A career counselor is a professional who helps people choose a career and achieve their vocational goals. Counselors work with clients to help them enter the workforce, change careers, and look for employment opportunities. People who work in this field are employed in settings including schools, government agencies, private businesses, and community agencies.
Choosing a career can be a real challenge. How do you know what type of jobs are right for you? Is a particular profession suited to your personality, interests, and goals? High school students, college graduates, and adults interested in a career change have to face these difficult questions, and this is where a career counselor can help.
This article discusses what career counselors do and where they are employed. It also explores salaries and job outlook for people in this profession.
What Is a Career Counselor?
Career counselors work with people who have questions about different careers and educational paths. If you're a job seeker, working with a career counselorcan help you make the most of the planning and decision-making process and find a job path that's perfect for your needs.
Career Counselor Job Duties
Career counselors perform a range of duties. Depending on where they work and with whom, they might:
- Administer personality and interest inventories
- Advise students about what courses and educational programs they need for particular careers
- Aid clients in the job search process by teaching them where to look for open positions and connecting them with job search resources
- Counsel clients who are considering a career change
- Evaluate clients' educational and work backgrounds in order to help them determine what they need to do next to achieve their goals
- Help clients select the right schools or programs for their needs
- Help students locate sources of financial support to pay for school and other training programs
- Teach job-search skills such as interviewing, resume writing, and networking and help clients practice them
- Use achievement tests and aptitude tests to help clients get a better idea of what they're good at
Career counselors perform a range of duties, including helping clients determine their talents, values, preferences, and goals. They may do this by performing assessments, administering personality tests, interviewing clients, and using interest inventories.
Important Skills for Career Counselors
There are a number of different skills and abilities that might make a person well-suited to work as a career counselor. People who enjoy helping others, for example, might excel in this profession. Some other skills that might help include:
- Analytical skills: Career counselors use a variety of tools, such as interest inventories and personality tests. Being able to analyze the results of these assessments is an essential part of being a successful career counselor.
- Compassion and empathy: People who are in need of career counseling may be experiencing stress and anxiety related to indecision or changes in their lives. Counselors should be understanding and compassionate as they help people develop their career goals.
- Strong listening skills: In order to get an idea about what a client needs and wants, it is essential to listen. Interviewing people about their preferences, needs, and experiences is an important part of career counseling.
- Speaking skills: It's also important to be able to talk to clients to help them better understand their options.
Career Counselor Work Environments
Career counselors may work in a variety of areas. Usually, the client population that they work with will varies based on the setting.
Educational settings such as high schools and colleges, government agencies, and private practices are just a few of the major areas of employment for people working in this field.
Some counselors work in high schools and help students make college and career choices. Others work in higher-education settings and counsel university students who need help picking a major and deciding what they want to do when they graduate.
Adult Workforce Settings
Other career counselors specialize in working with adults who are already a part of the workforce. These individuals might seek out the assistance of a career counselor because they are considering a career change, want to find ways to advance in their current careers, or need assistance finding new work after being laid off.
In some cases, careercounselors might also work with people who have disabilities and need assistance to acquire job skills and find employment. These counselors are often employed by private or government agencies that offer assistance to children and adults who have a range of disabilities.
Teaching basic job skills, connecting clients with resources in the community, and communicating with potential employers are just a few of the tasks counselors might perform when working in this area.
Where Career Counselors Work
According to theOccupational Outlook Handbook, there were approximately 322,000 jobs in school and careercounselingin 2020. They were distributed across several settings:
- Elementary and secondary schools: 45%
- Juniorcolleges, colleges, professional schools, and universities: 35%
- Healthcare and social assistance agencies: 6%
- Self-employed: 2%
Wages for Career Counselors
As of May 2020, the median annual salary for all school and career counselors was $58,120. Those employed by healthcare and social service organizations earned considerably less, with a median annual wage of $42,300.
Educational Requirements for Career Counselors
The majority of employers prefer counselors to hold at least a master's degree in counseling with a specialization in career development. Career counselors generally do not need to be licensed, although many employers prefer it, and some require it. Those who want to work in private practice usually do need to be licensed.
Licensure typically involves completing a master's program in counseling, performing up to two years of full-time supervised clinical experience, passing a state licensing exam, and pursuing continuing education credits.
Those who are interested in working in elementary or secondary school settings generally need a master's degree in school counseling. Educational programs often have internship requirements where students gain hands-on experience by working under the supervision of a licensed professional.
Counselors in school settings must also have a license or certification to work in the state where they intend to practice.
Benefits of a Psychology Background
In some cases, individuals with a bachelor's degree in psychology can find entry-level positions in career counseling. Having a background in psychology can be helpful for people who are interested in this field. Psychology topics such as personality, motivation, and goal-setting are highly relevant for career counselors, so understanding these subjects can be beneficial.
Career Counselors vs. Life Coaches
While career coaches and life coaches both help people make decisions about their future, the scope of the two professions is different. Career coaches are focused on helping people with career choices, whereas life coaches assist people who are encountering a variety of personal life challenges or changes. There may be some overlap between these two, but the focus tends to be different.
Career counselors often help people:
- Choose a career
- Decide on a future career direction
- Improve job-seeking skills
- Learn to negotiate and solve conflicts
- Feel happier in their current role
- Decide whether to pursue other career directions
Life coaches, on the other hand, often help people:
- Set life goals and create plans
- Develop an understanding of themselves
- Create work-life balance and boundaries
- Learn to practice self-care
- Improve interpersonal skills and relationships
- Find hobbies and passions
They also typically differ in terms of training and educational background. Career counselors often have at minimum a bachelor's degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. Most professionals in this field hold a master's degree in counseling, and many are also certified by the National Career Development Association (NCDA).
Life coaches only need a few months of study to gain certification from the International Coach Federation. However, some life coaches may have more than this entry-level training.
Life coaches and career counselors differ in terms of the scope of their duties and their training. Career counselors are focused on vocational issues, whereas life coaches deal with many areas related to a person's personal life. While training for life coaches often takes just a few months, most career counselors have a minimum of a master's degree.
Job Outlook for Career Counselors
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the job demand is projected to grow by approximately 11% between the years 2020 and 2030, which is faster than average. Most of this growth will be fueled by the increase in students enrolled in colleges and universities.
During economic challenges, a slow job market might also spur the demand for career counseling services.
A recent and ongoing economic trend that has been dubbed the "Great Resignation" may also fuel the need for career counseling services. Many workers have voluntarily left their jobs, a phenomenon caused, in part, by the pandemic as well as other factors including wage stagnation and job dissatisfaction. Some may seek guidance from a career counselor to re-enter the workforce.
Regardless of the causes, such trends may help drive a need for the services of trained career counselors.
Starting a Career in Counseling
A Word From Verywell
Career counselors can help people make decisions about their careers. While they help people better understand their skills, interests, and goals, they don't tell people what job to choose.
These professionals can play an important role at critical points in life, such as when students are nearing graduation or when working adults are thinking about a career transition.
Whether you are choosing your first
Your Career Counselor WON'T:
Tell you what to do, or tell you what you should major in or what career you should pursue. Advise you in course selection or scheduling.
They can help you develop a meaningful career path by empowering you with the tools and resources you need to make educated decisions about your career, or help you consider what personal issues may influence your career. A career counselor can help you: identify your interests and abilities. make work/life decisions.Why is career counseling needed how do clients benefit from career counseling? ›
Career counseling could benefit you if you feel unhappy with your current career or job, are starting out in the career force, have lost a job, or are thinking about changing careers . Career counselors can help individuals navigate their careers through one-on-one conversations, no matter their stage in life.What is the difference between a career coach and a career counselor? ›
Career coaching is similar in nature to career counseling. A career counselor provides you with industry information and advice to help you find a job. A career coach does the same, but also takes a deeper look at your life as a whole, paying attention to your values, strengths and interests.Is a career counselor worth it? ›
By exploring your skills, strengths, and interests, career counselors are able to offer the most personalized advice to identify the best fitting career paths for you, and ultimately, which careers are the least likely to bring you joy. For students, career counseling offers a host of other benefits often not realized.What is the purpose of career coaching? ›
Career coaching is when a coach and an employee work one-on-one to help reach career goals and full potential. Career coaches help with career planning, career changes, career advice, and other career decisions.What are the 5 points for career guidance? ›
For us, there are 5 major facets to effective career guidance – Psychometric Tests, Personalized Counselling, Technology-based Research tools, Alumni Guidance, and University Engagement.What is the purpose of career development? ›
Career development deals with the fundamental nature of the relationship of individuals to their work and employees to their organizations. A clearly defined plan of action prepares employees for the future and preserves an organization's ability to meet both existing and future needs.What are two benefits of attending a career fair? ›
- Networking with Potential Employers. ...
- Access to Free Workshops and Seminars. ...
- Get Your Resume Reviewed. ...
- Interview Practice. ...
- Learn About Job Opportunities in Your Industry.
- Financial security. A job can provide you with a steady income, which can help you cover living expenses and save money for the future. ...
- Health insurance. ...
- A sense of purpose. ...
- Retirement savings. ...
- New skills. ...
- Valuable connections. ...
- Discounts and perks. ...
- Intellectual stimulation.
Career counseling over the lifespan has more than an occupational focus, it deals with the person's entire being with a vision that includes one's lifespan. Career counseling takes into consideration character development, character skills, life roles, individual life and work history, goals, and obstacles.What does it mean to see a career counselor? ›
Career counseling is a service that helps people begin, change, or advance their careers. It can include one-on-one conversations between a counselor and a career seeker, as well as assessments, activities, and projects designed to help career seekers make the most of their strengths.What is the definition of career counselor? ›
Meaning of career counsellor in English
someone whose job is to give people advice and information about what type of work they could do or how they could progress to a better job: He is a career counselor in California who advises clients about career changes.
- Start by asking friends, family, colleagues, or professional acquaintances who may have a helpful connection. ...
- Check the National Career Development Association's (NCDA) and National Board for Certified Counselors if you're looking for one who works privately. ...
- Ask around on campus.
It can also help individuals assess their strengths and weaknesses, set realistic career goals, and create action plans for achieving those goals. Ultimately, career counselling can help individuals make informed decisions about their careers, leading to greater satisfaction and success.What is the best age for career counseling? ›
Although career counselling sessions can be sought at any point in a person's life, the ideal age is 13 to 17 years. Generally, 13-14 years old students have a hard time choosing a career. This is the time they enter into real life where they need to make decisions.Do career coaches actually work? ›
While career coaches do play a role in helping with a job search or career transition, they are just as valuable for helping clients make the most out of their job and the opportunities at their current employer.Why am I struggling to pick a career? ›
Lack of Experience
Limited work experience is another reason why you might find it tough to choose your career path. There are instances when talking with people who work in a career you're interested in pursuing isn't enough. You can overcome this hurdle by potentially participating in additional training.
- 123test – Career Aptitude Test.
- My Next Move – O*NET Interest Profiler.
- Truity – Career Personality Profiler.
- Career Explorer by Sokanu – Career Test.
- Career Fitter – Career Test.
- The Princeton Review – Career Quiz.
- Career One Stop – Interest Assessment.
- Your Free Career Test – Free Career Test.
Career coaches are good resources if you are looking for a job but are uncertain of your job application skills. Career coaches know how to think like employers and will share best practices for writing inquiries and cover letters, updating your resume and preparing for interviews.How many career coaching sessions do I need? ›
You may just need an impartial sounding board to sense check your ideas, flesh out the best strategies and obtain some support to put it all into action. Depending on the amount of ground work you've already completed and how fast you put things into action, this can take between three and six sessions.What are the benefits of hiring a career coach? ›
- Job Search and Career Change Help. First, career counselors/coaches can help you navigate the job market. ...
- Accountability. ...
- Long-Term Career Planning. ...
- Moral Support and Confidence. ...
- An Outside Perspective and Honest Feedback. ...
- Templates, Systems, and Processes. ...
- Personal Branding.
- Cultivate a Positive Attitude.
- Tap into your Passions.
- Honor your Values.
- Play to your Strengths.
- Set a Career Intention.
- Stage 1: Assessment. ...
- Stage 2: Investigation. ...
- Stage 3: Preparation. ...
- Stage 4: Commitment. ...
- Stage 5: Retention. ...
- Stage 6: Transition. ...
- Evolve Your Skill Set.
Creating an action plan is the most important component of the career planning strategy. A detailed flow of your actions helps you to stay focused to attain your goal. To do this, you'll need to identify comprehensive and detailed responsibilities and tasks. Your plan should include short-, medium- and long-term goals.What are the three purposes of career development? ›
The purposes and objectives of career development programme, therefore, can be listed as follows: To attract and retain effective persons in an organization. To utilize human resources optimally. To improve morale and motivation level of employees.What are the benefits of career growth? ›
Career development increases employee motivation and productivity. Attention to career development helps you attract top staff and retain valued employees. Supporting career development and growth of employees is mandated by the Philosophy of Human Resources Management.What is the career guidance process? ›
Career guidance is the guidance given to individuals to help them acquire the knowledge, information, skills, and experience necessary to identify career options, and narrow them down to make one career decision. This career decision then results in their social, financial and emotional well-being throughout.What is meant by career planning? ›
The career planning process is when you figure out what you want your career path to look like and what you have to do to make it happen. You set short, medium, and long-term career goals, then determine the steps you need to take to accomplish those goals.
As a career specialist, you help clients discover their ideal career and assist them with their job placement. Your job duties include administering personality and skills assessments, interpreting assessment results, and counseling clients. You also teach job search, resume-writing, and interviewing skills.What is career advancement? ›
Career advancement can mean moving up within your organization or taking on a higher-level role at a new organization. This can look like a new role with more responsibilities, or it could mean a higher salary. Some organizations offer their team members advancement opportunities so they can achieve their career goals.What is the difference between career counseling and personal counseling? ›
Career counseling is a specialization of personal counseling much like other specialty areas of counseling (i.e., school, family, rehabilitation, etc.), which implies a particular emphasis, population, or setting for its practice.What does career consultant do? ›
Careers consultants provide advice about training, employment options and career progression to professionals and career changers. Careers consultants (also known as careers coaches) provide guidance to people making decisions about their career.What are the types of career counseling? ›
These include: career guidance; career coaching; guidance counseling; personal guidance; career consulting and a range of related terminologies.What is the difference between being a professional counselor and being a friend? ›
A good therapist will keep the relationship professional rather than becoming attached in a way that could negatively affect the quality of treatment. Friends are supposed to listen and provide emotional support, but you might feel guilty if you vent to them for an hour or more every week.