What is a Career Counselor?
Career counselors, or employment counselors, aim to help people prepare for a future career. Career counseling typically includes helping clients examine career options, understand what education is needed for a chosen career, and/or helping them further develop necessary skills for employment. Other job duties for career counselors may include:
- Offering assessments to see clients' interests/skills
- Helping clients apply for jobs
- Teaching interview techniques
- Developing realistic career goals with clients
- Identifying possible education programs
- Providing career advice
How to Become a Career Counselor
While there are many top schools for school counseling and guidance programs, career counselors generally have a little more freedom in what degree programs they pursue. In general, to become a career counselor you need:
- Undergraduate degree
- Graduate education in counseling or a related field
- State licensure
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Although there are some counseling jobs for those without a degree, most counselors of any kind need to start their education with a bachelor's degree. There is no set major for career counseling, but an undergraduate degree in a counseling-related field will prove beneficial.
At the bachelor's level, there are pre-counseling degree programs that may be paired with majors like psychology. Some of these degree programs may be available in online formats and/or offer specializations in a particular type of counseling. For example, one may pursue an online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology with a concentration in Christian Counseling.
Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree Program
It is usually preferred for career counselors to hold a master's degree that includes topics in career development. There are several Master of Arts (MA) degree programs in career counseling or counseling and career development, as well as Master of Education (MEd) in Counselor Education programs with an emphasis in career counseling.
These career counseling master's degree programs typically take 2 years to complete and may be offered in online formats (although these are rare). Generally, at the master's level, these degree programs include hands-on learning experience through practicum and/or internship opportunities. These programs are designed to prepare students for national licensure or certification and may include topics in:
- Theories of counseling
- Career development
- Counseling assessment
- Multicultural issues in counseling
- Career counseling
Step 3: Obtain State Licensure
Licensure requirements for career counselors vary by state. Typically, master's degree programs in counseling help prepare students to pursue a credential as a National Certified Counselor from the National Board for Certified Counselors.
Career Counselor Salary
PayScale.com reported that the median career counselor salary was $43,614, as of August 2019. However, you can expect this salary to vary based on the type of career counselor you become. For example, the website also reported that the median salary for a college career counselor in August 2019 was $47,763.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that the average annual salary for all educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors in 2018 was $60,160. Those who worked in junior colleges made an average of $61,880, while those working in colleges, universities, and professional schools made $53,180 and those in vocational rehabilitation services made $42,960.