How to Become a Career Counselor


Becoming a career counselor typically requires either an undergraduate degree in education, human resources or social work, combined with a certificate, diploma or work experience in career counseling. You can also get into this field with a graduate degree in career counseling, or a closely related field.


The first step on this path, is to determine if this line of work is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a school counselor:


• You have a genuine interest in helping people determine their professional direction

• You are able to listen to others without prejudice or judgment

• You have a good sense of personal integrity and ethics

• You are able to build trust and help people feel relaxed

• You have objectivity, a professional demeanor, and tact

• You enjoy compiling, analyzing and sharing information


Below we've outlined what you'll need to become a career counselor. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as salary expectations, an outline of the skills you’ll need, educational requirements, a list of possible employer types, and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Career Counselor

You'll likely need a bachelor’s degree in a discipline related to career counseling, such as psychology, counseling, career counseling/development, education, social work, human resources, or a closely related field.


Increasingly, employers are looking for applicants who have a master’s degree in one of these areas, or a bachelor’s degree combined with a certificate in career development, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.





General Job Description

Career counselors (also known as employment counselors) are responsible for providing assistance, counseling and information to clients on various aspects of career planning and searching for employment. Their clients may include:


• Students or recent graduates

• People seeking vocational rehabilitation

• Members of the general public

• Employees of an organization


In order to help their clients make the appropriate career decisions, a career counselor must interview the client to gather as much information about their work history, educational background, skills, personality and interests.


Career counselors also help with job search, job applications and interview preparations, as well as offering support in cases of job loss, career transition and work-related stress. They typically also provide advice, counsel and information to employer clients regarding human resources, recruiting and employment issues.



Typical Job Duties

• Interview client to get information related to their educational background, professional aspirations and work history

• Identify barriers that the client faces with regards to obtaining employment

• Assist clients with job search strategies, resume and cover letter writing and preparation for job interviews

• Assess a client’s need for vocational rehabilitation or financial aid

• Refer clients to appropriate internal or external resources

• Provide established workers with information on maintaining a job or moving within an organization

• Provide established workers with information on dealing with job dissatisfaction or making a mid-career change

• Collect labour market information for clients such as job openings and skill requirement information

• Provide advice for employer clients in matters related to recruiting students, new graduates and established workers

• Provide consulting services for community groups, businesses, and other organizations involved in providing community-based career planning resources



Experience Needed to Get Into This Profession

Some employers may require you to have relevant career experience in order to become a career counselor. This is especially true for candidates whose education is not focused in career counseling.


If you want to become a career counselor and you have education in a field closely related to career counseling, such as human resources or social work, having completed an internship or work placement field posting related to career counseling may be sufficient career experience for many employers.


Many employers will accept additional education in a relevant field, in place of work experience. For example, if you have a degree in human resources as well as a certificate or diploma in career counseling, employers may consider you for a job as a career counselor without any formal work experience.


Success Tip: The more relevant and advanced your education is in career counseling, the less formal career experience you will need to work as a career counselor. 



Certification Requirements

Certification for becoming a career counselor is typically voluntary, although some employers prefer to hire candidates with related certification, or may pay higher salaries to those with certification. It is not necessary though to break into the career; as you typically need career experience as a career counselor in order to even qualify for most forms of career counselor certification.


There are many organizations that offer voluntary career counselor certification. For example, The Career Development Association of Alberta grants the designation Certified Career Development Professional (CCDP) to applicants who meet educational, experience and ethical requirements.


Success Tip: Get in touch with your local, regional or national career counselor’s association in order to find out more about becoming certified as a career counselor, including the various requirements, costs and benefits.





Skills Needed to Be Effective

To be effective in a career as a career counselor, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses exceptional communication skills, interpersonal skills, as well as knowledge and skills in counseling.


Communication Skills


Great listening skills are essential for career counselors. They need to give their full attention to their clients in order to gain a full understanding of their career related problems and ambitions. They must also have ability to listen and comprehend with objectivity, patience, empathy and understanding, without prejudice or judgment.


Career counselors also need excellent speaking abilities, as they must be able to express ideas and information in a way that their clients can understand easily.


Counseling Skills


Career counselors need to be well versed in various aspects of counseling; they must be able to challenge their clients in a positive way, and be able to advise clients on a wide variety of career related issues, including:


• Finding an appropriate career

• Looking for jobs

• Applying for jobs

• Preparing for interviews

• Dealing with dissatisfaction in a current career

• Dealing with on-the-job stress


In order to gain an understanding of a client’s needs, a career counselor must be able to effectively assess a client's work history, educational level, skills, personality and interests.


Career counselors must also be competent in helping clients with their job search, job applications and interview preparations. This involves having knowledge in these areas themselves, as well as having knowledge of resources that clients can explore in order to get more information.



Helpful Characteristics to Have

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a career counselor, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your job duties is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.


• A genuine desire to help other people

• Enjoy developing working relationships with a wide range of people

• Respect for people from all walks of life

• High ethical standards

• Patience and resilience, with regards to work activities

• Patience, understanding and a non-judgmentally when listening to clients

• Objectivity, a professional demeanor, and tact

• Enjoy developing innovative solutions to problems

• Enjoy compiling and sharing information 



Who Hires Career & Employment Counselors?

Career counselors have a wide variety of employment options available to them, in the public sector, the private sector, and the non-profit sector. The following types of organizations typically employ them on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis:


• Municipal, regional and federal government agencies

• Public, private and non-profit job training centres

• Public, private and non-profit career information centres

• Vocational rehabilitation centres

• Colleges and universities

• Public and private schools

• Non-profit organizations

• Independent career advisory consultancies

• Human Resource departments of large organizations 


How Much Do They Earn?

The salary level of career counselors can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience

• Whether or not they have certification

• The region in which they work

• The size and type of their employer


School Counselor Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the School and Career Counselors occupational group is $53,610 per year.


Career Counselor Salary Australia: According to the Government of Western Australia - Department of Training and Workforce Development, Australian workers in the Career Counsellors occupational group can expect to earn approximately $1,050.00 per week (when working full-time, and before tax).



Current Job Openings in This Field

Our job board below has 'career counselor' postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Work Environment

Hours: Career counselors usually work standard office hours, although they may spend additional evening and weekend hours attending meetings, gathering information, and planning for their interactions with clients, families or co-operative professionals.


Setting: Typically, career counselors work in office environments, where they can conduct private interviews with clients and in classrooms or boardrooms where they conduct group sessions. The job of a career counselor may involve a lot of travel, depending on the clientele they serve.


Conditions: Career counselors often work with a variety of other professionals. For example, if working in a school, career counselors may work closely with professionals such as teachers, speech therapists, school psychologists, social workers and public health nurses. The work of career counselors can be emotionally demanding and stressful, particularly when caseloads are high. Their work can also be highly rewarding, such as when they help a client determine a career direction, or return to the workforce.



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to 'career counselor', as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Credit Counselor

Family Counselor

Human Resources Coordinator

School Counselor

Vocational Rehabilitation Coordinator



References for This Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a career counselor.


Occupations in Alberta:Career Development Professional.” (March 8, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 1, 2019.

Community and Social Service:School and Career Counselors.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 1, 2019.

Education News:Molding the Path: How to Become a Career Counselor.” (July 8, 2016). Grace College website. Retrieved November 1, 2019.

Human Services Articles:How to Become a Career Counselor.” (n.d.). Wake Forest University website. Retrieved November 1, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Career Counselor

Scholarships listed for majors that are relevant for this profession can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page. (Please see the 'Relevant Fields of College & University Study' section below for the specific majors).


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of College & University Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a career counselor. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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