How to Become a Career Counselor

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A smiling career counselor meets with a client.

Throughout a person’s life, their career path may grow, evolve and change many times. According to a 2022 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals who were born between 1980 and 1984 held an average of 8.6 jobs between the ages of 18 and 34.

Career counselors understand that a career is more than just a job. The purpose of professional career counseling is to help clients identify and achieve their ideal career goals. This means finding a career that not only aligns with the client’s education or previous experience but also is compatible with their personality traits, lifestyle and future ambitions.

Individuals who may be considering enrolling in an online master’s in counseling degree program and contemplating career options can benefit from learning how to become a career counselor and what working in the profession entails.

What Is a Career Counselor?

Individuals who aren’t familiar with career counseling might not have a clear understanding of what professionals who work in the field do. Exploring what a career counselor is and how they help their clients can help aspiring counselors determine whether this career path suits them.

The job description of a career counselor can vary, but according to Indeed, their typical responsibilities include:

  • Administering tests to clients that assess and measure attributes such as aptitude and character traits
  • Helping clients establish career goals
  • Instructing clients on techniques for conducting job searches and developing professional networks
  • Teaching clients skills for handling employment interviews and writing cover letters and resumes
  • Helping clients identify and apply for professional development opportunities, advanced education and membership in professional associations

Career counselors have the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients in different stages of life. A career counselor may work with college students to determine what careers are good options for the degrees they’re pursuing. Career counselors also may support clients who are struggling to find a job or who were laid off. Additionally, they may work with midcareer clients who are looking to change occupations or pursue a promotion.

Working as a career counselor also entails learning how to be nimble and adjust to trends in the field. For example, in a 2022 report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers noted that individuals who work in career services need to:

  • Monitor the skills that employers view as most important
  • Remain aware of employers’ goals in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Anticipate shifts in the labor market (such as increasing competition, which may lead employers to offer higher salaries), and analyze how those shifts can affect employee recruitment

How to Become a Career Counselor

Entering the career counseling profession requires certain educational credentials and experience. The following steps outline how to become a career counselor.

1. Earn a Relevant Bachelor’s Degree

Aspiring career counselors should start by earning a bachelor’s degree in an academic field such as psychology, sociology or behavioral science, Indeed reports. The courses students take when pursuing a relevant bachelor’s degree can establish a foundation in human development, psychological studies and methodologies for counseling.

2. Earn a Master’s Degree in Counseling

While not always required, earning a master’s degree in counseling can set a career counselor candidate apart. A graduate counseling program delves into topics such as career and lifestyle development, counseling skills and techniques, and theories of career development.

3. Obtain Experience in the Field

Gaining experience is one of the most important steps in becoming a career counselor. Most aspiring career counselors will obtain experience through the practicum hours that their graduate programs require. While under the supervision of a professional in the field, students get the opportunity to apply their expertise in real-world scenarios and refine their skills by providing counseling directly to clients.

4. Earn a Certification

Earning a certification is evidence of an individual’s expertise in career counseling, and can help them stand out from other job seekers. The National Career Development Association offers certifications such as:

  • Certified career counselor (CCC)
  • Certified career counselor educator (CCCE)
  • Certified clinical supervisor of career counseling (CCSCC)

5. Comply with State Licensure Requirements

State licensure requirements for counselors vary, according to the National Career Development Association. Anyone interested in becoming a counselor needs to know the licensing requirements in the state where they wish to practice.

Skills Needed to Become a Career Counselor

According to the National Employment Counseling Association (a division of the American Counseling Organization), career counselors should possess the following skills and competencies:

Career Counselor Salary and Job Outlook

Career counseling is a growing field. Citing the rise in postsecondary schools with career centers focused on helping students enter the workforce, the BLS projects that employment of school and career counselors will grow by 10% between 2021 and 2031. The BLS also notes that counselors will be needed to assist career changers, unemployed workers and veterans transitioning into civilian roles.

Individuals who wish to work in the field should also be aware of career counselor salary information. According to the BLS, school and career counselors earned a median annual wage of $60,510 as of May 2021.

Helping Others Find Their Career Path

Becoming a career counselor can be a rewarding endeavor that leads to fulfilling work. Helping others to identify their career goals and find the right path to pursuing them is a meaningful way to make a lasting contribution to society.

If you’re interested in entering the counseling profession, explore Wake Forest University’s online Master of Arts in Counseling degree program to learn how it can help you achieve your goals. With tracks in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling, the program can set the stage for a meaningful career. Start transforming your career ambitions into reality today.

Recommended Readings

Serving Humanity: Career Opportunities in Mental Health

What is Human Growth and Development?

How to Become a School Counselor


Indeed, “Career Counseling: What It Is and How Job Counselors Help”

Indeed, “How to Become a Career Counselor in 5 Steps (with Tips)”

National Association of Colleges and Employers, “Future Forward: Key Issues and Recommendations for Success in 2022”

National Career Development Association, Certified Career Counselor (CCC)

National Career Development Association, Introduction to Credentialing

National Employment Counseling Association, National Employment Counseling Competencies

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “People Born in Early 1980s Held an Average of 8.6 Jobs from Ages 18 Through 34

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors and Advisors