An education consultant, or certified education planner, assists a family in making educational decisions. Find out what benefits an education consultant can provide and information on choosing an education consultant in this article.

The first important thing to know is that there are three very different jobs that have the title “education consultant.” One type is a state education consultant who is part of the state department of education and is tasked with informing the state about matters in his or her area of expertise. The second is an educator, often retired from teaching, who uses classroom experience and training in private practice as an independent contractor on content area and other educational issues for schools, parents, organizations, the government, etc. The other is an advisor who helps create successful matches between students and schools. This article is about the last type of education consultant, also called a certified educational planner.

The Job of an Education Consultant

An education consultant assists a family in making educational decisions. This may include helping find a school placement that is a good fit for the student, but one of the principles of the IECA (see below) is that “A consultant does not guarantee placement as recommendations, and may suggest alternative options.”

In order to guarantee that there is no undue influence in placement, this same set of principles prohibits the consultant from accepting “any compensation from educational institutions for placement of a child” and strives to avoid any appearance of influencing the decision process. The fees that the Education Consultant charges to the family may be hourly, a flat rate for specific services, or an annual contract.

Why People Hire an Education Consultant

People use an education consultant for a variety of reasons: 

  • Because they can. Some families can afford to make this choice, which they feel gives their child an extra edge, and so they do. 
  • To handle a large-scale or long-distance search. In a situation in which a school search does not take place in the immediate area where the family is living, the family may benefit from an education consultant's breadth of knowledge. 
  • Previous history of success with an education consultant. 
  • Previous history of a school not being a good fit. 
  • A very specialized situation, such as a child with a learning disability, where specialized industry knowledge can be of great value. 
  • When parents feel that they cannot give sufficient guidance, which could occur in the case of an exceptional child, or parents who do not speak English as their first language, for example.

Choosing an Education Consultant

There are three important organizations to be aware of in beginning the search for an education consultant. The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is a non-profit professional association whose membership consists of education advisors who are full-time, experienced, and independent.

IECA has ethical guidelines called “principles of good practice” that members are required to adhere to. In addition, IECA initiated a certification process which leads to a designation of Certified Educational Planner (CEP). This designation is administered by the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (AICEP) and guarantees that an educational planner has: 

  • received at least a master's degree in a career-related field 
  • passed a comprehensive exam 
  • has a breadth of contacts in the industry 
  • demonstrated professional expertise 
  • been recommended by 5 peers 
  • has pledged to follow the AICEP Principles of Good Practice.

CEPs are certified for a five-year period, after which they are reevaluated, and at this point, they must exhibit evidence of on-going professional development. According to the AICEP website, there are currently about 200 CEP's nationwide.

Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) is another professional organization that, despite their name, promotes professionalism among consultants who specialize in secondary school as well as college and graduate school placements. They offer a brochure with tips that people planning to choose a consultant may find useful.

Finding an Education Consultant

The three organizations IECA, AICEP, and HECA all have search assistance available. Each site has a search page to help you find a consultant service. They include searches by name, by location, and by specialty. 

What Is an Education Consultant Sources:


Written by Mary Elizabeth