Career counselors work with students and other types of clients to set realistic academic and career goals, then guide them in creating a plan to achieve them. They can help clients develop marketable skills like organization, time management and study habits. Career counselors are able to identify which jobs and fields are the best fit by evaluating abilities and interests, usually though aptitude tests and skills assessments. They can refer clients to resources within the community such as scholarship opportunities, open internships and other sources of support.
By analyzing clients’ background, education and life experience, career counselors provide an accurate look at career prospects. Whether individuals are entering the workforce for the first time or embarking on a new career, career counselors can help them develop successful interview strategies and networking skills. Before the job search begins, career counselors can help with resume building and crafting cover letters. Then, they assist their clients in finding and applying for open positions. If a client is interested in pursuing additional education in order to become qualified for a specific career, career counselors are qualified to assist in applying for degree programs and certifications, as well as in choosing an appropriate major.
In terms of setting, career counselors may work at schools or universities, as well as at corporate career centers and in private practice. Though less common, they may work for government agencies and even prisons.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for career counselors is expected to grow at an average pace of 8 percent through 2024. Employment growth relies on increasing school enrollments and nationwide employment rates, and funding is reliant on state and local government budgets. It is likely that companies will continue to expand the use of employment assistance programs and career counseling in an attempt to retain talent and increase company morale. In addition, as it becomes more common for individuals to change careers throughout their life, career counselors will be required to assist them in navigating the process.
The BLS reports that the average salary for school and career counselors is $53,370 per year. The highest percent earn more than $86,610, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $31,960. The top industry is elementary and secondary schools, with a median annual salary of $60,660.
Most career counselors pursue undergraduate study in areas like psychology and sociology, then go on to pursue graduate study in school counseling or a related field. Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology is common for those who hope to become career counselors. In addition, many states require licensure in order to practice. For example, career counselors who work in public schools must have a state-issued certification of some kind, whether it’s a license or endorsement. It is common for such credentials to require an internship or practicum completed under the supervision of a licensed professional counselor.
Licensure is less common for career counselors who work outside of schools and universities. But in private practice, a state-issued license is generally required. Such credentials usually require a master’s degree, along with supervised clinical experience. Applicants must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education credits.