Career and Employment Counselors


Education and Training Requirements

High School

In order to work in the career and employment counseling field, you must have at least a high school diploma. For most jobs in the field, however, higher education is required. In high school, in addition to studying a core curriculum, with courses in English, history, mathematics, and biology, you should take courses in psychology and sociology. You will also find it helpful to take business and computer science classes.

Postsecondary Education

In some states, the minimum educational requirement in career and vocational counseling is a graduate degree in counseling or a related field from a regionally accredited higher education institution, and a completed supervised counseling experience, which includes career counseling. A growing number of institutions offer post-master's degrees with training in career development and career counseling. Such programs are highly recommended if you wish to specialize in vocational and career counseling. These programs are frequently called Advanced Graduate Specialist (AGS) programs or Certificates of Advanced Study (CAS) programs.

For a career as a college career planning and placement counselor, the minimum educational requirement is commonly a master's degree in guidance and counseling, education, college student personnel work, behavioral science, or a related field. Graduate work includes courses in vocational and aptitude testing, counseling techniques, personnel management and occupational research, industrial relations, and group dynamics and organizational behavior.

As in any profession, there is usually an initial period of training for newly hired counselors and counselor trainees. Some of the skills you will need as an employment counselor, such as testing-procedures skills and interviewing skills, can be acquired only through on-the-job training.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers the national certified counselor (NCC) designation as well as the national certified school counselor (NCSC) designation. In order to apply for the NCC, you must have earned a master's degree with a major study in counseling and you must pass the National Counselor Examination. NCCs are certified for a period of five years. In order to be recertified, they must complete 100 contact clock hours of continuing education or pass the examination again. In order to receive the NCSC credential, you must complete the above requirements, plus gain field experience in school counseling as a graduate student and then complete two years of postmaster's supervised school counseling (2,000 to 3,000 hours). Many states require some type of credentialing or certification for counselors, and all states require those who work in school settings to be certified.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Counselors should have skills in conducting individual and group sessions to identify career goals; administering and interpreting tests that assess abilities and interests and identify career options; assisting in developing resumes and individualized career plans; and teaching job-hunting strategies. Employers look for individuals who have good listening, speaking, and people skills, because these counselors must be able to communicate with and show empathy with many different types of people, sometimes in difficult situations, including job stress, job loss, and career transition. The best candidates for counseling jobs are sociable, flexible, and cooperative by nature, show self-control and tolerance for stress, take individual initiative and leadership roles, and are honest and dependable in their dealings with others.

In order to succeed as a career counselor, you must have a good background in education, training, employment trends, the current labor market, and career resources. You should be able to provide your clients with information about job tasks, functions, salaries, requirements, and the future outlook of broad occupational fields.

Knowledge of testing techniques and measures of aptitude, achievement, interests, values, and personality is required. The ability to evaluate job performance and individual effectiveness is helpful. You must also have management and administrative skills.