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How do I Become a Career Counselor?

By Sonal Panse
Updated: Feb 16, 2024

Career counselors help people make the right career decisions. A career counselor assesses a client's work history, educational level, skills, personality and interests, and matches them to a suitable career or work industry. Career counselors help with job search, job applications and interview preparations. They also offer support in cases of job loss, career transition and work-related stress.

To become a career counselor, a person must first have a genuine desire to help other people. High ethical standards, good listening skills and communication skills are immensely important. They must be able to inspire trust and get along well with different personalities.

The ability to work independently as well as in a group is required for anyone who wants to become a career counselor. Patience and resilience are also required as stress levels can shoot up in this career. Computer and business management skills are equally necessary.

Educational qualifications required to work as a career counselor vary from area to area. Different states and regions may have different requirements. Generally though, career counselors must have a Master's Degree in counseling, education or psychology from an accredited educational institution.

It helps to have certifications from the International Coach Federation (ICF), the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and related educational programs (CACREP), and the National Board for Certified Counselors. Field experience in counseling, under a supervisor, is mandatory to become a career counselor. Some teaching experience may be required if applying to become a career counselor at a school, college or university.

With a changing economy and a growing trend towards multiple career changes, there is no dearth of career counselor jobs. Career counselors can work in job training centers, in career information centers and in vocational rehabilitation centers. They can work in local and national government agencies, in the Army, in welfare organizations, in business corporations, and in schools, colleges and universities.

Career counselors may also be self-employed in group practices or have their own private practice. A career counselor with a private practice must not only be professionally qualified, but also adept in marketing, in management, in establishing a wide contacts network and in keeping skills and knowledge current. Being associated with a professional association like the the National Career Development Association is beneficial.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, career counselors employed in industries or with well-established private practices can have a very good earning potential. More important than the earning potential, however, is the role a career counselor plays in helping people find their niche in life.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Bhutan — On Oct 26, 2010

Mutsy-I like the idea of becoming a social worker. The idea of helping people with troubling issues is rewarding.

Social workers often work for social agencies and hospitals. For example, in a hospital they are assigned a case when a family member might be diagnosed with a serious medical condition like a terminal illness.

They are there for the family to cope with the news and to help the patient through their diagnosis. A high degree of empathy is a must because social workers have to deal with people suffering from emotional pain.

I still remember the social worker that was assigned to us when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She was wonderful and was so caring it was amazing.

By mutsy — On Oct 26, 2010

Moldova-I think that being a guidance counselor would be really fun, but I love the idea of becoming a career counselor in general.

Becoming an employment counselor allows you the opportunity to help a variety of people with their career goals. Often these people might be displaced or terminated from their jobs and are in need for a new one.

A high degree of empathy is required because many times people come in contact with employment counselors in outplacement firms.

Outplacement firms often are involved when there are layoffs at a company; their assistance is part of a severance package that the separating company will offer the employee so that they could get help in finding another job.

By Moldova — On Oct 26, 2010

Comfyshoes- Some of these counselors open a private college consulting practice. This includes essay preparation along with general interview coaching and advice on extracurricular activities that might offer higher chances of acceptance with the target schools.

Some of these counselors will work with a student for several years and will only take clients that have a significant chance of success.

Many of these students are focusing on Ivy League schools which are why the fees that these counselors charge are significant. They also guarantee success because many have strong ties to these schools and know what the admissions department is looking for.

By comfyshoes — On Oct 26, 2010

I think that learning how to become a high school counselor would be really rewarding. Helping high schools students with financial aid opportunities along with a potential career path is important.

These students may have a definitive career path in mind, but most students do not. Also, a becoming a guidance counselor is like being a mentor to a group of students.

This period in a teenager’s life if stressful enough, but becoming a school counselor allows you the opportunity to help teens with their future plans.

A guidance counselor requires a master’s degree in counseling and the salaries for guidance counselors that work in public schools is equal to that of a teacher with a master’s degree.

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