Becoming a Career Counselor

Close up of business handshake in the officeWhat Is Career Counseling?

While growing up, some people want to be astronauts, police officers, race car drivers, teachers, doctors, nurses, or even cowboys. Me? I wanted to be an FBI profiler. Of course, our first career choices don't always work out. We either grow out of them or later find that they aren't suitable for us. The career tests that I took in high school pinned me as the brainy, quiet, creative type - perfect for a writer, but not so much for an FBI agent. While what I do may not be as exciting as chasing down scary, crazy bad guys every day, it really is the perfect career for me.

Of course, I'm one of the lucky ones. Some aren't so lucky. You've probably heard it a thousand times or more…

  • "I hate my job!"
  • "I don't make enough money."
  • "My career isn't challenging enough."
  • "My job is too difficult for me."
  • "I'm bored with my career."

These are the laments are uttered by countless people each and every day. In fact, recent studies show that over half of Americans are unhappy with their jobs and careers.

Career counseling offers a way to change this. This is a type of counseling that focuses on helping people make the best of their careers, whether they're just starting out in the work force or they've been in it longer than they care to admit.

One of the first major books written on the subject of career counseling and guidance was Choosing a Vocation by Frank Parson in 1909. Katharine Briggs came up with the idea of different personality types in the early 20th century. Together with her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, she later helped create the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This test was originally used during World War II to help place women in positions in the industrial workforce, depending on their personality types.

Today, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is still widely used for the same purpose, along with a number of other tests. In recent years, many people have finally started to realize the importance of being satisfied with their careers. This realization will most likely make for more opportunities for career counselors.

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Why Do We Need Career Counselors?

People work in order to be able to afford to live the lives that they desire. Careers and working are essential necessities in life for the majority of adults in the world. Most people will spend at least a quarter of their adult lives working.

Career counseling can help point people in the right direction when it comes to choosing careers that they will excel at and be happy with. Being happy with a career can lead to a happier home life and a greater sense of accomplishment.

What Does a Career Counselor Do?

Career counselors work with all sorts of people, from all walks of life, of all ages, with all different education and experience levels. These professionals might offer guidance and advice, for instance, to powerful businessmen or even just high school kids just starting out in the world.

The main goal of a career counselor is to help their clients find careers that suit them and careers that they are suitable for. There are a number of things that career counselors might want to consider when trying to accomplish this task.

  • Aptitude and Skills A person's aptitude and skills refer to his ability to do something. Career counselors will often interview and test clients to determine where his strengths lie, and therefore, which careers he would be good at.
  • Education Career counselors will also usually take in a client's education level - or desired education level - when attempting to help his find the right career, since many careers require a certain amount of education. These counselors might also consider whether or not a client continuing his education is possible or advisable.
  • Personality A person's personality will also usually play a role in determining the best career for him, since different personality types usually excel at different types of careers.
  • Interests Career counselors also take their clients interests into account when advising them on the best career options for them.

To determine some of these factors, career counselors will often ask their clients to take a number of tests and surveys. For instance, clients might take IQ and aptitude tests, as well as fill out questionnaires on their interests and skills. S mentioned above, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is still one of the most common tests that career counselors use. This test reveals a person's personality traits, which can be used to determine that might be a good fit for them.

Career counselors will also usually help their clients research and get started in their new careers. This might involve helping them search for jobs along with writing resumes and cover letters.

Along with helping some clients find the right careers, career counselors will also help others improve their existing careers. They may offer advice and guidance on how to get a promotion, for instance, or just how to have a more enjoyable experience while at work.

Where Do Career Counselors Work?

Career counselors work in high schools and colleges to help students get ready for their chosen careers. They might also work in social services offices, employment and staffing agencies, and private practices.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Career Counselor?

 Counseling Educational Track
Education Requirements Education Length Available Programs
Undergraduate Work Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling 4 Years Online or Campus
Graduate Work Earn a Master's Degree in Counseling 5-6 Years Online or Campus
PHD or Doctoral Work Earn a Doctorate in Counseling  7-8 Years Online or Campus

Most career counseling careers start with bachelor's degrees in areas such as psychology, counseling, or vocational psychology. Many schools also offer graduate degree programs in career counseling, which can lead to more job opportunities with higher salaries.

Generally, career counselors should also be licensed, particularly if they choose to open private practice. Along with completing several strict education requirements, you will also usually need to complete about 3,000 hours of supervised fieldwork, depending on what state you choose to practice in. Be sure to check with your state's licensing board.

Find additional information about programs that offer psychology degrees in your area at the Find a School Page.

What Is the Annual Average Salary of a Career Counselor?

For salary data purposes, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, lumps career counselors in as a part of "educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors" category. According to the BLS, as of May of 2014, career counselors made an annual average salary of $56,040 with the top 10 percent of the profession making an average salary of $86,610. As one might imagine, schools and universities are the largest employers of career counselors and elementary schools pay the most of that group.

Influences on Career Counseling
  • Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, which can be used to determine a person's dominant traits. This information is used by career counselors to determine what careers their clients would be best at.

Additional Career Counselor Resources and Reading