“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Probably each of us, throughout our lifetime, has been asked and has also posed this very question.
Some individuals have their career goals clearly defined at a young age and they end up successfully and smoothly fulfilling these professional plans. For many, however, deciding on a career is difficult, even overwhelming. It involves balancing a sometimes unpredictable job market with figuring out a means of sustaining one’s livelihood along with finding a niche representative of one’s passions and talents.
– Andrea Karapas, Counseling Professional
Fortunately, a career counselor helps individuals with these tough life decisions. “My passion for assisting individuals in the pursuit of their educational and career goals, through exploration and decision-making, motivates me to deeply connect with my clients and help them incorporate their past experience in defining their future endeavors,” states career counselor, Andrea Karapas, M.Ed., LPC on her LinkedIn profile.
Perhaps as you begin to consider your own talents and skills, you will realize that career counseling is among your own realistic, professional endeavors!
Career Counselors At a Glance
- Degree Level Requirements: Master’s Degree
- Licensure Requirements: Licensure/certification may only be required for private practice. In any case, licensure helps with gaining employment. Requirements vary by state.
- Specializations: Specific demographics (such as college students, veterans, individuals with disabilities…); specific functions (such as career planning, interview skills, particular assessment tools).
- Median Annual Salaries: $53,610*
- Job Outlook: 19% growth from 2010 to 2020**
Career & Job Description
Career counselors can work in a variety of settings such as universities and colleges, workforce/career centers, for community or government-based organizations, rehabilitation centers, outplacement agencies and independent practice. Equally the people they counsel are varied, from students, alumni and adults making a career change to former inmates, veterans, individuals with disabilities, those who are under- or unemployed, and more.
Some duties of a career counselor might include:
- Work one-on-one with clients to provide career guidance and counseling.
- Find out from clients about all of their experiences related to school, work, volunteering and extracurricular activities.
- Help clients develop education and career plans with measurable goals, track their progress and provide feedback and resources to help accomplish these plans.
- Assist clients with writing cover letters, resumes and educational applications.
- Teach and practice job interview skills.
- Help clients develop and utilize career research techniques, such as job searches, labor market analysis and conducting informational interviews.
- Administer and evaluate career, interest and aptitude assessments/inventories; discuss findings with clients.
- Develop and present career workshops and presentations to groups.
- Organize career fairs.
- Network with prospective employers.
Specializations / Concentrations
Career counselors tend to be extremely resourceful and continuous learners, and thus develop numerous specialties throughout the course of their career. Depending on where they work and who they work with, examples of specializations might include:
- Clients with learning disabilities
- Clients with physical disabilities
- Clients with mental health concerns
- Barriers to employment (such as socio-economic factors like lacking housing, schooling, means of communication and professional clothing, which can all be barriers to finding work).
- Various personality types
- How learning styles vary from person to person
- Life transitions
- Team building
- Confidence building/self esteem
Did You Know?
The 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system includes “840 detailed occupations” which make up “461 broad occupations, 97 minor groups, and 23 major groups”.
(Note that the SOC Policy Committee has already begun working on a revised system of SOC codes planned to be published in 2018.)
Explore Your Career Path
The Educational Journey
“Most employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on career development,” states the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). You might choose to do your Master’s degree right after completing your Bachelor’s. Alternatively, you might decide to gain some work experience in between your undergraduate and graduate studies.
- Bachelor’s Degree: Those who go on to become career counselors may not have decided on this career path until their Master’s, and thus they may come from various undergraduate backgrounds. However, if you know from the beginning that you would like to become a career counselor, relevant degrees include a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Human Resources, Counseling, Human Services, Education or Sociology.
- Relevant Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree: Family services worker, research assistant, teacher assistant, community recreational coordinator, human resource assistant, recruitment specialist, health & welfare benefits manager, grant writer, community support specialist, program assistant at a charitable foundation, community services supervisor/manager, etc.
- Master’s Degree: Relevant Master’s degrees include a Master’s in Career Counseling, a Master’s in Counseling with a specialization in Career Counseling, a Master’s of Education with a specialization in Counseling & Career Development, a Master’s in Counseling with a specialization in College Counseling, and more.
According to the BLS, career counselors working in private practice must be licensed. (Those who work for other employers may not require licensure, but often employers prefer to hire credentialed counselors.)
The requirements to becoming an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) vary by state. (Visit the National Board for Certified Counselors directory page to locate the link to your state’s regulatory board: http://www.nbcc.org/directory). Generally to become licensed, you need a Master’s degree, a set number of supervised clinical hours and to sit for a state-sanctioned exam.
As a career counselor, in addition to completing continuing education courses (often required to maintain licensure), you can enhance your portfolio by gaining specialized certifications, such as ‘Career Management Practitioner,’ ‘Certified Myers-Briggs Practitioner,’ ‘National Certified Counselor,’ or ‘Certified Strong Interest Inventory’ Practitioner.
Note some school counselors, particularly those working in high schools, counsel students in areas related to post secondary education and career development. These professionals have their own required certification. Visit our School Counselor page for more information.
Career Counseling Turn Lives Around
Aol’s Dan Fastenberg did a story on an ex-convict named William Corbin who decided he wanted to turn his life around and secure an honest job. It’s not easy finding employment when you have a criminal record. But career counselors at Westhab Inc. in New York helped Corbin secure at least two temporary positions (and at the time of the article, March 2013, they were helping him find long term employment.) According to Fastenberg, Westhab is “a nonprofit organization that helps low-income families and ex-convicts find employment and affordable living.” It is an example of one of the several types of places where career counselors empower individuals to succeed.
- Reference & Data Information Provided by the Following:
- * May 2012 (for Educational, Guidance, School and Vocational Counselors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- ** May 2010 (for School and Career Counselors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- † Salary data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
- ‡ Job Outlook data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/School-and-career-counselors.htm
- Other Sources/References