What Is Career Counseling?

Career Counseling | Definition & Skills | Resume.com

If you’re unsure of what career path to take or you want to change your career in general, a career counselor can provide you with professional guidance. In order to determine whether or not you should meet with a career counselor, it’s important to consider what they do and how to select one. Learn more about the job of a career counselor and what they can do for you.

What to expect from career counseling

Career counseling allows you to gain insight regarding your career path from qualified professionals. You can expect to share your past experiences, expectations and interests. In order for their assistance to be helpful, you’ll need to be open and show your personality. This helps them get an idea of who you are as a person and what jobs would make a great fit for you. You’ll also be expected to follow their advice, though your career decisions will ultimately be up to you. As you continue through career counseling, you should also evaluate whether or not their guidance aligns with your vision, interests and expertise.

Common requirements for career counselors

Career counselors need a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral, social science or human services field in addition to a master’s degree in counseling. They also need to complete both an undergraduate and graduate internship as a requirement for their license and certification. In order to obtain their license and certification, they also need to pass the required exams. If needed, they may have to complete additional certifications. Throughout their career, they need to stay educated and remain up-to-date in this field.

Best skills for career counselors

Here are some common skills and qualities that career counselors should have:

Interpersonal skills

This is a social skill that involves your ability to interact and communicate with others. Career counselors need to have strong interpersonal skills in order for their clients to open up to them.

Active listening skills

This is the ability to focus on who is speaking to you, understand what they’re saying and be engaged in the conversation overall. Effective career counselors should actively listen to your concerns, wants and needs.

Communication skills

This is the ability to send and receive information both in writing and verbally. In order to provide guidance to clients, career counselors should be strong communicators.


This is the ability to be caring toward others by embracing them with affection and concern. Career counselors should be compassionate toward their clients. This ensures they’re providing them with quality information and advice.


This is the ability to wait without becoming frustrated, angry or annoyed. Career counselors should be patient and understanding. Many clients may be undecided on their next move, so it’s important for counselors to remain calm and understanding regarding their questions and concerns.

Research skills

Career counselors need to perform research in order to find accurate information on various colleges and careers regarding their client’s needs.

What do career counselors do?

Career counselors are responsible for guiding their clients through their employment and career decisions. They take into consideration several factors including their client’s interests, skills, experience and personality when matching them with jobs suitable to their background and experience. They assist a variety of clients including those who are unemployed, in between jobs, unhappy with their current profession and more. Career counselors have several responsibilities that involve providing their clients with career-minded advice.

Examples of a career counselor’s responsibilities:

  • Assist clients in creating a career path suitable to them.
  • Instruct clients on how to find the best jobs for them.
  • Create career service programs to assist current and future clients toward planning their careers.
  • Give presentations about their services to prospective clients.
  • Conduct interviews to determine a client’s aptitude, personality type and other factors that can influence their career choice.
  • Collect information from schools should their client want to gain or advance their education.
  • Administer career aptitude and personality tests to assist in client job selection.

Though career counselors provide you with guidance and advice in regards to your career, they do not make decisions on your behalf. They do not select your career and tell you what jobs you should accept. Career counselors are there to provide you with the steps that will point you in the right direction, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide your future.

Where to find career counselors

Career counselors work in a variety of offices depending on who they’re assisting. They often work in social services offices, private practices or employment agencies. They also work in colleges and high schools to assist students with their job and career path selection.

How to choose a career counselor

Follow these steps for selecting a career counselor:

1. Firstly, do some research and gather references

Before selecting a career counselor, you should make a list of counselors near you and ask others for recommendations. If you know someone who had a career counselor that you’re considering, ask them for their advice and whether or not they were helpful. It’s also advantageous to ask whether or not they’d use their services again and if they would refer them in general.

2. Secondly, determine their fees

You should also determine how much each counselor charges. Some charge per visit while others offer expensive packages. Determine what you’d pay overall, if it’s in your budget and if their fees are worth it for you.

3. Next, check their credentials

It’s important to check a career counselor’s credentials before using their services. Before entering the career counseling profession, a career counselor must go through the National Career Development Association. Contact your state counselor licensing board and ask them for a list of licensed counselors. You can also give them the names of the counselors you’re looking into and ask them to check their credentials.

4. Finally, determine if their assistance is helpful

After you’ve selected a career counselor, it’s important to continuously evaluate whether or not their assistance is useful to you. Their advice should align with your interests, experience and personality. You should be interested in the jobs they recommend.

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