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What Is a Career Counselor?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated: Jan 22, 2024

A career counselor is an educated, trained professional who coaches clients in researching, selecting, planning, entering, developing and changing careers. A career counselor is also known as a placement counselor as he or she helps clients get placed into a suitable career or at least placed onto a compatible career path. Different clients have different needs, so the career counselor's duties will be different with each client.

A career counselor's client may be a young person just beginning a career or an older adult wanting to make a career change. In order to begin coaching clients, a career counselor needs to understand the client's history and what motivates that person. The client's personality, interests, skills, values and purpose in life offer a good start in narrowing down career possibilities.

Familiarity with personality and aptitude tests is a must for a career counselor. These tests can help reveal the client's personality traits, skill sets and values both as important self-knowledge for the client and as vital information for the career counselor to use in guiding the client to a suitable career choice. Objectivity in assessing test results is essential and career counselors often must have a professional counseling degree and/or license. A master's degree may also be required.

Good listening skills are crucial in career counseling. The career counselor must also take the information learned about the client and analyze it in terms of the current job market. Career coaches, or counselors, can help the client understand what careers are in demand and are likely to continue to be in demand in the near future. Once the career options are figured out and discussed in terms of educational and other requirements, the career counselor coaches the client into exploring those options.

The client is often asked by the coach to conduct informational interviews by finding companies in one of his or her career options and asking specific questions. The answers to the questions can help to inform the career seeker about what he or she could expect in a chosen career. The gathered information helps the client narrow down his or her choices until the most suitable career choice remains. Once the career selection is established, the career counselor can guide the client through the job application process. The career counselor can show the client how to prepare a resume and cover letter that can help land the client an interview and/or job in the client's newly chosen career field.

Discovering the best career test can be a game-changer for both career counselors and their clients. These superior tools are meticulously designed to incorporate a holistic view of a person's interests, skills, and personal attributes. The best career test not only streamlines the process of identifying a suitable career path, but also significantly enhances the effectiveness of career counseling sessions. It demystifies the vast realm of job possibilities, providing a navigable roadmap to a fulfilling and compatible career. Whether embarking on a career journey or contemplating a career pivot, the best career test can be an invaluable asset in your professional exploration.

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 julies — On Aug 26, 2011

A career counselor can be good at any stage of life. I know once my kids were raised and I was still looking at a number of years in the work force, I was ready to try something new.

I knew the areas I was interested in, but wanted to meet with a professional career counselor and work out a good plan.

Even though it is a little easier to know where your interests are when you are older, there are still a lot of choices out there.

Making a career change often involves more education, and my career counselor was also helpful with that whole process. I felt much more confident once I had a goal and a plan.

By LisaLou — On Aug 26, 2011

I think having college career counselors on staff is very important for every college. Many times students don't really know for sure what they want to do, and are looking for some guidance.

I went through my first two years of college and still had no idea what my degree was going to be in. When I was visiting with my adviser she recommended I talk to a career counselor to help me narrow down some choices.

By taking a few aptitude and skills tests, you can get a good idea of where some of your strengths and weaknesses are.

There are many times when someone graduates from college and ends up with a degree they don't really enjoy and can't imagine spending a large part of their career in that field.

If there was more planning and testing before that point, that might help make the decision easier and more compatible. I am glad I didn't wait any longer to talk to a career counselor and it really helped set me on the right track.

By animegal — On Aug 25, 2011

Talking to career counselors can be a good idea before you head to university. While you may not be seriously considering a job just yet career counselors have access to some really great software that can let you take tests to gauge your interest in different jobs.

While you can find some tests online that match you with certain careers, having a real person talk you through your results and options is a huge advantage. Even though I am not positive about what career I want yet, at least I know I have a list of things that interest me. People go through so many job changes in life these days, I think you really need lots of options.

By letshearit — On Aug 25, 2011

Career counseling can be a good investment of time if you are serious about the process and are willing to have someone tell you things you may not want to here. I went to career counselor a few years ago and was sad to learn that becoming a teacher was just not something I should pursue.

Good quality career counselors have a lot of data on trends in employment and which fields are flooded, as well as those that are looking good. Apparently teaching doesn't pay very much unless your a professor, and even then you need to be tenure to really reap the rewards. I suppose we're just living in a time where dream careers may not be so worthwhile. At least not for those that have bills to pay.

By Kat919 — On Aug 24, 2011

@jennythelib - I second the suggestion. I used to be the office manager at a law school's career development office. This was pretty recent, during the "economic downturn."

The job market is incredibly right now for lawyers, whether fresh out of law school or long graduated, and the office was seeing a big increase in the number of both students and alumni (some who had graduated twenty years before) coming in for help.

So they created a couple new career counselor jobs, including a new person to work with alumni (and they already had two people working in that capacity).

The counselors were actually all lawyers themselves who were seeking a bit of a different lifestyle than you get working for a law firm. They did not have career counselor degrees or anything like that; they did ongoing professional development, of course, but I think they had all gone into counseling straight from "lawyering."

By jennythelib — On Aug 23, 2011

One option for a low-cost or free career development counselor that people might not think of is their college. Many colleges, universities, and professional schools have free counseling services for alumni as well as students.

My brother is on the job market right now and he was able to get help with his resume, do a mock interview, and get advice about what jobs to target - even though he graduated ten years ago!

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