Counselors generally use a variety of methods to assess an individual's interests, aptitudes and personality type, including interviews and personality tests like Myers-Briggs. Once the client has been assessed, career counselors discuss their clients' past work experience, skills and career plans in depth. Once settled on a direction, the career counselor may help with resume critiques, job search tips, and interview techniques.
For school career counselors, the lifestyle revolves around the school calendar, meaning summer vacations and shorter workdays. School career counselors work 10 or 11 months out of the year; they also attend conferences frequently. College career counselors are busiest around recruiting season, at the beginning of the fall term, and around graduation time. These college counselors put in long hours as the liaisons between students and recruiters: coordinating interviews, sorting resumes, providing advice and creating opportunities. Some may work through the summer, providing career advice to alumnae. Counselors with their own practices may work evenings or weekends in order accommodate the work schedules of their clients.
Career counselors who work for social agencies and vocational rehabilitation counselors generally work a standard 40-hour week; their clientele consists of people on public assistance, or with physical or mental disabilities. In addition to assessing the skills and work experience of their clients, they may confer with social workers, doctors, psychologists and other health-care professionals in order to assess a client's abilities, and then arrange for vocational training or job placement using this information. The job can be rewarding, particularly when a client successfully obtains a position. On the other hand, difficult-to-place individuals can be a stressful burden. Career counselors can advance their own careers through promotions to supervisory positions; they may also start their own career counseling businesses.
There are several ways to become a career counselor. In order to work in high schools, educational and certification requirements vary by state, and most require a master's degree. Vocational counselors who work for public agencies or rehabilitation programs require a master's degree. Some employers hire applicants with bachelor's degrees in counseling, sociology or related majors; people with these degrees may also work as assistant counselors. A national accreditation tests are offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors and the National Career Development Association. For those who wish to pursue a different path than through social services, experience in human resources departments is also valuable in advising people on how to avoid problems and get hired. Some people come to a specialized form of career counseling by working in a particular industry for a number of years, then leaving to advise others in their field.
For more information, The National Career Development Association (at www.ncda.org) has information on career conferences, certification, and periodicals for professionals in the industry.
counseling license, complete supervised counseling experience and complete required NCDA coursework. Vocational and rehabilitation counselors usually hold a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. Some agencies, however, accept applicants with a bachelor's degree in counseling, sociology or other closely related majors.
Counselors surveyed find their work rewarding and as one contact puts it, the best part of the job is having "the ability to truly impact students' lives." Our sources enjoy interacting with students and as one source put it there is a "sense of meaning in [the] work." The college setting was also noted as a plus and according to one counselor it offers the "benefits of a counseling career without the stresses of personal counseling." There is "much variation in tasks", perfect for those that like the unpredictable.
Compensation for college career counselors ranges from $30,000 to $40,000. A counselor with 20 years of experience or more can earn $100,000 per year. Although PhD's are preferred, career counselors generally hold a master's degree with an emphasis on career counseling, student personnel administration or other related fields.
The coffee never stops percolating as "the late night workshops can be tiring." Most people are not sure what career counselors do and as one contact cites "we often are misunderstood by other offices and students who think we are a head hunting agency. She adds "[I]t is frustrating to always have to explain your job and sell your services." Our contact also noted that it can be "disappointing" when students fail to attend workshops or do not show for appointments.
The paths leading to a job in career counseling vary although most "have worked in college student services or human resource and then move into career development at colleges." Regardless of how you chose this career, our sources stress that you "need to love working with people and want to help them develop their potential." An internship can be helpful in making this decision. One source recommends trying "different types of colleges, government agencies and private organizations to see what type of environment and population you prefer." Another source advises to "get connected with appropriate professional associations."
Helping people; Variety of career options
Long or irregular hours
Good listener; Patient; Friendly; Perceptive
Introverted; Single-minded; Authoritative
Averages about 45 per week
Median annual earnings for educational, vocational and school counselors: $48,530; Median salary for public school counselors: $53,970; Median salary for colleges and universities: $42,510
Master's degree in career counseling