?
High salaries and fast pay rises – there are few better ways to „make a career“ today than in the role of SAP consultant. This path is far more open to many people than one can believe. Regardless of your field of study and first job, a lateral entry into as SAP junior consultant is definitely possible. Because in this field hardly anyone pays attention to titles, training and certifications; it’s the practical skills and abilities that count.
With the right prerequisites and the ambition to acquire practical experience, getting into this popular field can be successful. The differences in salary and career options for SAP consultants level out after three to five years of project experience, regardless of the educational path. But how do you get your first job?
Nine out of ten graduates who go directly into SAP consulting are business informatics specialists, economists, natural scientists or graduates of technical studies. As a rule, these „direct entrants“ have a Master’s or Diplom degree. There is still less recognition for a Bachelor’s degree. A doctoral title is not an advantage for entry: it usually only makes junior staff look older compared to other applicants and is mainly a prerequisite for those who plan to move up into top management. For this purpose, a doctorate or even an MBA is useful in the long run.
In contrast to direct entrants, SAP career changers very often have an academic education, but in completely different subjects – for example, law, humanities or even theology. Even non-academics have good chances, for example after training in IT-related or commercial professions. Only when it comes to SAP management positions at a later stage of the career, an academic education does give again an advantage. Something else is more important: those who want to make the transition to SAP must have both IT know-how and business skills. Many successful SAP career changers have gained professional experience in one of these fields and have brought with them an interest and understanding of the other field.
The introduction of new SAP systems offers training opportunities for interested SAP career changers or prospective SAP junior consultants
SAP career changers were often previously employed in controlling, sales or merchandise management and thus have precise business management knowledge. Or, on the other hand, they bring IT knowledge with them because they were web shop or network administrators or programmers. Sometimes you are given the opportunity to train as an SAP consultant as part of an SAP introduction in your company. The employment agency also occasionally pays for SAP certification and some employers bear the costs as part of an outplacement procedure. Courses with SAP certifications are organised by SAP and by various education providers.
However, SAP certification is in no way mandatory to move to SAP consulting: employers clearly prefer learning-on-the-job, which is practical experience in SAP projects, to training experience. Nevertheless, in the everyday work of Biber&Associates, it does happen that SAP consultants turn down a job offer in order to finish the expensive training they have started. Generally, new employers agree that the candidate should finish the SAP training before starting the new job. If an employer refuses, it is generally the lesser evil to discontinue the training. After all, the first job as an SAP consultant, or SAP junior consultant is always the most difficult to find. If an opportunity arises, newcomers to SAP or career changers should definitely take it.
Entry via SAP consultancies and speculative applications as an SAP junior consultant
It is imperative that SAP junior consultants or SAP career changers get their applications for their first SAP position before completing certification or further training. Application processes in the SAP environment take a long time; three months is not uncommon. Then you have the phase between signing the contract and starting the job. If you start too late, you risk an unwelcome and unnecessary gap in your CV.
This gap can turn into a big problem: anyone who spends a few months as a freelancer or trainer after certification, strives for further certifications or even works in non-SAP jobs for a while has almost lost his or her chances of a permanent position as an SAP consultant. HR managers understand from these CVs that the applicant has not managed to get started despite the huge demand for SAP specialists.
Those who do not get the chance to move into the SAP Field through external influences can also take their luck into their own hands. For this purpose, Biber&Associates recommend that SAP career changers or SAP junior consultants make speculative applications to small and medium-sized SAP consulting companies. These companies often have staffing needs that they are often unable to meet. Therefore, many consulting companies are willing to give ambitious SAP junior consultants and SAP career changers a chance and also to train and familiarise with them. Consulting companies are often more accommodating than SAP end clients with applicants who do not meet the requirements one hundred per cent and also have a trainer function on the SAP job market. These companies would therefore be a first port of call for interested SAP junior consultants and SAP career changers. Interested parties can find a list of SAP consulting companies in Germany on the website of Biber & Associates.
Indispensable prerequisites for the SAP job are knowledge of English, good references and a clear CV. Willingness to travel is considered a matter of course in an SAP consulting company. As SAP junior consultant or SAP career changer you should be prepared for at least two to three years of consulting with extensive travel, which means that you are on the road three to five working days per week. This work- and travel-intensive period remains a very good reference for the entire professional career. In the first job, one has to persevere even under difficult working conditions. The experience of frequent changers is considered doubtful in the SAP environment because SAP projects drag on for months or years. And even an experienced SAP consultant usually needs six to twelve months in a new job until he or she has mastered the new environment and is fully familiarised with it.
Apprenticeship and master years and prospects for experienced SAP consultants
Once you have obtained your first SAP job, the door is wide open for an exciting SAP career. Those who look around the job market for SAP consultants after the „apprenticeship years“ are offered attractive paths for further development. Solid project experience and skills will always remain more important for advancement than any title or certification. In the experience of Biber&Associates, the transition to a second SAP position is always much easier than the entry level. With a little luck, an applicant can already choose between several attractive contract offers. For SAP experts with initial work experience, it can also be very useful to consult a competent personnel consultant for the job search.