Educational Consultant vs Instructional Coach: What is The Real Difference in These Roles

When teachers are contemplating a transition from the classroom to a position out of the classroom, there are two roles that often come to mind, Instructional Coach and Educational Consultant.

Both positions require many of the same skill sets, but there are some key differences in these roles. These differences are significant and for most, can be the difference between staying in the classroom and making the transition out.

In my conversations with teachers, I’ve come to know that many teachers are not aware of these subtle, yet significant differences. In today’s post I share three key differences between these roles, and two striking similarities.

Educational Consultant vs Instructional Coach: What is The Real Difference in These Roles


Difference #1: How they are paid

Educational consultants are typically independent contractors for private education focused companies or they run their own consulting practice. Instructional coaches are employees of schools and school districts. Because instructional coaches are employees, they get paid a consistent salary, get a W-2 at the end of each year which summarizes their salary and taxes paid, and usually have employee benefits like medical coverage. Educational consultants are paid on a 1099, which means taxes are not withheld on their behalf and are their responsibility to pay. Consultants also don’t receive employee benefits. This may seem daunting for Educational Consultants, but their compensation can far exceed the salary plus benefit package of an Instructional Coach because of an increased daily rate of pay.

Difference #2: Work Schedule

The demand for educational consultants peaks during back to school months and beginning and end of summer, due to an increased need for professional development for teachers. Educational consultants can expect an overflow in work during May, June, August, and September. Most consultants experience a slow down in December, March, and April. Consultants usually plan their time-off and vacation time around the demands of the industry. Instructional coaches, because they work the instructional calendar for their school or district, can expect a predicable Monday-Friday work schedule with the same breaks and days off as teachers.

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Difference #3: Daily Duties

Educational consultants usually do not have a predictable set of daily duties. Their day to day schedule will vary for each school and district for which they provide support. In addition to the work an educational consultant does in the school with teachers an leaders, they will also be responsible for coordinating school visits with their schools in a timely manner, booking and planning necessary travel, writing detailed reports, and invoicing the company for work completed. By nature of being an educational consultant, consultants are not a mainstay in a school and are less apt to become involved in the day-to-day functions of the school. Instructional coaches can expect a more predictable set of daily duties. They typically work with the same set teachers or schools on a weekly basis, which allows them to build relationships faster. Instructional coaches can expect to receive direction from school leaders around prioritizing whom they work with, which adds structure to their daily duties. If the coach is embedded in one school, they are also very involved in the daily functioning of the school and may have to work a little harder to keep their role defined.

I love The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s definition of an instructional coach: An instructional coach is someone whose chief professional responsibility is to bring evidence-based practices into classrooms by working with teachers and other school leaders. This definition is a perfect starting point for unpacking how these two roles are similar.

Similarity #1: Focus on evidence-based practices

The main responsibility of both these roles is to support teachers in elevating their practice. This is accomplished by working with teachers and school leaders to identify the best practices the school will implement then purposing the instructional coach or educational consultant to implement tasks that make those practices evident in the classroom.

Similarity #2: Enjoy working with adults

Most instructional coaches and educational consultants initially found their strength in teaching, which made them qualified to transition into a role of supporting teaches. While being a strong teacher is typically a prerequisite for both positions, both consultants and coaches must also enjoy working with and supporting adult learners because nearly all of what they do is working directly with teachers.



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  • Nice post, Kiana! The distinctions you make regarding the differences between instructional coaches and educational consultants are important to know when planning for long term goals. Thank you for creating this post.

    Also as a teacher in Pennsylvania, I can say that our instructional coaches are indeed leaders and are passionate about the work they do. Research based information they share with us is on par, and usually very interesting to hear and share with our students.

    Thank you!


      Thanks for the feedback Krystal. I agree with you. Every instructional coach I’ve worked with has been a passionate instructional leader. My coach was the only reason I survived my first year of teaching.