Job Coaching Vs. Career Counseling: What's the Difference?

While the two professions might sound similar, job coaches and career counselors perform different tasks. The two jobs also require unique educational backgrounds and training.

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When deciding between becoming a job coach or a career counselor, you must understand the differences in job duties, required education, licensure and certification options and salary potential.

Differences Between Job Coaching and Career Counseling

Job coaches help people with disabilities learn to be successful in the workplace by teaching them how to perform job functions or behave appropriately in professional settings. These coaches may work with people who are deaf or blind, or they may work with those suffering from mental illness, traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In contrast, career counselors assess clients' personality traits, skill sets and interests to help determine appropriate career paths. Career counselors collect background data on clients, including job history, lifestyle, family influence and career goals, and they may also assist in job searches and in helping clients transition to new fields of work.

Required Training

Training differs depending on whether you want to become a job coach or a career counselor, but generally speaking, job coaches need at most a bachelor's degree, whereas career counselors are expected to hold a master's degree.

According to February 2016 job postings on, job coaches interested in working with behavioral or mental health organizations may need bachelor's degrees in psychology, sociology or another human relations field. Some of the courses in these programs that are relevant for future job coaches cover topics like:

  • Psychological disorders
  • Social psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Sociology of mental health
  • Gender, work and family

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career counselors, sometimes called vocational counselors, usually have master's degrees in counseling. Coursework in a master's degree program may discuss:

  • Counseling theories
  • Intercultural counseling
  • Counseling assessment methods
  • Group counseling techniques

Some counseling master's degree programs offer specializations in career counseling and may require students to do internships.

Licensure Requirements

Job coaches are usually not required to be licensed, but some states and schools may offer credential training services or training programs. Industry organizations also offer voluntary certification. For instance, the Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst offers the Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) credential for job coaches who work with individuals who have disabilities. To earn this designation, the coaches must pass an exam.

Licensing requirements for career counselors also vary and usually depend on the work environment and state. Career counselors working for public schools must have, in addition to a related master's degree, a state-issued credential in the form of a license, a certificate or an endorsement. A teaching license or teaching experience may also be required by some states.

Employment Outlook and Salary

The BLS states that employment opportunities for career, school, guidance and vocational counselors are expected to grow at the average rate of 8% between 2014 and 2024. Employment data pertaining specifically to job coaches is not available. Educational, vocational, guidance and school counselors earned a median hourly wage of $26.23 in May 2016, according to the BLS. For job coaches, reported the median hourly wage as $12.77 in March 2017.

Job coaches guide disabled persons in the workplace, while career counselors help individuals select a career that suits their skills and interests. While job coaches may earn professional certification, counselors must meet more extensive educational and licensure requirements, and their wage prospects are greater.

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