How to Become a Career Counselor

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Throughout a person’s life, his or her career path may grow and evolve, change drastically or remain relatively the same. Regardless, each career path is unique to the individual.

Career counselors understand that a career is more than just a job.. A career counselor’s top priority is to work with their clients to help them identify and reach their ideal career goals. This means finding a career that not only aligns with the client’s education or previous experience, but one that is also compatible with his or her personality traits, life style and future ambitions.

For those wondering how to become a career counselor, be aware that most career counselor positions require a master’s degree, and, in many cases, a corresponding internship to prepare prospective career counselors for the job responsibilities.

What does a career counselor do?

The daily responsibilities of a career counselor vary, but, generally, after meeting a new client, assessments and exercises are completed to learn about the client’s background, education and personality. After achieving a full understanding of the client’s history and needs, counsel is provided on potential career and job options, strategies to use and general education to support achieving the client’s career goal. This could include instruction about job searching techniques, resume writing and job interview skills.

Career counselors have the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients in different stages of life — it’s hard to imagine a person who doesn’t have dreams of improving or changing his or her career. A career counselor may work in a college or university helping students determine what careers are good options for the degree they’re pursuing. Another potential area of focus for a career counselor is supporting clients who are struggling to find a job or who were recently laid off. Finally, career counselors may choose to work with clients who currently have an occupation but are looking to make a change or pursue a promotion.

The ability to influence the direction of a person’s life by providing the tools and knowledge to achieve his or her career goals is just one of the perks of being a career counselor. This occupation affords the opportunity to meet and work with all kinds of different people and, in many cases, to enjoy the satisfaction that comes with watching clients thrive and succeed in their goals.

How to become a career counselor

The first steps in becoming a career counselor are obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a related field and then a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on career development, if possible. The master’s degree in counseling provides specific training to prepare for the on-the-job responsibilities. In addition to the academic courses, many programs include an internship component so that students gain hands-on training.

A teaching license and a criminal background check may also be required for those who want to provide career counseling at a high school or at a post-secondary institution.

What skills do career counselors need?

There are certain key skills and personality traits that candidates for a career counseling position should have:

  • Ability to display empathy

In many situations, a client will seek career counseling because he or she is under stress or has anxiety about his or her current employment situation. For example, a person who has unsuccessfully been seeking employment for more than a year may be highly emotional during a counseling appointment. The job of a career counselor is to provide empathy and compassion for each client’s unique situation to reach a level of understanding before moving forward with counsel and advice. 

  • Critical thinking skills

Career counselors need to be able to read their clients in many ways, from their overall impression of the client, to using analytical skills to assess the client’s tests and reports, to uncovering what information the client may not be sharing. All of these pieces are important to the puzzle of determining and recommending the right career or job opportunities. 

  • Communication skills

A significant part of a career counselor’s role is interacting directly with clients. This involves actively listening to what the client is saying and ensuring the client feels heard and understood. This also includes excellent speaking skills so that instructions and information are clearly communicated to the client.    

  • Relationship-building skills

Career counselors build trust with their clients by making them feel comfortable and accepted. Career counselors should be nonjudgmental and welcoming to all types of people and personalities. 

What to expect from a career counselor career

Not only can career counseling be a rewarding and interesting profession, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are positive job prospects for candidates with this education and training. From 2016 to 2026, employment of career counselors is projected to grow by 13 percent. This is faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also reports that the median annual wage for career counselors in May of 2017 was $55,410.

With the cyclical nature of workers leaving the workforce each year and new graduates taking their places, there will continue to be demand for career counselors. Becoming a career counselor means gaining the ability to work with and influence the lives of all types of people by helping them reach their career goals.

Learn More:

The human services field is expansive and varied, as are the positions available within it. There are associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs available to help those seeking a career in human services learn what they need to do to reach their goals and understand what those jobs will look like once they’re there.

The Master of Counseling program at Wake Forest University can help give students the tools they need to enter the counseling profession with a firm grasp of key concepts and training. Find out more about our comprehensive curriculum and apply today.

Recommended Reading:
How to Become a College Counselor
The Importance of Counseling
How to Get a Counseling Degree

California Department of Education, Career Counseling
Houston Chronicle, Skills for a Career Counselor
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors